Inquire: Journal of Comparative Literature
In January of 2010, preparations began for a journal of comparative literature by graduate students from the Program in Comparative Literature at the University of Alberta. An initial meeting in March identified prospective members of an editorial team and by late spring Inquire had a name, an international advisory board, two associate editors, an editorial team and a call for papers. Work on two special-interest sections of Inquire called In Every Issue and CL Hub started in late spring. The review process was carried out from September to December. A beta version of the online platform was completed in December and site construction began in January 2011. The first issue of Inquire: Journal of Comparative Literature was released in March 2011.
Inquire aims to serve the intellectual and professional interests of an international community of students, teachers and scholars interested in the study of literature. The goals of Inquire are: (1) to enable graduate students to gain professional experience through the construction and management of a journal; (2) to promote the development of interdisciplinary research conducted by emerging scholars; (3) to publish contemporary work and useful resources applicable to students, teachers and scholars of comparative literature; and (4) to create an international site that encourages open communication and collaborative creativity across the discipline.
The first issue, Bold Inquiry: New Directions in Comparative Literature, features articles and reviews by graduate students who consider topics and methodologies of relevance to literary scholars working across disciplinary, national, cultural and linguistic boundaries. “Anthologizing Postcolonial Francophone Literature” by Alison Turner investigates the global diversity of French writing and argues for an anthology of postcolonial francophone literature that includes all uses of the French language as well as a postcolonial theory that equalizes all perspectives of colonialism. “The Bodies of Chick Lit: Positive Representations of the Female Body in Contemporary Irish Women’s Fiction” by Mary Ryan explores the popular chick lit genre through an analysis of a selection of Irish novels that challenge the beauty myth, prominent in the international magazine industry. In “Asexy Pioneer: Asexuality Versus Eroticism in Willa Cather’s O Pioneers!” by Nathan Erro, traditional feminist views of Willa Cather’s frontier novel are questioned by considering the role of asexuality in identity formation. In the Reviews section, Sarah Shewchuk considers Anne Whitehead’s Memory (2009) and Tegan Zimmerman describes Jerome de Groot’s The Historical Novel (2010), both from The New Critical Idiom Series by Routledge, while Paul Campbell discusses Norman Holland’s Literature and the Brain (2009) and Daniel Mantei responds to Campbell with his own take on the same work.
Inquire also provides disciplinary context (In Every Issue) and practical resources (CL Hub). In Every Issue contains contributions from established academics in comparative literature or the arts that provide perspective on important issues. The first issue includes the following: a ‘State of the Discipline’ interview with Dr. Karin Beeler (President, Canadian Comparative Literature Association; University of Northern British Columbia); a history of the Sherbrooke School of Comparative Literature and the development of studies in comparative literature in Canada in ‘CL History’ by Prof. Joseph Pivato (Athabasca University); a critical take on important global developments relevant to Canadian post-secondary education in ‘U Views’ by Dr. James Gifford (Director, University Core, Fairleigh Dickinson University-Vancouver); and a discussion of online journal publishing and the implications for academic communities in the twenty-first century in ‘Media X’ by Prof. Michael O’Driscoll (Editor, ESC: English Studies in Canada; University of Alberta).
In CL Hub, graduate students provide up-to-date resources and reports relevant to the practices and experiences of students, teachers and scholars. In ‘What’s On,’ Lidiane Luiza da Cunha and Melissa Li Sheung Ying list upcoming conferences, calls for papers, literary events and more. Wei Xu notes recent publications related to the comparative study of literature in ‘New Pubs.’ Danielle Lamb and Wenjuan Xie provide an extensive list of associations, programs, journals, funding opportunities, employment resources and academic networks in ‘Find It.’ ‘Cool Courses,’ by Tegan Zimmerman and Anita Buick, highlights innovative and interesting courses from around the world. ‘In the Field,’ by Lindsay R. Parker, focuses on teaching with particular emphasis on advice for graduate students and sessionals. In ‘Project Room,’ Linda van Netten has arranged for two short reports that describe ongoing work from Jonathan A. Allan (University of Toronto) and Catherine Hansen (Princeton University). Sergiy Yakovenko provides a brief history and description of the practice of comparative literature in Ukraine for ‘CL World.’ In ‘Post-CL,’ Catherine Melnyk interviews two graduates of comparative literature, Dr. Jolene Armstrong (Athabasca University) and Prof. Alexander Jamieson Beecroft (University of South Carolina).
As an open-access, online journal Inquire helps to counter the challenges of traditional print publishing and provides unique opportunities to impact disciplinary identity and community formation through the production and dissemination of knowledge in innovative ways. Beyond publication through digital means, Inquire fosters communication through the use and exploration of new technologies, providing a collective space that encourages the ‘yes, you can do that here’ attitude so essential to the perpetuation of knowledge-based inquiry in social sciences and humanities research. With the continued support of students, scholars and teachers of comparative literature and the greater arts community, Inquire will contribute to the production of dynamic interdisciplinary trajectories and the discussion of down-to-earth questions of what we do and how we do it.
David Buchanan (PhD, Comparative Literature, University of Alberta) is a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of English at Simon Fraser University.