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  • On Legacy Profiles
  • Jennifer S. Tuttle

Profiles are central to Legacy's identity and mission. Although they are much shorter than regular scholarly essays and do not appear in every issue, they remain one of the journal's most unique and important features. The original intent of the Profiles was to bring to readers' attention "forgotten texts, authors, and ways of writing" (Cutter I: 3), to "raise and preserve readers' awareness of and interest in writers who might otherwise have lapsed into oblivion" (Warren I: 4). In doing so, the Profiles have pushed readers continually to interrogate their categories and frameworks, thereby giving shape to the field. As more than one person notes in the Roundtable conversations published in this issue, the Profiles have provided scholars with a testing ground for new material, which often has led to major critical and biographical studies. They are also one of the most obvious ways that Legacy has served as a venue for the crucial work of recovery so central to creating and sustaining the study of American women writers. "Profiles," writes Pattie Cowell, "provide direct links to bodies of texts too often omitted from discussions of literary histories and canons" (I: 4).

At their best, the Profiles have "made it clear that no single paradigm or narrative could account for the writing American women have penned, and that to try to impose one not only flattened what is actually there but deflected attention from the diverse, often conflicting alliances, commitments, and identities of those women and their work" (Zagarell I: 1). They are one of Legacy's special features that sets it apart from other journals: "Its pages include the archive," publishing bio-bibliographical information, images of, and selections from the work of writers of interest to scholars in the field (Cowell I: 4). Since the journal's inception, however—and in part as a result of the journal's success—the study of US women writers has expanded exponentially. As we continue the [End Page 370] work of interrogating categories and frameworks, then, we must also consider how the Profiles feature might evolve to better serve our needs and to answer the new kinds of questions we are asking.

Carla Mulford points out that "[m]any early American women writers' contributions remain understudied because they don't really fit into the prototypical model of the Profiles that Legacy offers," which was "designed for certain kinds of women writers and certain kinds of archives. . . . [P]re-nineteenth-century women, many of whom eschewed print media and 'publicity,' differ to a great extent from the expectations of what should be offered in a Profile" (II: 6). As the journal moves forward, readers can expect that the Profiles, like the other journal content, will exemplify our commitment to recovering and including, for example, more early American writers; more women of color, particularly (although not exclusively) Native and Mexican American women; women whose relevance to the field becomes newly visible through a more hemispheric or transnational lens; women who trouble the term "women"; and women whose cultural production emerges to our view when we "explor[e] the relationship between oral, scribal, and print cultures" (Kelley II: 7).

As Legacy adapts to remain current with such new and exciting developments in the field, so will the Profiles pursue these future directions. Yet the Profiles feature will also continue to fulfill its initial purpose of bringing lesser-known writers to readers' attention. While readers may consult, for example, the Dictionary of Literary Biography for information about many writers, there are many, many more who cannot be found there. The Profiles will continue to focus most directly on women whose information is not readily available anywhere else and has not been compiled in other publications. They will continue, then, to serve a crucial yet supplementary function: We feature a profile of Lydia Sigourney but none of Harriet Beecher Stowe, one of Mabel Loomis Todd but none of Emily Dickinson, because so much information about writers like Stowe and Dickinson is available elsewhere.

Legacy Profiles will continue to offer bio-bibliographical sketches, short reprints, portraits or related images, and lists of archival holdings. The Profiles will thus overlap somewhat...


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pp. 370-371
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