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  • From the Editor
  • Jonathan Mulrooney

"To be still reading, still caring to read the Romantics in the next decade, would be future enough for me."

These words were written by a colleague in a message communicating, with regret, her withdrawal from the 50 Voices project. Faced with a near intolerable moment that beggars words—as we all are in our ways just now—such an expression registers more as an elegiac wish than as an affirmation. Yet I believe such a wish—that Romantic literatures may still be worth reading and worth caring about—is a necessary condition for continuing the conversation this journal has shepherded for seventy years. And yet (again, yet) these words also acknowledge that what reading and caring about Romanticism will entail in the coming time is as uncertain as it has perhaps ever been.

As scholars, teachers, and readers of "Romantic" literatures, we must face anew the question of whether Romanticism's future is worth finding (no surprise, I believe it is), and, if so, how we might find it together. There are voices who contend that Romanticism's racist and colonialist encumberances are too weighty to make it deserving of further study. There are others who find in its figurations and revolutionary energies a needful counter to the racism, classicism, misogyny, and heteronormativity that have long structured and constricted our lived experience. The task for a journal such as KSJ is not to arbitrate such positions, but to provide a forum in which, through a scholarly exchange that takes literary writing as its sine qua non, they can be expressed, collided, represented, encountered, considered, and enacted. In attempting to provide such a forum, I extend rather than depart from the work of my editorial predecessors, Jeanne Moskal most immediately. But some changes must also be in the offing, not least a clearer expression of how the journal's aims and practices respond to the current moment.

The work of anti-racism, among other vital tasks before us, must be unrelenting, whether explicit in scholarship that critiques the historically inequitable notions of canonicity, or implicit in scholarship that takes poems (long-known or unknown) as ways to make and unmake, to honor and chasten, to understand and worry, to find and lose Romantic notions of human and animal, history and nature, flesh and spirit, death and life. The 50 Voices project (53 actually), at the center of this issue comprises some of these different kinds of work. Those voices speak for themselves; I will say only that I find hope equally in their [End Page 7] resonances and dissonances. The issue's articles, too, manifest differing trajectories: one provides a new reading of Keats's famous "camelion poet" letter and the long-canonical "Ode to a Nightingale"; another recovers a sci-fi quasi-epic space poem by Irish writer Melesina Trench. So, a beginning.

You will notice other changes to KSJ, from the small (the dropping of the journal's subtitle); to the logistical (quick turnaround of peer-review and shorter time to publication); to the more substantive (the expansion and shifting function of the Editorial Board, the wider variety of authors, texts, movements, figures and phenomena we wish to explore). What connects these changes is a desire among our editorial team that the journal manifest in each of its instances—which is to say in each note, review, article, issue—a commitment to working within, and through, and from, and around, and against the Romanticisms we have inherited and helped make. We aim, further, to banish those practices of academic publishing that are unfairly exclusionary, enabling our scholarly and readerly community to reimagine more fully together what Romantic literatures were, what they are, and what they can become. If elegy is to be our mode, so be it. It could be the best way just now to remind ourselves and others, in a yet still altogether Romantic mode, that "words alone are certain good."

That may be future enough. [End Page 8]

Jonathan Mulrooney
August 9, 2020


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pp. 7-8
Launched on MUSE
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