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Wednesday, January 17, 2007
American Scholar correction
Robert Wilson, editor of The American Scholar, has written in to correct me on two points in my appreciation of the old, Anne Fadiman-edited American Scholar. The first is that Brian Doyle has in fact written for the AS since Wilson took over, which I'm very glad to hear, and the second is that Doyle's first appearance in the magazine preceded Fadiman's tenure. May he be a contributor now and forever.
Wilson also said that the personal essay still has a place in his magazine, while also adding a defense of his decision to depart from Fadiman's consistent focus on that genre. Part of what he wrote is a window into the editor in chief's task and it's worth quoting at length:
I don't think devoting a magazine to a particular literary form is a very ambitious thing to do. One thing I did while applying for the job was to read Emerson's thrilling speech called "The American Scholar," delivered to the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Harvard College in 1837. In that speech, which clearly inspired the founders of the magazine, Emerson encourages the educated person of his day (he calls that person the American scholar), to complete his education by venturing out into the world. My sense is that Anne's magazine, for all its many strengths, was very much, too much, about the individual sensibility. We live in a time when we ought to think more about "we" and less about "I."