Online criticism isn’t just for the trolls

Can a paper be both critical and creative? Can it be analytical and innovative? The Department of English and Drama certainly thinks so. This spring, in collaboration with the English and Drama Student Society, the department will launch an online, peer-reviewed journal featuring undergraduate work.

According to the department’s advertisement, With Caffeine and Careful Thought is “a new journal of criticism and analysis” that will showcase “adventurous and innovative essays”. The title of the publication was decided through a campus-wide naming contest last fall.

The types of work the department will consider include essays on literary and dramatic texts, theory, and history, as well as multimedia projects produced for English and drama courses.

Though fiction, poetry, and life writing are not currently being accepted, students can submit critical essays that are also creative performances—for example, the advertisement says, a commentary on a play that is itself dialogue.

Professor Lawrence Switzky, who proposed the journal project to the department, said the goal is to make students realize that “critical writing could be creative, fresh, exciting”, and even “liberating”.

Stephanie Vega, the president of EDSS, said EDSS hopes the journal will show students that “a work of analysis can be creative and innovative in approach and topic. […] You can be creatively critical”.

Switzky said the department initially expressed concern that the journal would cause students to experience “disempowerment”, but he disagrees.

“One of the essays you read could be written by the person who sits next to you in class,” he said. “You can do it too.”

Professors and EDSS executives will peer-review the submissions. Switzky explained that the editorial process, which will involve “multiple stages of review”, would be done in collaboration with the authors.

Students outside EDSS can also get involved. In addition to submitting works for publication, students may participate in the peer-review and design processes.

When asked how the journal would affect the way its worldwide readers might think about English literature, Switzky laughed. “They’ll see how crazy, sexy, and fantastic it is!” he enthused. “They’ll line up to take our courses and we will happily welcome them.”

Essay submissions are being accepted until January 31.

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