Department of English, College of LAS, University of Illinois

Illinois Department of English Blog


Welcome to the Department of English blog.

My name is Vicki Mahaffey and I took over as
head of the department on July 1, 2016. I'll be using this site to post updates and information of interest to our faculty, students, and alumni,
along with reflections about our discipline(s) in particular and the humanities in general. As anyone who has ever worked or studied here knows, the Department of English is a vibrant place. If you have something you'd like to see posted here, or if you want to contact me about the content of this blog, drop me an email at

Thursday, October 3, 2013


The other day I had the great pleasure of attending a planning meeting for a new Undergraduate Literary Criticism Journal that our English majors are creating. This new journal will join Montage, a student-run creative writing and visual arts periodical with a long presence on campus. (You can read about both journals here.)

I was extremely impressed by the energy and commitment of the many students who attended, some of whom I enjoyed teaching last spring in my course on Critical Approaches to Literature! The meeting was led by Michael Chan and Clara Mount (see the picture below), but other students have also been involved in getting this initiative going, as you can read in this Daily Illini article from last spring. The students are getting great support from our Director of Undergraduate Studies Lori Newcomb as well as from our advisors, the University Library, and the Office of UndergraduateResearch.

When it appears next semester, this new journal will join what is already a very impressive array of publications coming out of our department. In addition to Montage and our award-winning literary magazine Ninth Letter (edited by Jodee Stanley and our wonderful Creative Writing faculty), we now serve as the home base for no less than six other faculty-edited journals. One very established journal, College English, has just arrived with our new colleague Kelly Ritter, and another about-to-appear journal, Resilience, is the brainchild of Stephanie Foote, who is becoming a leading figure in the new environmental humanities. Configurations, the official journal of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts, was recently taken over by Melissa Littlefield, and Bob Markley, Charlie Wright and Martin Camargo, and Gordon Hutner continue to edit The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation, Journal of English and Germanic Philology, and American Literary History, respectively.

As you can see, this is a remarkable and diverse lineup that covers a huge terrain of “traditional” literary areas along with emerging interdisciplinary fields. Together with the great teaching and research that goes on in our department, this kind of editorial work is one of the signs of our intellectual vitality. Editing a journal is enormously hard work—as our majors are about to find out!—but it is also incredibly rewarding. And it’s a crucial service to our profession and to society at large, because it ultimately involves the preservation and transformation of our literary and cultural heritage.

As I told the students when I attended their meeting the other day, editing a journal in graduate school was one of the most enjoyable, challenging, and educational experiences I ever had as a student. Journals are the lifeblood of our profession: they are the way we most frequently get new ideas out into the world. It pleases me greatly that my colleagues and students are contributing in such a fundamental way to the creation and circulation of new works of literature, criticism, and theory. 

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