PLL celebrates 50 years of publication

Papers on Language and Literature (PLL), SIUE’s scholarly journal, will commemorate 50 years of publication with a double issue due out this fall.

Papers on Language and Literature, SIUE's academic literary journal, will honor its 50th year of publication with a double issue in fall 2014. Photo courtesy of Helena Gurfinkel

Helena Gurfinkel, PLL editor and English professor, said the publication’s longevity “in the face of sweeping changes in academic publishing is remarkable.”

“I attribute it to the unique intellectual mission of the journal, which combines scholarly rigor with a generalist approach emphasizing close attention to the text, the hard work of the editors over the years and the support of the English department,” Gurfinkel said.

The journal, according to Brian Ragen, emeritus English professor and former PLL contributor, manuscript reviewer and editor, has reached the 50-year milestone because it has “not identified with any single ideology.”

“The journals that have been devoted just to this or that critical perspective have faded along with them,” Ragen said. “We simply look for the most illuminating articles on literary topics and [do] not become identified with any single one… So while we have never been the hot new thing we’ve also never been passé.”

But the journal’s future was not always secure. Ragen said the interim editor prior to his term, which began in 1992, “rejected all submissions on the assumption that we would shut down.” Ragen’s editorial tenure began after the death of then-editor Al Sullivan in 1991 and “the disappearance of much of [the] budget.”

“Together with [professor] Jack Voller, I was able to step in and with the support of many of our faculty we were able to save the journal by radically cutting expenses,” Ragen said. “So Jack redid the business side of things and I brought much of our production in-house.”

The department, according to Ragen, eliminated a graduate assistant position, among other structural changes. However, Ragen said within a few years Sharon Hahs, then-provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs and director of special projects, put the publication “on a permanent financial footing.”

Ragen said the “proudest moment” of his SIUE career was not being the last PLL editor, though, at times, he thought that would be the case.

“Thanks to the work of my colleagues and of our professional staff and our administrators it kept going,” Ragen said.

PLL, according to Gurfinkel, maintains SIUE’s reputations “as an institution that values scholarship and creativity” while making faculty research available around the world.

Though Ragen said some can consider “a scholarly journal like [PLL] as being a sideline,” the articles are referenced in textbooks and used by professors when creating courses.

“So our work is showing up in research papers, but more importantly [it is] constantly in the classroom without anybody knowing about it,” Ragen said. “We also publish things that are just fascinating and fun to read.”

PLL managing editor and English professor Melanie Ethridge’s work and creativity, according to Gurfinkel, “make every issue possible.”

Similarly, Ragen said Ethridge has “mastered page layout” and is “the best proofreader and line editor” he has seen.

“[She] has really kept the standards of the journal up,” Ragen said.

PLL began publishing in 1965 with Nicholas T. Joost as its founding editor.

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