- Looking Back, Looking Forward:Two Legacy Roundtable Discussions
In celebration of Legacy's twenty-fifth anniversary, we invited a number of scholars who have been important supporters of the journal to participate in a conversation about its past, present, and future. A central aim of Legacy has always been to foster a challenging and supportive intellectual community among scholar-teachers. We present here, then, a collaboration among those who have been intimately involved in this enterprise. During the editing process, it became clear that some questions elicited subthemes from respondents. In order to enhance the coherence of this roundtable conversation, in those cases, we have grouped the responses according to theme. In other cases, we have simply listed the responses in alphabetical order. We hope that readers will find the exchange to be validating, compelling, and intriguing and that when they lay this issue aside they will be newly energized in their research and teaching. [End Page 197]
- Legacy Roundtable I:Looking Back
When Martha Ackmann, Karen Dandurand, and Joanne Dobson chose Legacy as the name for the journal they founded twenty-five years ago, they created a venue inviting scholars to consider American women's writing in historical perspective. Yet the journal itself is a legacy, a gift handed down from the past, one that "demands that we continue to try to understand precisely what has been left to us," as Jean M. Lutes puts it below.1 Here, in the first of two Roundtable discussions, we invited contributors to assess what Legacy has meant to them, how it has influenced their own career trajectories and the shape of the field more generally. We also asked former editors to discuss how the journal took shape and to explore the function of its particular features. Legacy's unique history and mission continue to inform its offerings today; these Roundtable responses will help us to maintain a historical perspective as we assess the journal's function at the present moment and look to shape its future.
1. How has your association with Legacy related to your academic and scholarly life and career?
Jennifer S. Tuttle: All respondents to this question indicated, with only slight variation, that the journal has enriched their scholarship and been fundamental to their careers. We have grouped the responses chronologically or according to topic, and sometimes under subheadings, for the sake of coherence. We begin with a comment by Joanne Dobson, who generously shared with us a conference paper containing the following account of the journal's founding.
The Broad Significance of Legacy
Joanne Dobson: Twenty-five years ago, back in the days of carbon paper, no such scholarly field as antebellum women writers existed. A number of people were working in isolation on various aspects of nineteenth-century American women writers. But in 1980, an extensive community of scholars did not yet exist; there was as yet no critical scholarly mass, and there were no institutional resources in the field.
In 1983, Karen Dandurand, Martha Ackmann, and I were simultaneously working on Dickinson dissertations at UMass/Amherst. Over a Dickinson birthday dinner and a scandalized discussion of the "disarray" (to be polite) of the only journal at that time to focus on Dickinson scholarship, one of us [End Page 198] said, "You know, we could start a Dickinson journal." Another one said, "Why not a journal on Dickinson and her female contemporaries?" Then someone else, the timid one among us—I—said, "Well, maybe we could ask the English Department for a couple of hundred dollars so we could put out a newsletter on nineteenth-century American women writers." (I had in mind something mimeographed.) So we put together a proposal for a mimeographed newsletter and took it to the powers-that-then-were in the department, and they said, "Think bigger than that." So we did.
The carbon copy of the proposal that I've resurrected from my files reads as follows:
Proposal for a New Journal on Nineteenth-Century American Women Writers (Rationale)
mdash To provide a forum for the scholarship on nineteenth-century American women writers from 1820–1880, including literary criticism and...