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  • The Student Literary Magazine on a Two-Year Campus:Where Politics of Place Meet Politics of Literary Representation
  • Eric Melbye (bio) and John Paul Tassoni (bio)

I like to see something from every sector, but I don't want to publish crap. Perhaps the poem [we just considered for publication] would have been enjoyed more by a nontraditional student; there weren't really any at the [editorial] meeting. I think equal representation may play a strong role in the respect of who we're trying to attract to the magazine, the students of a two-year campus. Since we naturally have a more diverse student body [than the main campus does], it stands that our published material (as well as our judges) should be similar [to our student body].

—Britton Stockstill, 2003–4 editor of Illuminati, Miami University–Middletown's literary magazine

Students' job and family obligations, their varying degrees of academic preparation and various life experiences, rapid student turnover, and high attrition rates complicate the production of student-run literary magazines on two-year campuses. As a result, any discussion of the forms, functions, and benefits of student-run literary magazines should not ignore such politics of place. As English instructors who have acted as advisers to such a publication, we believe the lack of consideration to these place issues not only overlooks specific challenges the production of these magazines poses for [End Page 289] the students and faculty they involve but also overlooks degrees to which these challenges might shape the very content of the magazine itself—and vice versa.1 Taking into account the politics of place, we consider the ways in which the production of a student literary magazine might be viewed as a pedagogical inquiry, one through which the difficulties it entails and the dialogues those difficulties generate become as much a goal of the activity as is the publication of the journal itself. We recognize the production process as an opportunity for students to reflect on the politics of selection, representation, and reception that attend literary study in order to shape their magazine in a manner responsive to issues attending open-admissions education. These issues involve notions of a democratic culture as well as the difficulties of staffing and procedure.

In this article, we consider how the challenges of producing student literary magazines on two-year campuses highlight issues of selection (Given the scarcity of upper-level English courses and advanced English majors, what kind of "quality" can we expect to find in our pool of submissions?) and representation (Are there notions of quality that might undermine our attempts to represent our school's diverse range of voices?). We also identify the need for students involved in such projects to address these questions in terms of reception (What do we want to accomplish with this issue? What, in general, can literature do for our particular audience?). Addressing these questions in the context of two-year institutions, student staff members and faculty advisers interrogate how the politics of place and politics of literary representation intersect, and in turn they seek ways to make editorial decisions mindful of their political repercussions.

Politics of Place

Miami University–Middletown is an open-admissions, regional campus of Miami University. As such, our school strives to honor and promote an atmosphere of diversity and democracy on all levels. Our students bring a wide range of experience—educational and otherwise—to the program. Some students enroll fresh out of high school, while others enroll after several years out of formal education. Some students display a high degree of talent and motivation as writers and thinkers, while in others these attributes can be difficult to discern in the short amount of time they spend with us. In addition to their full course loads, our students typically have part- or full-time jobs and often have children to care for. Generally, this diversity of preparation and experience enriches and enlivens the classroom, as well as challenges and invigorates our pedagogy. Outside the classroom, various student organizations [End Page 290] also make the college's ideals of diversity and democracy central to their own operations. For example, the mission statement of Illuminati, the campus...


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