- Challenges and Changes, Past and Present
Dating back to 1974, WiG itself is now older than many of its members. The plucky “birth announcement” of WiG, appearing in the “homemade” first issue of the Newsletter (simply called NEWS of the Coalition of Women in Germanistik, typed and mimeographed by graduate students with Evelyn Torton Beck at the University of Wisconsin- Madison in December 1974), proclaimed, “We exist” (Beck and Shults 1). To get an idea of how far we’ve come, members who haven’t done so might want to have a look at this and some of the other early Newsletters in the “Archives” section of the WiG website. Ten years later, the first Women in German Yearbook—in a somewhat less humble format—appeared, although it had been preceded by the published Proceedings of the Second Annual Women in German Symposium (1977). My own eight rewarding years as co-editor of the Women in German Yearbook fall squarely in the middle of its now twenty-five year history, bookended, so to speak, by the pleasure of having seen former graduate students Edith Waldstein and Maggie McCarthy serve as co-editors of volumes 1–3 and 22–24, respectively.
By the time my term began, our Yearbook had already made the important transition to the University of Nebraska Press, established an international Editorial Board, and grown to the approximate size and handsome format we know today. When my term ended, however, we were still very much operating in a paper- and postage-intensive mode: photocopying manuscript submissions to mail out to reviewers, sending hard-copy letters and returning hand-marked manuscripts to authors. Subsequent Yearbook editors have taken astute advantage of the resources that new electronic technologies are putting at our disposal to develop a system that is both much more efficient and less wasteful of scarce resources. The Newsletter, too, has developed into the best example in our profession of what such a publication can be. Who’d have thought that Wiggies could be saying, “I read it on my iPhone”? [End Page 15]
This trajectory of development took place, of course, in less perilous times, both for academe and for publishing. In the present economic climate, we hear almost daily of threats to jobs and programs in institutions large and small, public and private, rich and not-so-rich, but also of the imperiled existence of respected publishing houses and print media, such as journals and newspapers. While I am confident that WiG will continue to meet the challenges to print publication posed by the new technologies, it does appear to me that, for now, the dream of expanding our annual into a periodical may have to remain just that. In the current atmosphere, it seems improbable that most academic institutions would be ready to offer the kind of support—staff and facilities—that would be needed to carry out a traditional journal operation. But there may be other ways to advance the Yearbook’s national and international standing. Although the editorial decision to publish all articles in English was taken with the intention of reaching readers outside the confines of Germanistik, it is not clear to me that this step alone has been enough to attract a wider range of readers—and contributors!—to a publication focused quite so specifically on German literature and culture. Library subscriptions seem to have increased nicely, but I hope we can still think collectively about how to get out the word about the Yearbook to a much wider audience. Can we, for example, reach out to feminist historians or anthropologists of Germany, who have neither a journal nor an organization of their own? Or to scholars in other “national” literatures and cultures, in mutually enriching explorations of issues that transcend language-bound borders? And how might we seek out the perspectives of GermanistInnen from places in the world beyond the Anglo-German sphere? Initiatives of this sort have sometimes been part of our annual conferences, indeed were picked up by the Yearbook, but the broadening has not been sustained enough to change the image we project in the world beyond German departments. There is, of course, also...