Debra Rae Cohen is Co-editor of Modernism/modernity, and oversees the Print Plus platform. She is Associate Professor of English at the University of South Carolina.
Debra Rae Cohen
The recent MSA conference in Columbus—full of fabulous presentations as it was—reminded me anew that the real energy of such events gathers and builds in the roundtables. Or in the bar, or over coffee, or wherever discussion spills over beyond its allotted 90 minutes. We’re trying to duplicate that energy here on Print Plus.
The schedule for print issues of Modernism/modernity—like so many institutional features of the university—seems to be designed for a different time, a different model of the academic life.
Two years into this Print Plus project, the platform is both an established, integral part of Modernism/modernity and an ongoing experiment.
What’s the role of an editor, now, in the academic public turn? We can issue a call, and get out of the way; we can tend our own gardens, and, like so many of our colleagues, recalibrate our pedagogies; we can, perhaps most saliently, remind our authors that the public is not singular, and was always already there.
I thought about this again today as I edited our next entry in the “In These Times” blog (David Farley’s eloquent account of how his research into modernist travel led him to local activism), began to compile a list of readings for next semester’s graduate seminar on “Modernist Women as Public Intellectuals,” and turned once more to the never-pleasant task of writing rejection letters.
I woke up yesterday morning to find my Twitter feed in an uproar, with outraged UK academics piling on to disparage, rebut, and generally mock the comments of Andrew Adonis, Chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission, on the subject of the “sacrosanct” academic “3 mth summer holiday.”
A year ago, Modernism/modernity, amid excitement and trepidation, launched this platform with the aim of renewing and enlivening the journal and extending its reach—making it possible to include a range of media as integral parts of articles, to introduce innovative new formats for publication and new modes of collaboration, to respond in real time to compelling events, to continue conversations (and take issue) across platforms, to grow and change in response to the needs of our scholarly community.
In These Times is a space for our community to explore issues of social justice, teaching, and research in uncertain times.
A journalist friend of mine complained a couple of days ago that “the downside of writing about the Trump era is you spend two hours writing and even worse shit has erupted in the meantime.” I know what he means. In the week since I set out to write this brief note—an invitation to continue, in a new blog forum, the work of Lesley Wheeler’s current posting on “Scholarship and Justice”—the very earth seems to have shifted beneath our feet. Threats have become reality. Neologisms have erupted. Websites have disappeared.
As Lesley Wheeler—and others—reminded us in last cycle’s Process blog, the model of the solitary academic has always been an inadequate and misleading one. All editors know this: collaboration is built into every stage of our process.
What is a journal “issue”? Glancing over to my bookshelf with its arrayed white rows of M/ms past, I see what James Mussell has called the periodical’s “dynamic of seriality” made manifest: each issue is new, unique, yet advertises its newness within a framework of repetition. With this second “issue”—perhaps better termed “cycle”—of M/m’s Print Plus platform, we begin to embrace the mode of seriality made possible by digital publication: rather than one discrete and contained “issue,” this and future cycles comprise a set of staggered uploads over the course of the life of, and complementing, augmenting, and even answering, the concurrent print issue. The experience of reading M/m across its platforms will thus change continually throughout the cycle, be made new with each successive visit.
In their editorial introduction to the first issue of Modernism/modernity, Lawrence Rainey and Robert von Hallberg declared their intention to “convey some sense of the grand ambition and scope” of the modernists by modeling in the journal the ferment of the period, “contestation . . . between old and new orders, of course, but also between various divisions of the intellectual endeavor.”