- Preface: The Scholarly Journal at the Borders
The following papers emerged from two successive panels organized by the Council of Editors of Learned Journals: from the annual CELJ panels at the 1995 MLA in Chicago and the 1996 MLA in Washington, D.C. The Council seeks to provoke discussions of learned journals extending beyond practical problems—such as those of gatekeeping or of anonymous review—to address also the implicit theoretical and ideological issues too often submerged or subordinated in conversation about the production of scholarly journals. Focused on the ways editors have sought with their journals, first, to produce change in academic cultures, and, second, to cross borders or break boundaries between different cultures and academic disciplines, the 1995 and 1996 sessions ultimately also generated discussion of how academic journals “keep up” with change and respond to the controversies enveloping them from within and without academia. The editors developed the following positions with two sets of questions in mind:
1. In what specific ways have these respective journals succeeded in producing or influencing change in the academic context and in the academic journal itself? What kinds of frustration have they encountered? In what ways has coeditorship promoted or obstructed a journal’s aims? What should “learned” journals be doing differently? How should they change?
2. What are these respective journals doing to negotiate different disciplines/cultures—however “culture” or “discipline” is defined? The different journals represented here vary in the extent to which they are interdisciplinary as well as in the ways they define their cultures: as academic/nonacademic; gendered, sexual, ethnic; scholarly/”common”; learned/popular; literary/nonliterary; public/private; printed/electronic, and so forth. What disciplinary themes and methods are promoted, and how do these intersect or conflict with each other and/or with any of the nonacademic cultures these journals represent?
Several of these journals have been at the forefront of critical and theoretical changes for more than two decades, and so face their own pasts as much as [End Page 437] they face the changing academic scene. The editors agree less than one might expect, moreover, about how to think about changing knowledges—or readers—through the academic journal, thus suggesting as much about future conflicts and difference within, among, and beyond their journals as about the changes of the recent past.
Holly Laird is Editor of Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature and President of the Council of Editors of Learned Journals (CELJ).