A journal for undergraduate research in literary and cultural studies, edited by students, would usefully complement our existing publication venues for creative writing. In consultation with the SSLC, a student editorial board (with staff advisor input) would assemble an annual journal issue devoted to publishing some of the year’s best essays in English, to be issued online and/or in hard copy format. An undergraduate research journal would have the double benefit of highlighting the often superb level of writing produced by undergraduates and offering examples of first-class work written for our modules, demonstrating our criteria for this classification to students who aim to improve their assessed work.
The proposal aims to address both a wasted opportunity in teaching/learning in the Department and to promote a change in the culture of research at the undergraduate level. Each year our highly selective intake of honours candidates for the English degrees, in response to creative and stimulating teaching, produce outstanding work as part of their assessment requirements. But the audience for this work is at present restricted to module tutors and, at most, an external examiner for finalists. The implication is that these essays, like the exams that students sit at the end of each year, represent a set of institutional hoops through which students must jump, rather than a potential engagement with important questions in the wider academic community and, indeed, in the public sphere. Establishment of a journal for showcasing undergraduate work could provide a wider horizon of address for students, nudging them toward a less narrowly instrumental conception of the purpose of essays and, at the same time, encouraging a shared understanding of the possibilities of research and writing. Highlighting the variousness of the work done for our modules would, in addition, help break down the notion that there is a singular template for excellence in academic achievement.
The proposal thus aims to reach the broadest possible audience among English degree students, offering recognition both to those whose work is selected and to those who serve on the editorial board. The collaborative interaction required of an editorial team – discussing, selecting, and preparing work for publication – would provide valuable experience for those seeking employment in a range of fields, including publishing, media, and social work, and of course is well suited to those intent on entering academia.
IATL could offer assistance to students in two ways: providing funds in order to set up a website and/or print template for the journal, and publicising it to the university at large. While the Reinvention Journal has been successful in highlighting the range of undergraduate research both at Warwick and across the UK, it has to date published no articles in literary studies. The English undergraduate journal would address this gap, but its mission is essentially different: to promote imaginative, rigorous, intellectually risk-taking work produced by Warwick English students and to recognise it in published form.