In reaction to the growing schism between scholarly and nonacademic writing, Evan Kindley asserts that we may be able to learn a thing or two from the tradition of little magazines. Offering a platform for both academics and journalists to reach a wider public, publications such as Public Books and the Los Angeles Review of Books create a productive inter-professional competition that impels writers to rethink their craft. This intermediary space may just be the future of two or more fields.
Erin Sherrets has discussed the “in-between” of intellectual writing, specifically Public Books. Sharon Marcus makes the claim that the general public has a genuine interest in the work of academics, an idea evidenced by the expanding readership of such magazines: “Readers outside the academy are clearly curious about what scholars have to say about contemporary books” (475). Little magazines (in the twenty-first century) allow for active and serious engagement with literary and cultural topics while at the same time leaving room for more experimentation, more freedom: “[Little Magazines] are, on the whole, more experimental and eclectic than what we’ve come to expect from established literary organs like the New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books, the New Yorker, and the Times Literary Supplement” (468). Little magazines occupy a unique place in our culture, operating between both public intellectualism and academia.
The major benefit that arises from academics and journalists sharing a common platform is the friendly competition. No one can claim the electronic journal as their own: “Academics and journalists inhabit a single venue that neither can claim as uniquely theirs” (469). Therefore, each writer is forced to make their work both appealing and easy to follow, while at the same time rigorous and well-researched. While this work is not as trendy as pop culture news websites, it still appeals to a larger public. At the same time, journalists are forced to compete with the polished prose of academics, including precise and sophisticated word choices and ideas that have been carefully considered.
Although issues of labor and professionalization often arise surrounding these new little magazines, there seems to be promise in this intermediary space. Perhaps writers need to more actively promote a culture of understanding, a society where literature and knowledge do not take a back seat to to more commercial endeavors. Perhaps writing to the public may create more interest in the field, adapting to the present while also anticipating the future.
Kindley, Evan. “Growing Up In Public: Academia, Journalism, And The New Public Intellectual.” PMLA: Publications Of The Modern Language Association Of America 130.2 (2015): 467-473. MLA International Bibliography. Web.
Marcus, Sharon. “How To Talk About Books You Have Read.” PMLA: Publications Of The Modern Language Association Of America 130.2 (2015): 474-480. MLA International Bibliography. Web.