- The Wallace Stevens Journal in the Age of Electronic Reproduction
LOYAL READERS of this journal will have noted the gradual attrition of my introductory columns. This is due not to a lack of inspiration but to a shift in the journal’s editorial policy: we have begun to turn out a growing number of thematic issues, each with its own tailor-made introduction. Of the previous six issues, no fewer than four were thematic, and in the coming years the balance is likely to tilt even further in this direction.
There are several reasons for this. The officers of the Wallace Stevens Society do everything they can to launch panels and roundtables at conferences that might lead to collective publication afterwards. Many of these gatherings in recent years have been energizing to participants and audiences alike. They have enabled exploratory conversations that invited further elaboration, including by those interested parties who could not be present at the original gatherings. For chairs of sessions, moreover, the subsequent production of a special issue as a guest editor tends to be motivating, both intellectually and professionally. And in qualitative terms we find that thematic issues have a focus, coherence, and depth that allows them to be more than the sum of their parts. They are also easier to plan ahead: we currently have issues in the pipeline through 2020.
The journal is still going strong, then, and to celebrate its fortieth anniversary I would like to use this opportunity to look back at the most momentous change in our recent history: our integration into Project Muse, the electronic platform of the Johns Hopkins University Press. We made the move to Johns Hopkins at the start of 2011, so we now have enough distance to survey five complete volumes (2011–2015), a total of ten issues. For those who continue to subscribe to print copies of the journal, I suppose (and hope) that the principal experience has been one of continuity—that not a whole lot of what they have come to expect of The Wallace Stevens Journal has changed over the years. Yet a radical transformation did occur at another level, propelling our publication resolutely into the twenty-first century: all texts now lead a double life because of their electronic availability through Project Muse. The change is not just one of numerical [End Page 111] increase—more readers—but of audience composition as well. To show this, let me crunch a few numbers.
The journal’s electronic life makes it possible for us to request statistics about its online performance. So I took the trouble to order a full report for the period 2011–2015. The first thing readers will probably want to know is the total online traffic. During these five years, individual items from the journal were downloaded 14,445 times. This number is sufficiently high to give an immediate sense of the exponential growth our small niche-journal has witnessed as a result of its online availability. If we break down the number by country, moreover, we find that the growth has been one of conspicuous globalization. Only a little more than half of downloads (7,623) were from within the US; the rest were spread over fifty-nine different countries. This constitutes a fundamental change compared to the first thirty-five years of the journal: as long as publication was limited to print, the audience of individual and institutional subscribers was almost entirely North American. I well remember the days as a PhD student when I had to travel from Belgium to New York to spend long hours in Columbia University’s Butler Library going through all issues of the journal and taking piles of photocopies to carry home with me. No university library in Belgium at the time had a subscription, and when in due course I took one out myself, I was probably the only person in the country with access to the scholarship produced in these pages. Yet today, in the age of electronic reproduction, 232 items (from a mere ten issues) have been downloaded from within Belgium alone. The top five countries outside the US in terms of downloads consist of the...