The French Review, vol. 72, no. 6 (May 1999)

 Producing Publications, II: Journals and Beyond --

Overview of Academic Journals

In every aspect of research, scholars must rely on current work published in scholarly journals. One need only consult recent listings in bibliographies to verify the enormous proliferation of journals. Limiting ourselves to the field of French studies (and this applies to a great extent to literary and cultural studies in general), a perusal of listings in the MLA International Bibliography allows one to make several observations: under the bibliographical listings by genre, then by chronological periods, and then by author, one notes that different journals cater to different levels of specialization:

On the most specialized end of the spectrum are journals devoted solely to a single author (e.g., in nineteenth-century studies, L'Année Balzacienne, H.B. (formerly Stendhal Club), Parade Sauvage on Rimbaud), as well as bulletins for different authors (e.g. Nerval, Baudelaire, Sand). Slightly less specialized are journals devoted to literary movements (e.g., Romantisme, Cahiers naturalistes ).

Journals focusing on chronological periods widen the range of studies to all authors, genres and movements within the delimited time-frame. Each "century" has its authoritative journals, the titles of which can be gleaned from reviewing the periods' chronological listings (e.g., Nineteenth- Century French Studies, Sites).

In growing numbers, academic journals emphasize a wide range of topics, authors, genres and literary periods, and during the previous three decades, the division between domains (i.e. French vs. English studies) has blurred with the interdisciplinary emphasis. In terms of French studies, one demarcation is possible between journals with predominantly linguistic focus and those tending toward (a) literary critical approach(es). Another demarcation is possible between journal focusing on chronological periods farther from or closer to the contemporary period. In the case of medieval and some Renaissance journals, for example, the philological emphasis is the rule rather than the exception.

A further demarcation is possible between journals of French studies edited by French or other European (non-anglophone) publishers and those by Anglo (British/Canadian/ Australian)-American publishers.

Among the former, the following is only a very partial list of frequently encountered reviews: Cahiers de l'Association Internationale des Études Françaises, Critique, Le Français dans le Monde, Les Lettres Romanes, Littérature, Neophilologus, Poétique, Revue d'Histoire Littéraire de la France, Revue des Sciences Humaines, Studi Francesi, Travaux de Littérature.

Among the latter, the Anglo entries include: Australian Journal of French Studies, Canadian Modern Language Review, Discours social/Social Discourse (graduate student editors), French Studies, Texte.

The American entries are those in which published articles can be judged by the widest range of one's professional peers (* = accepts unsolicited submissions): Cincinnati Romance Review (peer-reviewed proceedings of annual Cincinnati Romance Language conference), Degré Second* (general), L'Esprit Créateur (theme- or author-oriented issues with guest editors), French Forum* (general), The French Review* (as publication of the American Association of Teachers of French, membership is predominantly high school teachers; emphasis on French culture and pedagogy as well as literature), French Literature Series (proceedings of annual Univ. of So. Carolina French conference), Kentucky Romance Quarterly* (general), Modern Language Notes* (one of four annual issues is devoted to French literature), Qui Parle* (general, graduate student editors), Romanic Review* (general), Stanford French Review* (until recently, of general focus; new editorial policy emphasizes interdisciplinary and cultural studies), SubStance* (focus on post-structuralist approaches), Yale French Studies (theme-oriented with guest editors).

Given the interdisciplinary directions of literary studies in recent years, a number of journals provide forums for reflection on general theoretical and/or literary critical concerns. Several of the regional Modern Language Association organizations (e.g. Midwest, South Atlantic, South Central) have their own journals in which articles, reviews and conference programs appear. While these and most of the following titles are not limited to French studies, the critical problems raised in each issue have considerable impact on work in literary and cultural studies in general:

Angelaki* (British; philosophy, literature, and social sciences), Body and Society (British; focus on the theme of "body" in research and teaching), Camera Obscura (film & feminist studies), Configurations (linked to membership in the Society for Literature and Science), Critical Inquiry*, Criticism*, diacritics (lengthy review essays), differences* (feminist studies), Discourse (journal for theoretical issues in media and culture), Narrative* (linked to membership in the Society for the Study of Narrative Literature), New Literary History*, PMLA*, Paragraph (British), Poetics Today (Israeli), Representations*, Rethinking Marxism*, Semiotica*, Signs* (feminist studies), Social Text, South Atlantic Quarterly (usually theme-oriented), Style *, Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature*, Yale Journal of Criticism*.

Yet another "genre" of journals relates to the broad field of "cultural studies," including (but not limited to) Cultural Critique, Cultural Studies (with general issues as well as theme-oriented), European Journal of Cultural Studies.

Some final comments on academic journals concern what might be called "distinction." In principle, all editors and editorial boards guarantee the quality of their publication by screening submitted articles either through "referees" (external readers) or internal, editorial review. However, certain journals in all fields have acquired reputations as more prestigious than others, a matter of subjective judgment often dependent on the particular critical approach(es) (if any) toward which the journal tends and on the reader's concomitant interest in said approaches.

In the Anglo-American domain, Critical Inquiry stands out as most consistent in its range of topics considered and debates generated. In French studies, each critical and/or century specialization has appropriate forums (and reputations), and the best way to gauge these is by direct encounter of several kinds: certainly, regular examination of articles published in different French journals will be informative about varied approaches entertained, even showcased, from one journal to the next. Another encounter of the most intense kind occurs when one submits an essay to a journal. Not only does this provide an inside look at the review process of the particular journal, but in some cases (unfortunately not all), direct feedback that may be useful for further revisions and submissions of one's work. Finally, the process of preparing texts for conferences and for journal submission constitutes a process for building critical work toward a book-length manuscript.