Monday, November 12, 2007

Lapham's Quarterly

A new periodical, Lapham's Quarterly, has taken its place on the magazine racks and online. Founded by editor emeritus and national correspondent for Harper's Magazine, Lewis Lapham:
LAPHAM'S QUARTERLY sets the story of the past in the frame of the present. Four times a year the editors seize upon the most urgent question then current in the headlines - foreign war, financial panic, separation of church and state - and find answers to that question from authors whose writings have passed the test of time.

In effect, Lapham seems to believe there is a mass market, or at least a market among intellectuals, for what we historians call "primary sources." It's a daring venture, to say the least. Let's hope it amounts to something. Or if it fails, that it is an interesting failure.


Anonymous said...

I wish you had said "least", rather than "last", as I'd appreciate you saying more about Lapham's down the road. I'm interested in subscribing, but am a bit gun-shy at the moment. The input of a historian as to the quality of the magazine once it's out would help people make up their mind.

I love the concept, but have two concerns. First, money - 15 bucks an issue is pricey, for sure. Second, ideology - if Lapham combs history to present a view of current issues that is tinged with more present-day-ideological-concerns than true focus on the merits of the underlying texts, I would feel that the money had been wasted.

I'm slightly right of center and, while I enjoy opposing viewpoints, I avoided the academic echo-chamber for a reason.

With best regards.

dcat said...

Seriously? Picking at typos? C'mon man, no need to be a douchebag from the outset. I'm not working with a copyeditor here and these things slip by. The sort of snot who goes on a blog and spends a great deal of time nitpicking typographical errors is the sort of snot who either gets punched a lot or probably should. That said, I'll fix the error.

The echo chamber of academia is vastly overstated, almost always by people not actually in academia and especially by conservatives who have this preconceived image of what it is that academics do. 90% of us do work that has nothing to do with politics one way or the other, and those of us who do politically-related stuff are much more committed to teaching things that are far removed from ideological matters. I'd always rather hear a smart, well reasoned conservative argument than ill informed liberal ones, and most of my colleagues feel the same. The idea that our ideology dictates our ability to do our jobs honestly and well is insulting, buit more to the point, is overwhelmingly not true. Plus, no one ever asks about the politics of economists or engineers or business schools. They narrow the terms of the debate to fulfiull their image of academics, which is not just intellectually sloppy, it's intellectually dishonest.

As for Lapham's: The cost is certainly a factor. A subscription is, simply, too expensive. but a bigger problem comes with what would seem to be a strength of the journal: the focus on a specific theme. The problem i have with that is that if it is a theme that holds no interest, it tends to be worthless. I am not about to spend $60 on a subscription to a journal I might only be interested in reading once a year. i think the latest theme is money -- for many that will be great. But there are so many good journals of that ilk out there that I'm spending my money elsewhere.

The politics issue does not exercise me one way or the other. Present day ideological views are hardly an illegitimate exercise, though I do get the idea that it might be a bit presentist.