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History of EAL


Browse the archives of Early American Literature

The Origin of Early American Literature

     At the 1965 Modern Language Association Meeting held at the Palmer House in Chicago the inaugural “Conference of Early American Literature Scholars” convened. Thirty-seven persons attended the organizational meeting on December 28 and fifteen additional persons had sent letters of support. The company voted to form an enduring association — what would in the course of time be designated “The Division of American Literature to 1800.” Harrison Meserole was appointed first Chair of the group. One of the principle actions of the gathering was to approve the publication of a periodical, The Early American Literature Newsletter (EALN), modeled on Seventeenth-Century News. The Conference’s secretary, Calvin Israel of UCLA, was appointed first editor. On January 22, 1966, the first issue of EALN issued from UCLA’s English Department. Eighteen pages, stapled, with a minimally adorned yellow cover, the newsletter was 8½ x 11 inches. Besides printing the minutes to the organizational meeting, a list of attendees, a column of notes and queries, and notices of works and dissertations in progress, Volume 1, #1 included its first substantive contribution to scholarship, J.A. Leo Lemay's “Seventeenth Century American Poetry; a Bibliography of the Scholarship, 1943 to 1966.” Volume 1, #2 would print the first interpretive piece, Sacvan Bercovitch’s “Hilda’s ‘Seven-Branched Allegory’ an Echo from Cotton Mather in The Marble Fawn.” A membership in the “Conference” exploded, and the contents of EALN expanded so that by Volume 3, #3 the 102 pages of content made the periodical’s designation as a newsletter something of a misnomer.
     With Volume 4, #1 the periodical underwent a transformation. Everett Emerson of the University of Massachusetts assumed the editorship, the name was altered to Early American Literature, and the format morphed from newsletter to journal. The informal tone vanished and a professional gravitas prevailed. The journal’s connection with MLA’s early American literature group remained in evidence with its printed proceedings appearing in the first of the year’s three issues. Everett Emerson announced the following “Editorial Policy” in the first of the 60 issues of the journal he would edit:

THE PROVINCE OF EARLY AMERICAN LITERATURE is American Literature of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. Contributions to the journal may be critical, analytical, or explicatory; contributions to knowledge of understanding. In addition, the editors will consider studies in cultural and intellectual history and methodology, and papers devoted to original research on a literary topic. Articles and notes of any length may be submitted; very important articles too long for inclusion in a single issue may be divided into two parts and published in consecutive issues. Though the policy favors no special critical stance, it does favor studies that are humanistic and readable. Useful bibliographies and check-lists will also be welcome. The MLA Style Sheet should be used as a guide in the preparation of manuscripts.

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