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The American Scholar - Winter 2007

  • Issue Number: Volume 76 Number 1
  • Published Date: Winter 2007
  • Publication Cycle: Quarterly

The American Scholar celebrated 75 years with the publication of its winter issue. To mark this outstanding achievement, Robert Wilson, the journal’s editor of two years, asked two contributing editors to read every issue from the past 75 years (300 in all) and comment on the journey. The results are fascinating—both in terms of the writers who have written in The Scholar (e.g. John Updike, Oliver Sacks, Barbara Tuchman, Rita Dove, and Hannah Arendt), and in terms of how the journal’s contents trace larger social, political, and ideological movements. Wilson writes in his editor’s note that he noticed how “arguments became more specific, more rooted in particular cases or in personal experiences, more dependent on narrative” and how the magazine has moved, broadly speaking, from “subjects to stories.” Stories are what grab the reader’s attention in this issue. Ann Beattie has a wonderful short story, “Wheeling,” that rises, like so many of hers do, in the middle of things only to leave just as quickly. Like the characters we briefly meet, we are left “wheeling,” unsure of what we have witnessed or what it might mean. Stories also dominate a personal essay by Emily Bernard on an interracial friendship that failed for reasons that Bernard would like to lay at the feet of racism but knows are more complicated than that. In terms of opening lines, poet Marilyn Nelson gives us some of the most powerful. In “Nine Times Nine, On Awe,” she writes “An architecture of inequity / designs the lower floors of history,” and proceeds to enumerate those forgotten while “someone the world would remember was inventing an arch.” This anniversary issue is rich in story as well as subject—ranging from the political to the personal. It is a journal one hopes will be around another seventy-five years.

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Review Posted on January 31, 2007

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