Assistant professor helps create award-winning literary journal

May 31, 2011 | News, UToday
By Feliza Casano

When Dr. Barbara Alice Mann and a few other faculty members around the nation decided to create a new literary journal, there was a specific type of writing they knew they were looking for.

“We wanted something free of jargon, gizmos and shiny things,” said Mann, UT assistant professor in the Honors College. “We wanted something that would have real content, using evidence and logic.”

Mann is on the editorial advisory board of Literature in the Early American Republic (LEAR), the only journal focusing on literary works and writers active between 1789 and 1851.

“Charles Brockden Brown, Hannah Webster Foster, Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper — these were among the most important writers who were functioning at the beginning of this country,” she said.

In addition to sitting on the editorial board of LEAR, Mann is a contributor who has had work published in the journal, winning the 2009 James Franklin Beard Award for her work. LEAR printed its third annual issue in May.

The Literature in the Early American Republic has stayed true to printing articles without “jargon, gizmos and shiny things,” and that intention paid off when the publication was honored with the 2010 Award for Best New Journal by the Council of Editors of Learned Journals in January.

According to remarks written by council member Ralph W. Mathisen, “LEAR deals with a very significant topic that seems underrepresented, and its contributions are all deserving of the epithet ‘learned,’ lacking the jargon and overblown language that so often characterize literary studies in the modern day … the entire period of early American literature is covered, with Cooper only serving as the endpoint of its coverage.”

“We are very pleased to be considered the best new journal out there — in the humanities, not in the sciences,” Mann said. “We never expected that national award. We just thought there was a hole that needed filling.”

Mathisen also wrote that LEAR “will have real staying power and will not lose its relevance once a new literary theory du jour takes over.”

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