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  • PART III: Early Adulthood / 1970s-1980s (Volume 32, Number 4, through Volume 52, Numbers 1 and 2)

Editor's Note: In this and all subsequent introductions, citations for The News Letter and The CEA Critic will appear in parentheticals as (e.g. 4.7.3)


The June 1970 issue of The CEA Critic announced the first major shift—and certainly the most significant one—in the journal since the change in name in 1947 from The News Letter of the CEA to The CEA Critic. On the cover of the journal, the last to feature the oddly Peter Max-like lettering, it was announced that the CEA Board of Directors had endorsed the addition of a second journal, The CEA Forum, as a sibling to The CEA Critic. The monthly CEA Critic would thereafter split into two quarterlies. In his CEA history, Joe D. Thomas, in attendance at that Board meeting, explains, "One (October, December, February, April) would emphasize pedagogy, general issues, and in-house, including regional, news; the other (November January, March, May) would specialize in 'usable criticism' … that is articles that could lead toward penetrating and effective presentation of literature within the classroom" (211). As announced in The CEA Critic under the heading "Looking Forward," The Forum would focus on "new ideas for the effective teaching of English in the two-year college as well as in four-year institutions and graduate schools, creative work related to teaching, and—crucially important—sharp dialogue on relevant academic issues by CEA members" (32.9.1). (Indeed, throughout their history, both the CEA and The CEA Critic have elided lines between two- and four-year, public and private, and regional and flagship colleges and universities.) The new publication would retain the tabloid format of The CEA Critic while The CEA Critic would "change to the attractive—and easily bindable—6" x 9" format" for its focus on practical and theoretical literary criticism "directly usable in the classroom" (32.9.1). Essays in the new CEA Critic should, the announcement continued, address the problems of bringing college students to a full awareness and appreciation of the enduring relevance of literature (and of specific literary works)." The editors discouraged, "pedantry in all forms (e.g., only footnotes of genuine substance will be permitted), and it will absolutely eschew pretension and obscurantism" (32.9.1). The first issue of The CEA Forum appeared in October 1970, and The CEA Critic, in its new format, followed the next month (Figure 1). [End Page 178]

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Fig 1.

The cover of the first issue of the new "easily bindable" CEA Critic, Volume 33, Issue 1 (November 1970) featured the return of the medieval scriptorium.

The change in both the form and content of The CEA Critic shifted the journal from serving largely as an organ of the CEA to its current status as a full-fledged academic journal. Gone would be the Letters to the Editor; henceforth, The Forum would be the site for the free exchange of opinions and what it announced as "congenial, creative dialogue" (32.9.1). Slowly, The CEA Critic featured fewer and fewer quirky poems (although poetry of a more literary type continued to appear) as well as fewer book reviews. Any advertising was relegated to a handful of pages at the end of each issue. As the decade progressed, "Notices to Members" and reports from regional affiliates faded from the journal's pages while populating those of The Forum. In the inaugural issue of the new CEA Critic, which totaled close [End Page 179] to 40 pages, the Editor's Comment described the contents as "representative of our concerns as teachers of literature" (33.1.2). To this end, portions of Cleanth Brooks' essay "What Are English Teachers Teaching," from the 1940 News Letter, were offered by the editors as a model of "the kind of 'usable' criticism which it is our aim to publish in The CEA Critic" (33.1. 2). In addition, this first issue institutionalized a commitment—which continues today—that the journal would serve as a space to "welcom[e] young teacher-scholars into fellowship with...


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