CAAS Statement of Support for ESQ and Poe Studies

Washington State University recently announced its intent to eliminate funding for the journals ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance and Poe Studies: History, Theory, Interpretation, effective 1 July 2012.  In response to this decision, and to the editors’ campaign “not only to preserve funding, but also to take a strong public stand against the notion that one of the primary means by which the academy referees and exchanges ideas can be dispensed with,” the president of CAAS sent the following letter to Dr. Elson S. Floyd, the president of Washington State University.

If you would like to send a personal letter of support, or know of an organization that would like to lend its voice, please consult the home pages of either ESQ or Poe Studies, which provide information on how to proceed (including email and physical addresses).

President’s letter:

10 August 2011
Dr. Elson S. Floyd, President
Washington State University

Dear President Floyd,

I am writing on behalf of the executive of the Canadian Association for American Studies to encourage Washington State University’s continued support for its highly esteemed journals, ESQ and Poe Studies.  These journals are among the foremost–and, indeed, foundational–journals in American literary scholarship and American Studies more broadly.  Your university’s support for such prestigious journals is greatly appreciated by academics and associations not only in the United States, but around the world; in part because of these journals and the excellent faculty in the various disciplines of American Studies at your university, we have always held Washington State in high regard.

The centrality of publishing to the daily functioning of any university has long been recognized through the support that administrations in both of our countries, and beyond, offer to such major journals as ESQ and Poe Studies.  As we continue in this period of economic uncertainty, we all recognize the need to tighten our institutional belts, so to speak, but it would be a more than dire situation, for both individual universities and the academy as a whole, if such vital services were to lose the support of university administrations.  While we all struggle to find ways to cope with decreasing revenue and increasing costs, we must also keep in mind that the value of a university ultimately adheres to the ideas it creates and the discussions it fosters.  We have to ask ourselves the question: when we come to the other side of this economic crisis, what value will our institutions retain, and what interest will we be able to build on that value?

I’m speaking, of course, not just of monetary value and interest, but of the attention our institutions receive, the interest in ideas that brings scholars together and students to our classes.  These are the intrinsic and self-evident values of the university.  If we lose sight of those values as we try to shore up the immediate fiscal future, we will find it even more difficult to generate interest in and for our own universities in the future–the interest that our institutions require to attract students.

If I can beg your indulgence a little further, Emerson–one of the central figures of your nation’s literature and of the journals in question–speaks directly to this subject.  Colleges, Emerson writes, “can only highly serve us, when they aim not to drill, but to create; when they gather from far every ray of various genius to their hospitable halls, and, by the concentrated fires, set the hearts of their youth on flame. . . . Forget this, and our American colleges will recede in their public importance, whilst they grow richer every year.”  Even as we cope with the current economic recession, we must heed Emerson and not allow a more permanent recession of our universities.

In short, you have every right to be proud of your prestigious institution’s association with these journals, which add immensely to the value of your university in ways worthy of its reputation.  I sincerely thank you for, and would like to encourage in the strongest terms possible, your continued support of the fruitful relationship between ESQ, Poe Studies and Washington State, as we all invest in a more prosperous future.

With all best wishes,

Dr. Jason Haslam
President, Canadian Association for American Studies
Associate Professor, Dalhousie University

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