The inaugural issue of J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists was published in April 2013. J19 is a peer-reviewed journal that emerged in part from the founding of C19: The Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists at Penn State in 2009 by CALS faculty Hester Blum, Christopher Castiglia, and Sean Goudie.
Most broadly, J19 seeks to publish innovative scholarship on nineteenth-century American literature and culture. Co-edited by Castiglia (Penn State) and Dana Nelson (Vanderbilt), J19 is published by the University of Pennsylvania Press. Penn State English graduate student Nate Redman serves as the journal’s managing editor.
“J19 gives tangible form to the growth and sophistication of scholarship on nineteenth-century culture and society over the past decade” — Chris Castiglia
J19 is an interdisciplinary journal of the nineteenth century—not only does it seek interdisciplinary work from within literary studies itself, it publishes work on the nineteenth century being done in adjacent disciplines (history, music, art history, etc.). This diversity of methodologies and fields is also reflected in J19’s multidisciplinary editorial board, which is comprised of scholars working in departments of English, art history, religious studies, political science, and American history. “Scholarship on the nineteenth century has always been at the heart of the rich interdisciplinarity that characterizes American studies,” Castiglia observes, “and J19 strives to represent the full and deep concept of ‘culture” that such work generates.” Nelson notes that the journal is trying to take up interdisciplinarity in its most robust form, not merely as a matter of including other disciplines in a scholar’s research but as an actual dialogue. “Our vision is that the journal can become a place where scholars are challenged to respond to questions that are pertinent in other fields, and where conversations take place across those fields in a common forum.”
The journal includes features such as “state of the field” polemics, reproductions of new and significant archival materials, roundtables, and special issues on topics of general interest to nineteenth-century Americanists. The first issue’s articles ranged from Emily Dickinson’s relationship to Haiti, to slavery reparations in the work of Stephen Crane, to the circular logics of democracy in Tocqueville and Melville. The issue also features a forum on transnational poetics and another on literature and enchantment.
The second issue includes essays on periodization and the Civil War, nineteenth-century translations of Dante and sectional conflict, and The Book of Mormon and theories of historiography, as well as forums on literary formalism and on scholarship on the nonhuman. “The rich diversity of approaches and topics represented by the first two issues reflects the methodological diversification within nineteenth-century cultural studies today, occasioned by scholarly interests in aesthetics, translation, hemispheric and oceanic studies, political theory, visual culture, post-humanism, and religious studies, among other developments,” according to the editors. “The journal is designed to facilitate and push the boundaries of those field developments in one of the most methodologically innovative moments in nineteenth-century American studies.”
Apart from article-length essays and forums on recent turns and trends in Americanist scholarship, J19 boasts a unique section on “Pleasure Reading,” in which scholars are invited to write shorter, more personally-inflected essays on some text (unrestricted by period or disciplinary specialty) that has recently, in one way or another, given them pleasure. “In many ways this is the feature of the journal we’re most excited about,” Castiglia and Nelson report. “The culture of the nineteenth century was weird and wonderful, and scholars who have dedicated themselves to it did so because of deep pleasures they take in studying the period. Within modes of scholarship organized around objectivity and strict historicism claiming the pleasure we take in the nineteenth century has long been difficult. With this feature we hope to bring those pleasures to the forefront, to share our intellectual enthusiasms, and to facilitate critical thought faithful to our pleasures and excitement as students, teachers, readers, and critics. The responses we’ve received to the journal’s first issues have been overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the Pleasure Reading pieces, which reflects both the extreme thoughtfulness and craft of the first essays and how eager people are to hear about others’ positive responses to a field they too love.”
Reflecting on the first year of J19 and looking forward to its future, Nelson comments: “We were a little worried we wouldn’t get submissions but that hasn’t been the case at all: we are excited at the field’s response to this journal far before the first issue appeared. It’s clear that J19 is a journal that has a lively future, judging from the first year’s articles, forums and pleasure reading features.”
“J19 gives tangible form to the growth and sophistication of scholarship on nineteenth-century culture and society over the past decade,” Castiglia adds. “The first two C19 conferences ignited so much enthusiasm about the range and richness of developments in the field, and J19 is the perfect venue for representing the ground-break scholarship using those archives and methodologies, to articulate various strains of thought within methodological innovations, and to encourage future innovation in one of the fastest growing and entrepreneurial fields today.”