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Anis Shivani

Anis Shivani

Posted: August 14, 2010 11:09 AM

Literary journals are one of America's most precious institutions. Emerging writers typically make their mark first in the literary journals. Unlike commercial publishers, literary journals tend to push the boundaries of writing, and don't get as carried away by literary fashions. Their long perspective is indispensable in maintaining a necessary balance. We have more of them in this country than probably the rest of the world combined. Some of them have maintained stellar reputations for decades, while new ones, adventurous and refreshing, crop up every day.

How are the literary journals faring amidst the rise of the Internet? Are they suffering from the current cost-cutting mania in higher education? Can this venerable American literary institution survive--or even thrive--despite new technologies?

The respected editors of some of America's most venerable little magazines answered these questions for us.

Dan Latimer, Editor of Southern Humanities Review
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It is astonishing to learn that the journals that spread Modernism over the globe rarely had a circulation over 1,000. The Dial was an exception. Yet they had their impact before they ran out of steam around 1940. Today there are formidable forces arrayed again against the little magazine, not the least of which is the U.S. Postal Service, which continues to raise its prices for presorted mail. Yet electronic internet publication does not have the longevity of paper and print, which can languish in your magazine rack until you realize, I should have read that! Or, What was that again?! One would think that a liberal arts dean would be a bastion of dependability at such times, and there may indeed be some who are. Yet an editor knows that a visit to the dean's office, hat in hand, is the most melancholy visit that he can ever make. With the adoption of the business model for the university, beauty seems far less crucial than contracts for asphalt, or outlandish administrator salaries, which have not yet reached the level of Wall Street opulence, or for that matter arthropodal proliferation of the administrator class as a whole, whose top-down style seems to function mainly to terrorize faculty with post-tenure review and to cut the budgets of editors. And yet if you look at the list of literary journals in NewPages, you can see the Philistines still have quite a few little voices to exterminate before there is total silence.
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