Academic journal article Early American Literature

Early American Literature at 50

Academic journal article Early American Literature

Early American Literature at 50

Article excerpt

With this fiftieth volume Early American Literature concludes its first half century and looks forward to its second. In many ways the journal and the field it represents are thriving. EAL has been associated with the Modern Language Association since its founding at the MLA convention in Chicago in December 1965, and for much of its existence it has been the official journal of the MLA's Division on American Literature to 1800. In the fall of 2013 EAL expanded its affiliations to become the journal of the vibrant Society of Early Americanists (SEA), which recently concluded its second decade. Healthy online usage of the journal via Project Muse has comfortably sustained its finances even as sales of the printed journal shrank in recent years. Now circumstances have changed once again. SEA membership includes a subscription to EAL, allowing the journal to return to the larger print runs of the pre-Web world. For an editor this development is welcome for intellectual and field-related reasons even more than financial ones. The printed journal conveys the scope and heterogeneity of methods, theories, and archives in a way that selective online reading can fail to convey, and it provides ready access to Marion Rust's splendid review section.

The journal is a pleasure to produce. Each volume contains fresh work on topics spanning two or more centuries, representing a variety of approaches, by international and US-based scholars at every career stage. Authors are encouraged to situate their contributions in a broad field and to engage in a thorough way with prior scholarship. Illustrations are welcome. The essays that result from the rigorous and constructive review process benefit from the in-depth reader feedback, careful fact checking, and attentive editing that are the purview of journal publication. The review section contains themed review essays as well as reviews of individual titles, conferences, and exhibits, providing an unsurpassed perspective on this dynamic field. With the creation of the Early American Literature Book Prize, to be awarded in alternate years to first books and to second or later books, we aim to project the journal's strengths to a larger audience by highlighting monographs that display methodological creativity, archival depth, theoretical sophistication, and broad engagement with existing scholarship. The prize, described on the journal's website at http://earlyamlit .nd.edu/index.html, will be awarded for the first time in June at the joint conference of the SEA and the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture in Chicago.

Every anniversary calls for origin stories. Here is one.

At the MLA convention in Chicago in December 1965, a group of scholars with an interest in colonial America convened at the Palmer House to share information about works in progress, plan a conference, and, almost incidentally, found what they called the Early American Literature Newsletter. Calvin Israel of UCLA was named editor of the newsletter, whose major function was to report works in progress. Others present included Harrison Meserole of Penn State, a scholar of Puritan poetry; Harold Jantz, a distinguished Germanist at Johns Hopkins whose first major publication was an anthology, The First Century of New England Verse (1943), compiled with assistance from Clarence S. Brigham and Clifford K. Shipton of the American Antiquarian Society; and Brom Weber of UC-Davis, whose background was in American studies, and who was also a founding member of the Society for the Study of Multi-Ethnic Literature in the United States.

On January 22,1966, the first issue of EALN issued from UCLA's English Department. (1) At a mere eighteen pages long, it was more of a report on meeting proceedings than a learned journal, though it did include one substantive contribution to scholarship: J. A. Leo Lemay's "Seventeenth Century American Poetry; a Bibliography of the Scholarship, 1943 to 1966. …

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