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finkelitis's avatar

What is a good academic literary journal?

Asked by finkelitis (1907points) November 28th, 2007

I wrote a paper on Ulysses in college that I’ve always been meaning to submit to a literary journal. Unfortunately, I have no idea what the journal landscape looks in this field. Any suggestions?

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7 Answers

christybird's avatar

I think you should ask a certain ex-roommate of yours about this one… he’s always happy to give his two cents. I can send you his email if you don’t have it.

finkelitis's avatar

one would imagine he’d get the message faster here than anywhere else.

soethe6's avatar

There are a number of journals where you might place an article on Ulysses, and your suitability for one journal or another is based mostly on the kind of argument you make. Is it a theoretical one? Historical? Just a close reading of the book?

One major journal that might, in principle, accept the piece would be Modernism/modernity. It’s a really sexy journal, though, so to be honest you’re not likely to get published there, especially if your name isn’t known in the academy, if you can’t use university letterhead for your cover letter, and if you don’t make a very theoretically advanced argument. Instead, you might consider Joyce Studies Annual, published by U Texas. They’ll be automatically interested in anything about Joyce, which at least gets you in the door. And they’re not as big a deal, which is an advantage for someone without a reputation.

Here are a few general notes on the field:

Your submission should be around 25–35 pages long, set in Times New Roman, 12-pt font, double-spaced, 1-inch margins all the way around, printed one-sided on plain white paper. Your last name and the page number should appear in the top-right header, except on the cover sheet, which should bear the paper title and your name and contact info, all in 12-pt TNR, center-aligned. If your paper is closer to 10 pages, which most undergraduate papers are, you might look at The Explicator, which is the only academic journal I know that prints short pieces. (N.B. They are mostly interested in new close readings, so might not be appropriate, depending on the scope of your argument.)

You should include a VERY short cover letter. All of my successful article submissions have had two-sentence cover letters: “I hope you’ll consider this article for publication in Journal X. Thanks for your attention, and I look forward to hearing from you.” If possible, print this letter (but not the paper itself) on university letterhead. But it looks like you’re no longer affiliated with a university. If you have related credentials (e.g., you’re a professional journalist) then make them known by including your position under the signature and/or using letterhead from your employer. But if you work in a factory, keep your profession vague. It’s hard enough getting published as a graduate student, let alone an independent scholar.

Perhaps most importantly, especially when writing about such a major figure as Joyce, your paper should thoroughly address recent scholarship on the issue you are treating. Especially because it’s Joyce, it’s very likely that there is a large amount of scholarship that relates to whatever it is you argue. (This would be different if you were writing about, say, the sociology of YouTube.) It’s important that your paper treat your argument’s intersections with both the major, seminal Joyce scholars of whatever period, and the current state of the field. That is, you should treat both the big critical guns, who may have written as early as the 1950s, and the scholarship from, say the past 15 years. This latter can be particularly challenging, but it’s important to show that you’re up on the scholarship and that you know how your argument fits in (or doesn’t). This may be less important if you’re sending an 8-page piece to The Explicator, but even they expect around 10 secondary references per article. (My most recent publication is 26 pages long and cites about 35 secondary sources.) In any case—and, again, especially because Joyce is so heavily read—you cannot expect to publish an academic piece that simply reads the novel alone.

One last question: I assume that you got a good grade on the paper in college, but did the professor suggest that it might be publishable? If so, you might ask her where she thought you might send it. If it’s been a few years, include a copy of the paper in your email, but generally profs are happy to give this kind of advice.

Let me know if you’ve got more questions. I can be more specific about journals, etc. if I know what kind of argument you make. Hope this helps!

finkelitis's avatar

soethe—thanks for such a comprehensive answer. Let me tell you a little bit more about my situation.

My professor (Phil Weinstein, at Swarthmore) did suggest (six years ago now) that I think about publishing this paper. It’s also a little unusual as a piece of scholarship. It is less than ten pages long, and I don’t quote any other papers. The piece is a close reading of Ithaca, Chapter 17 of Ulysses, written in an imitative style. The thrust of the piece is that Joyce anticipates major 20th century shifts in physics and mathematics. I think it’s something of an unusual argument, made in an unusual way.

While I didn’t go on in literature, I am at a University, studying for a PhD in mathematics (can I use the University letterhead anyway?).

Since I don’t have anything to lose, it’s tempting to send the piece in to one of the sexier options. I assume I can submit to only one journal at a time. I’ll take a look at all the options you mentioned though. If you have any more guidance to offer based on this information, I’d be glad to hear it.

bob's avatar

You can (and should) use the university letterhead—the essay even mentions math. Don’t pretend to be a grad student in English, but let them know (by using the letterhead) that you’re a serious scholar.

I recommend submitting to multiple journals at once. Lots of journals these days accept simultaneous submissions. Much easier for you. Just make sure you follow the journals’ guidelines for simultaneous submission (if they allow it, they will say so explicitly and ask to be informed as soon as it is accepted somewhere).

The essay sounds whimsical; maybe it would fit in a journal that publishes creative non-fiction or in an academic journal that publishes both creative and scholarly work. Check out The Massachusetts Review; they say: “Articles and Essays of breadth and depth are considered, as well as discussions of leading writers; of art, music, and drama; analyses of trends in literature, science, philosophy, and public affairs.” They also publish fiction and poetry. That could be a good fit. But I’m sure there are lots of journals out there that would be interested.

soethe6's avatar

Yeah, I think that Bob’s mostly right-on, now that I see what the paper’s like. In my experience, most scholarship-only journals do not take simultaneous submissions, but their turnaround time is generally much quicker (4–8 wks) than that of general literary journals (poetry, fiction, reviews, scholarship, etc.). Another journal you might look at is The Believer. Huge readership, very hip, and they’re just the type to publish this kind of quirky thing. There’s also the Chicago Review and a million other ____ Reviews to consider. On the academic front, you might consider The Explicator, but in honesty I think it very unlikely that the bigger journals would give you a second glance: they’re just more interested in sustaining a certain literary-critical conversation than in…scholarly curiosities, however interesting.

And just to echo what Bob said: yes, definitely use university letterhead if you’re affiliated with a university (even if the letterhead says “department of mathematics” that could look v. sexy to an editorial board sick of english majors), but do not send to multiple journals at once unless both journals explicitly say that simultaneous submissions are OK.

finkelitis's avatar

the only problem is that to understand my piece, you need a fresh working knowledge of chapter 17 of Ulysses. So I’m a little reluctant to submit it to a more general journal. But otherwise The Believer sounds like it would be perfect.

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