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Center for American Literary Studies

Penn State is the historic home of American Literary Studies.
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Penn State is the historic home of American Literary Studies. Established in 2006, CALS honors and extends this proud tradition.

CALS is setting the national reseach agenda in American literary studies.
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CALS is setting the national reseach agenda in American literary studies with initiatives like the founding of C19: the Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists.

CALS faculty engage in momentous works of scholarship.
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CALS faculty engage in far-reaching works of scholarship, such as James L. W. West III's Cambridge Edition of the Works of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

CALS events and research support encourage top-ranked faculty and graduate students to pursue innovation in the field.
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CALS events and research support encourage top-ranked faculty and graduate students to pursue innovation in the field.

CALS “community read” programs engage readers, draw them together, and position American literature as an important public space.
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CALS “community read” programs engage readers, draw them together, and position American literature as an important public space.

News
Verge and ASAP/Journal Launched Verge and ASAP/Journal Launched May 25, 2016

Two major new journals have launched recently under the editorship of Penn State faculty affiliated with the Center for American Literary Studies: Verge: Studies in Global Asias and ASAP/Journal. In the spring of 2015, Associate Professor Tina Chen ushered in Verge’s inaugural issue as the journal’s editor.  Chen, who is located in the English and Asian Studies departments at Penn State, is the author of Double Agency: Acts of Impersonation in Asian American Literature and Culture, and has served on the Executive Board for the MLA’s Division on Asian American Literature. In January 2016, Associate Professor Jonathan Eburne and his co-editor, Amy Elias (University of Tennessee) welcomed the first number of ASAP/Journal into print. Eburne teaches in the departments of Comparative Literature and English.  He is the author of Surrealism and the Art of Crime, co-editor of Paris, Modern Fiction, and the Black Atlantic as well The Year’s Work in the Oddball Archive, and serves as the president of the Association for the Study of Dada and Surrealism and is past president of the Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present.

"While these two fields have traditionally defined themselves in opposition to one another...the past decade has seen a series of rapprochements." – Tina Chen.

 

Verge launched in April 2015 at the Global Asias 3 conference, an international gathering of scholars interested in approaching the study of Asia and its diasporas from diverse disciplinary, historical, and geographic vantage points. Sponsored by Penn State’s Department of Asian Studies and published by the University of Minnesota Press, Verge brings into relation—but not necessarily into alignment—work in Asian Studies and Asian American Studies.  As Chen explains, “while these two fields have traditionally defined themselves in opposition to one another, with the former focused on an area-studies, nationally and politically oriented approach, and the latter emphasizing epistemological categories, including ethnicity and citizenship, that drew mainly on the history of the United States, the past decade has seen a series of rapprochements.  For instance, categories 'belonging' to Asian American Studies (ethnicity, race, diaspora) have been applied with increasing success to studies of Asia even as Asian American Studies has become increasingly open to work that is transnational or multi-lingual, as well as to forms of scholarship that challenge the US-centrism of concepts governing the Asian diaspora.”

The journal’s commitment to considering both the potential synergies and the very real antagonisms between these two different fields and approaches to the study of Asia and its diasporas is reflected in its design.  Every issue of the journal begins with a section called “Convergence.”  As Chen explained to Carla Nappi during a recent podcast on the NBEAS channel of the New Books Network, Convergence features are non-traditional in format and emphasize engagement, exchange, and collaboration.  In this section, the journal features six rotating rubrics: A&Q, a responsive dialogue, either in interview or roundtable format, inspired by  a set of questions; Codex, a collaborative discussion and assessment of books; Translation, for texts, primary or secondary, not yet available in English; Field Trip, reports from various subfields of the disciplines; Portfolio, commentaries on visual images; and Interface, texts (and eventually online material) exploring the resources of the print-digital world.  In addition, the journal publishes five to six traditional academic essays in each issue.

Special issues on “Collecting Asias” (1.2) and “Asian Urbanisms and Urbanization” (2.1) have already been published and special issues on “Asian Empires and Imperialism” (2.2) and “Between Asia and Latin America: New Transpacific Perspectives” (3.2) are in production.  Managed by an editorial collective based at Penn State, the journal embraces multidisciplinary collaboration.  With additional special issues on “Frontiers” (4.1), “Indigeneity” (4.2), “Forgetting Wars” (5.2), and “Displaced Subjects: Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Critical Refugee Studies” (6.2) already in development, the journal cultivates scholarship that occupies and enlarges the proximities among disciplinary and historical fields from the ancient to the modern periods.

"What I find most exciting about an intellectual career, about the arts, is precisely to learn things, to confront things that we don't already know which provoke us into creativity." – Jonathan Eburne

ASAP/Journal launched earlier this year, the culmination of over ten years’ effort by the Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present.  Published by the Johns Hopkins University Press, the journal promotes the pluridisciplinary study of the contemporary, post-1960s arts and curates a diverse array of interdisciplinary, international, and intersectional submissions. Rather than a specialized, academic audience, the publication brings critics into broader conversations with artists in an effort to foster mutually beneficial relations outside of the market place and to “combat the fracturing of scholarship in the contemporary arts” that leads to “sometimes very territorial specializations,” as co-editor Elias, a Penn State Ph.D. alumna and professor at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, attests in an interview on the Johns Hopkins University Press blog.  The mission of ASAP/Journal and the broader association challenges its audience develop new forms of scholarship and practice, and to bridge the disciplinary fissures caused by narrow specialization.  The journal provides a space and a place for these disparate groups to converse, a challenge of scope and organization both.  Eburne adds, "what I find most exciting about an intellectual career, about the arts, is precisely to learn things, to confront things that we don't already know which provoke us into creativity."

Because of the commitment of ASAP/Journal to various forms of art, art criticism and artistic movements, submissions to the journal are invited to experiment with the traditional article form.  In addition to six to eight essays, the journal also publishes interviews with artists, conversations, and editorial forums that allow for more plastic models of academic and artistic engagement.  Multimedia content, online galleries, and book reviews will be made available on the journal’s digital platform.  The journal echoes the society’s mission to provide “a forum for dialogue among and between scholars and practitioners of the contemporary, and it seeks to advance our collective knowledge of our own elusive contemporaneity.”

The inaugural issue (1.1), a special issue on the commons, saw conversations on architecture, agricultural foodways, and exhibitions as new ways of thinking, as Elias puts it, about “collectivity in the late Anthropocene.”  The second issue (1.2), which Eburne co-edited with Judith Roof (Rice University), addresses experimentalism and features interviews with poet-novelist Nicole Brossard and poet-critic Nathaniel Mackey, the latter of which was conducted by a collective of Penn State colleagues including professor Aldon Lynn Nielsen, recent Ph.D. recipients Susan Weeber and Abram Foley, and current graduate student Laura Vrana. The issue also includes a forum on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Angry Women anthology. The journal is presently accepting submissions for the next special issue on “Queer Form” (2.2), to be released May 2017.

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