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  • Editorial Comment:Celebrating New Authors
  • Catherine A. Schuler

Every year at ATHE's annual conference, the Research and Publication committee sponsors several sessions for young scholars seeking guidance on publishing books, book and performance reviews, or an article in one of the discipline's major peer-reviewed journals. For years, the editor and coeditor of Theatre Journal have organized and moderated one of the most lively of these sessions, "Publishing Your First Journal Article: A Conversation with Editors." The commitment of editors to new authors is clear from the editors' eagerness to participate; during my tenure as coeditor and then editor of Theatre Journal, participants have included Richard Schechner and Mariellen Sanford (TDR), Bonnie Marranca and Josh Abrams (PAJ), Catherine Cole (Theatre Survey), Kanta Kochhar-Lindgren (Theatre Topics), and Theatre Journal's coeditor (soon to be editor) Penny Farfan. Last year, Theresa Smalec and Emily Sahakian, two new authors who published in Theatre Journal and Theatre Survey, respectively, also participated in the discussion, and this year, david Savran and the new Theatre Survey and Theatre Topics editors James Peck and Leo Cabranes-Grant will join us in Chicago. Please come. We have a great time and even offer some useful advice.

During my now-almost-completed sojourn with Theatre Journal I have participated in the event three times, and each time I have been astonished at the response. The turnout of eager, aspiring authors is always high, which indicates substantial interest in our journals. But if the interest is high, so is the cynicism: new scholars want to believe that the preeminent journals in the field will publish their work—but finally most are convinced that the editors of such journals prefer work by established authors and that the peer-review process is skewed toward them. Having received a rather harsh rejection letter from a Theatre Journal editor in the early 1980s when I was ABd, I understand their skepticism. Perhaps that is why I took so readily to the idea that part of Theatre Journal's mission is to nurture young scholars. Indeed, when I joined the editorial ranks of the journal four years ago, it was with the understanding that the editor and I would seek kernels of potential in the essays submitted and help authors to develop them. The March issue of Theatre Journal confirms the editors' continuing commitment to seeking out, helping to develop, and disseminating the work of new scholars.

That said, I must also point out that this is not a special issue; all of the articles that appear here arrived in my inbox through the open-submission process. The essays are chronologically, geographically, and topically diverse, moving from the thirteenth to the twenty-first centuries, from a French monastery to the Tate Gallery, and from imitatio to Fluxus. Not that I am necessarily a fan of the sport, but since March marks spring training, the language of baseball feels right for this lineup of new Theatre Journal authors: Jesse Njus leads off with "What did It Mean to Act in the Middle Ages: Elisabeth of Spalbeek and Imitatio Christi." Natasha Lushetich, Jordan Schildcrout, and Jason Stupp follow with "Ludus Populi: The Practice of Nonsense," "The Closet Is a deathtrap: Bisexuality, duplicity, and the dangers of the Closet in the Postmodern Thriller," and "Slavery and the Theatre of History: Ritual Performance on the Auction Block," respectively. Batting cleanup, Timothy Youker hits it out of the park with "'The Sound of deeds': Karl Kraus and Acoustic Quotation." We begin in the thirteenth century.

Actors and acting in the Middle Ages: so much speculation, so little evidence. I suspect that many readers of Theatre Journal ceased to follow new developments in medieval theatre scholarship after the comprehensive exams. Although I kept up through preparation for my first theatre history survey, I feel a certain kinship with those who know just enough about medieval theatre to teach it properly, but not enough to claim expertise. What I do know is that hard evidence on medieval actors and acting remains scarce, and the styles and practices [End Page 9] characteristic of the period are still mysterious. Perhaps it is the enduring mystery that attracts historians of medieval theatre...


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