The Humanities: “A Preseverve for the Elite?”

May 23, 2008

Speaking of literary magazines: I know I’ve recently mentioned the Virginia Quarterly Review as one of the most relevant and exciting literary journals available but I feel that I should do so again. Here’s Ted Genoways defending his publication (VQR) against an attack from Zyzzyva editor Howard Junker. I wouldn’t bring it up except 1) I think he’s absolutely right and 2) he speaks to a problem that many arts and humanities organizations have, namely that all of us in those fields think our work is important.

Certainly our work is personally fulfilling, but we also feel it deserves a wider audience and that a wider audience deserves access to those works. In an age of thinning endowment dollars for arts and humanities print publications, it seems impossible to me that Junker would be going out of his way to limit his readership, so he probably isn’t. Rather, it seems that Genoways’ comment is more accurate and Junker’s comments are the talk of “the last place finisher who says he never really wanted to win anyway.”

This entry was posted by: Jim


  1. apparently, you tuned in late and missed the true nature of my denunciation of genoways—for his bad manners, insufferable self-importance, and pathetic style as a writer:


    in trying feebly to defend himself, genoways cited an interview i gave a couple years ago in which i tangentially mentioned VQR as overstuffed and misguided in trying to deal with “current” events. a concern with “elitism” is his invention, a cheap way to get back at me. i welcome readers as heartily as you do.

  2. No, I’m not behind; I had read the original VQR post at the center of this latest back and forth as well as the post you link to here.

    Really, I was commenting less on you and your quote but rather the sentiment behind that quote, which reflects one of the elements we have to consider every time we embark on a new program. A lot of people involved in “the humanities” as product seem very invested in maintaining those areas: theatre, poetry, music–as “preserves for the elite.” The other side tends to grasp whole-heartedly any popular thing that bounds along. And I’m not certain that’s the proper way to opening up the preserve. I’m just pointing a finger at the rough area where that compromise must be continually made.

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