Weak Theory, Strong Year

With the just-posted “Responses to the Responses to the Special Issue . . .” Modernism/modernity brings to a close what we might call the Year of Weak Theory. We’ve run responses to the issue of September 2018 in five invigorating dollops—and now, in this sixth tranche, we've let the authors from the special issue have the final say.

Except, of course, that it won’t be final. Just as the Print Plus platform couldn’t contain (or, perhaps, represent) the full measure of discussion about the issue—so too will the productive reactions to it, and to the responses, ripple out far beyond the journal. Or perhaps (thinking here in the spirit of Aarthi Vadde and Melanie Micir’s response) that is the wrong metaphor to use, reinforcing as it does a center-periphery model of modernist studies. Rather, let’s say, that just as the responses helped us redefine what we mean by a special “issue”—opening its borders—so too, the real, continued, life of that issue will be in “para-institutional” spaces.

The Year of Weak Theory reminds us, too, of our initial vision for this platform—as an inclusive and adaptive space that could help to render the journal responsive and transparent. There’s room here not just for the discussions and responses we sponsor and solicit, but for those readers propose and organize—prompted by articles in the print journal or on the platform itself, or generated from para-institutional discussion. Make it happen!

Indeed, we’re often surprised by how developments on the platform alter and expand what we initially thought was possible: this summer saw smart adaptations of our various departments—not only to accommodate the tranches of Weak Theory responses, but to stretch our conception of blogs, clusters, reviews. Katja Lee and Hannah McGregor adapted our notion of the cluster as an engaged grouping of short-form position papers into the equivalent of a proof-text seminar, offering a set of methodological takes on a single periodical; we’re waiting for the next part of what one might call a rolling review by Matthew Levay—designed to be updated and expanded as volumes are issued; Alix Beeston debuted her exciting new Visualities blog. And we showcased articles with a strong visual dimension on camouflage and manga.

The cycle coming up, too, looks to be an exceptionally strong one—the print issue is packed with print culture, Picasso, Proust and prostheses; Print Plus will have a plethora of pieces on performance; and we’ll showcase more changes in our blogs and curators. Let us know what you think—that’s what we’re here for.

—Debra Rae Cohen