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.
For those with articles that engage with cultural studies, reading practices, and debates about interpretation (especially if you have something to say about surface reading or critique). This is also the place to publish your historicism-influenced article, especially if you are writing in a pre-twentieth-century field of literature. The rumor about Representations is that it only publishes those who are at UC Berkeley, attended UC Berkeley, or have been invited by the editors to submit.
Review below by Francisco Robles
Representations has a distinctive orange and black cover. Typically, the articles and authors are listed on the front cover, meaning that one may discern what’s inside the issues without opening or creasing the pages. I’ve often found that I want to read what’s inside, though, so I go ahead and get the pages greasy anyway.
Representations has served as one of the premier journals in cultural studies for quite some time. Representations, like Critical Inquiry and Social Text, is at the forefront of new developments in literary theory and criticism, and is especially devoted to exploring the surface/”symptomatic” reading debates as well as “distant reading” scholarship, which engages digital scholarship and quantitative arguments about texts and literary history. Recently, there seems to be a tendency towards what one might call “hyper-materiality,” in the sense that an article’s text in question is concretely situated in its historical and social contexts, and also in that the essays often stress materiality as a mode of entry or analysis. A case in point is Alice Goff’s article in Representations 128 (Fall 2014), “The Sebst Gewählter Plan: The Schildbach Wood Library in Eighteenth-Century Hessen-Kassel.” The abstract is short, so I will reproduce it here: “In the late eighteenth century, a lay naturalist in Hessen-Kassel created a library of books, each made out of a different species of tree. This essay looks at how the wood library addressed the gap between the materials of nature and the materials of nature’s explanation, which troubled efforts to know and manage the forest in this period.” Two of the other articles in the Representations 128 also attend to physicality or materialism (thus bringing the total to three out of five that do this), including Amanda Jo Goldstein’s “Growing Old Together: Lucretian Materialism in Shelley’s ‘Poetry of Life,’” and Paul Roquet’s “A Blue Cat on the Galactic Railroad: Anime and Cosmic Subjectivity” (which discusses the material constraints of animation and film, and how these constraints are used to examine “the interpenetration of the microcosmic and macrocosmic”).
Unlike Critical Inquiry and Social Text, Representations does not seem to generate an enormous amount of citations. Its most cited article, according to JSTOR, has been cited 17 times, and the second most (“Surface Reading: An Introduction,” which we have discussed in class before) has been cited 11 times [however, Harzing Publish or Perish software lists this article as being cited over 218 times, suggesting that JSTOR’s algorithm is off]. According to JSTOR, though, it seems like the number of people who access the articles is pretty huge: some are in the thousands, and many are in the hundreds. Thus, it seems like although the articles are not cited in other journals at a high rate, the journal has a pretty broad reach in terms of shaping the research of scholars, whether they be faculty, graduate, or undergraduate.
In terms of medium, Representations is mostly interested in film and literature. In terms of period, the journal has articles on Medieval, Early Modern, Long 18th Century, Romanticism, 19th Century and Victorian, Modernist, and Contemporary literature.
From 2010 to 2015, there were a few special issues: “Financialization and the Culture Industry” (Spring 2014), “Denotatively, Technically, Literally” (Winter 2014), “The Humanities and the Crisis of the Public University” (Fall 2011), and “New World Slavery and the Matter of the Visual” (Winter 2011). Except for editor biographies that do not list institutional affiliation, every member of the editorial board is a professor at UC Berkeley.
Representations seems to publish roughly five articles an issue, and numbers each issue from the journal’s original publication date, rather than beginning with a new volume for every year. Not every issue has five articles; sometimes, as with Issue 127 (Summer 2014), there is another section (“Special Forum: Searches”). On the Representations website (www.representations.org), there is also a vigorous “Responses” section, which is also sometimes represented in print issues. There is sometimes a short section called “Field Notes,” which is an interesting section. The “field note” I read was Carol Gluck’s from Representations 124 (Fall 2013), and it reads as a sort of disciplinary ethnography conducted in France. Gluck discusses her experience of teaching, in Paris, a course that mixes literary and historical methodologies, and how fraught the connections between the disciplinary domains ends up being, no matter how much interdisciplinary progress she thinks has been made. She does this, in particular, by discussing the reception history of three French historical novels published within the last 10 years, and how the fictional aspects of each novel were taken to task for their imaginative interventions in historical testimony. She says that if historical novels are going to be held to a higher and more stringent standard of adherence to historical fact, “would hobble both history and literature” history would lose its interpretive imagination and fiction would become fable” (131).
As one of the examples of a representative article from Representations, I have chosen Dolven’s article, which is an intriguing look at The Faerie Queene. Dolven posits that panic, an unspoken/unwritten word in the poem (perhaps even unknown in its current connotations in Spenser’s time), is actually “the dark star” that provides gravity for feelings of amazement, astonishment, and other vertiginous moral descriptions. Dolven’s wonderful title, “Panic’s Castle,” shows how his argument describes an entire architecture of moral feelings that center around the idea of panic: “Panic first as flight, then as action, then as interpretation, and, finally, panic as a structuring principle and the poem as panic’s castle” (2).
Joseph Jonghyun Jeon’s article is a really wide-ranging and fascinating study of South Korean sci-fi movies as allegories of the country’s relationship to the IMF. He conducts this reading through the use of CGI, especially in the creation of special effects and monsters, and the algorithmic construction of film around these use of CGI, to describe the wariness of invisible-but-all-too-visible influence of international capital on South Korea during its IMF crisis in the late 1990s.
Most of the articles move their literature review to the endnotes. Zhang, Brown, Copeland and Thompson, and Dolven, do this. Sometimes this leads to a high number of endnotes, especially if one also uses endnote citation rather than in-text citation. Zhang also does endnote citation, thus cleaning up the look of the paper, but at the cost of a somewhat distracting amount of little numbers dotting the essay. Rounthwaite conducts his literature review as part of his argument, situating his essay as a result of previous studies on/of Felix Gonzalez-Torres. He also does endnote citations, which is the journal’s practice in general, except when one is focusing at length on a primary text (as in Dolven’s article).
The articles tend to state their argument quickly; or, at least, the flow of the writing makes it seem like the argument arrives at a timely pace. Often, the argument appears on the second or third page—the theses seemed neither rushed nor unduly deferred, which might be the result of the high quality of prose.
Word count: “Manuscripts should not exceed 40 pages in length, at no more than 300 words per page, including notes.”
Articles per year: ~25
Cite Style: Chicago
Disciplines: English and American Literature; Other national literatures
Website: Representations has a great website (helpfully registered under www.representations.org).
For detailed information about individuals’ experiences with submitting articles to Representations, including comments on turnaround time, editorial promptness, peer reviewer helpfulness, see the excellent Humanities Journal Wiki
Brown, Wendy. “The End of Educated Democracy.” Reprsentations 116 (Fall 2011): 19-41.
Copeland, Huey and Krista Thompson. “Perpetual Returns: New World Slavery and the Matter of the Visual.” Representations 113 (Winter 2011): 1-15.
Dolven, Jeff. “Panic’s Castle.” Represntations 120 (Fall 2012): 1-16.
Gluck, Carol. “Infinite Mischief? History and Literature Once Again.” Representations 124 (Fall 2013): 125-131.
Jeon, Joseph Jonghyun. “Neoliberal Forms: CGI, Algorithm, and Hegemony in Korea’s IMF Cinema.” Representations 126 (Spring 2014): 85-111.
Rounthwaite, Adair. “Split Witness: Metaphorical Extensions of Life in the Art of Felix Gonzalez-Torres.” Representations 109 (Winter 2010): 35-56
Roy, Ananya. “ ‘We Are All Students of Color Now.’ ” Representations 116 (Fall 2011): 177-88.
Zhang, Dora. “A Lens for an Eye: Proust and Photography.” Reprsentations 118 (Spring 2012): 103-125.