Reviews of Peer-Reviewed Journals in the Humanities and Social Sciences

We give you the scuttlebutt on academic journals—aiding you in selecting the right journal for publication—in reviews that are sometimes snarky, sometimes lengthy, always helpful. Written by Princeton University graduate students and Wendy Laura Belcher.

Critical Inquiry

For those with a presentist article that puts theories in conversation and has a catchy and/or scandalous title (e.g., Ardent Masturbation, Big Criticism).

2015 review:

It is best if you write your article to one of the following formulas:

  • Pick a theorist and make a link to another theorist whom most would not naturally link
  • Link incongruous things and come up with a term for what links them (e.g., “Tuning might be the figure best suited to joining this pair of apparently incongruous texts”)
  • Address death and sex (e.g., Palestinian Morgue Photography, use masturbation as an interpretive tool)
  • Take a strong stand against what would seem to be a fact (e.g., African American literature no longer exists, life in a biological sense is over)

Note that connections between sentences and paragraphs are loose, there are few to no block quotes, author assume that theorists’ work is deeply known by the reader (e.g., Foucault quoted only in three or four word bites, from texts other than the big three).

The journal is almost entirely concerned with the present. If you do historical work and want to publish here, you must link your research to the present by suggesting implications of the past for the present.

The journal has a strong individualist strain and political orientation.

The journal likes to publish responses to their articles, but you have to attack what they publish, not praise it: “our Critical Response feature, which has generated some of the great debates of our time. See, for example, Jacques Derrida and the debate over apartheid or Frank Gehry and Saree Makdisi on the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem.”

2017 Review:

For those interested in publishing articles that address a broad contemporary or historical problem or idea (often a contemporary problem that we can better understand through reexamining a historical period, thinker, or issue), not necessarily focused on one text or even author, and driven/developed by interconnected, often emergent questions that create a network of ideas; the subject is often not one text and does not involve close reading of a passage, and indeed articles are extremely multidisciplinary (film, photography, literature, cartoons, music) and about a range of global, disciplinary, artistic/literary, and contemporary debates. (KT)

According to its website, Critical Inquiry is an “interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal devoted to the best critical thought in the arts and humanities” with both “rigorous scholarship” and “a vital concern for dialogue and debate” that is “Associated with no single school of thought, tied to no single discipline.” Overall, this seems like an apt account of the journal. Articles are often focused on a key idea or problem that is theoretical and often has contemporary relevance: for instance, there were articles that lent historical and critical context to current events such as Wikileaks and Occupy Wall Street. Other common topics were problems of mediation and media, digitalization and networks, the state of the humanities, philosophical ideas of personhood, ecocriticism and the ecological crisis, and (here and there) thinking through problems of post-colonialism/colonialism and global literature. Critical Inquiry creates “a forum for cutting-edge thought while reconsidering traditional concepts and practices” which also seemed very much to be the case, quite literally in certain articles: articles often frame a contemporary problem alongside a long historical context or issue, sometimes not obviously linked (so that an article that begins with Milton’s cosmology soon emerges as an article, really, about 1960s poetry about space). I was surprised, in fact, at how much time and space many articles took to explore a historical context (often as the main project of the article)— to offer a new story of history, bringing to light an unexpected, new account of a historical period, genre, or philosophical concept. Yet such history is almost always framed to teach us something about our contemporary political, intellectual, and disciplinary world (and this contemporary problem is often the launching point of the article). (KT)

While rich in historical and theoretical knowledge, articles feel propelled continually by questions and intellectual inquiry, never so mired in details that they lose sight of the larger stakes (often laid out clearly up front); questions often litter these articles. In part because of the emphasis on questions, articles in this journal are able to make quite large, surprising leaps between temporal periods, thinkers and ideas that might at first glance seem very distinct. The articles are often quite diverse stylistically as well, allowing for articles that themselves are contributions to theory (a Foucault translation appears here, and a piece by Agamben) or are nonfictional accounts from the perspective of an authorial “I.” While close reading is a possible methodology (or close attention to a painting, etc.), it is not by any means the standard, or even most common approach: ideas of debate (of thinkers, critics, etc. and how they fit together) form the main substance of most paragraphs. Very few titles include single authors or works, or begin by an account of a specific text or work of art. Another noteworthy feature is that this journal frequently prints responses to especially controversial essays, and often then the author’s response to these criticisms. Critical Inquiry structurally includes dialogue, inquiry, and debate about ideas, clearly framed as rigorously intellectual and contemporarily relevant. (KT)

Useful for Submission

Word Count: 7,500 words; this limit includes discursive notes but not bibliographical information.

Issues per year: 4

Current volume number i 2017: 43.2

Articles per year: 7-9 per issue, so around 30

Citation style: The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition.

Abstract length (if required): N/A

Upcoming special issues (if available): Current issue has theme on comedy; no future special issues listed at this point, but they do have special issues regularly, so check back.

Relevant Editors:

  1. J. T. Mitchell (main editor), Richard Neer (executive editor), plus 10 Coeditors, and an editorial board of 29.

About Wendy Belcher

Associate Professor, Princeton University, Department of Comparative Literature and the Center for African American Studies. Author of Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success. Instructor of Deep Reading Journals as Publishing Praxis.


This entry was posted on June 14, 2015 in Humanities Journals, Literary Theory Journals.