Dear reader, I’m delighted to welcome you to the new Yale Review: on this site, you can now find the first issue under my editorship. (There is no paywall at the moment, but we hope you’ll consider subscribing!) A journal, a website, is really a way of allowing a mind to encounter others. It can, in its physical form, serve as a portal between two solitudes (the writer’s and the reader’s). And it can, in its digital form, be a space for passionate and voluble conversation, as we hope our new website—the official one launches in summer 2020—and forthcoming podcast will become. Online, we’ll be publishing original content and interviews.
As a teenager and then a young writer, I searched out old quarterlies in second-hand shops in New York City, piling them up on the shelf near my desk like talismans: inside lay some version of the world I wanted to inhabit, news from a lived past I couldn’t access as powerfully from any other source. Those journals gave me the idea that somewhere nearby, possibly within grasp, lay a vibrant, vital world of literature and art being written and shared and talked about, because it mattered. To read them was to feel a conviction that film and poetry and politics and theater and even the particular fonts favored by editors and writers at a particular moment in time were somehow all importantly connected.
If the work of a journal is both to define its moment and to archive it, today much of that work is to be found online—the moment archived on websites, apps, and podcasts—or in visually exciting print publications. And so I write to welcome you to a “new” Yale Review. We have redesigned the print journal, adding artwork—in future issues, you’ll find more engagement with visual and performing arts—and a regular interview, which we see as a space for dialogue across disciplines. Here, the poet Catherine Barnett speaks to the novelist Ben Lerner about blurring boundaries. In most issues, we aim to run a “Folio” or symposium dedicated to identifying—and unpacking—an important dimension of the culture at large. This time, we look at what feels like a new tendency in American poetry: a contemporary attraction to and distrust of storytelling.
We’ve also launched a column, “The Moment,” in which we invite a writer to meditate on the moment we’re in—whatever that may mean to her, and however she chooses to express that. In our inaugural column, Cathy Park Hong enacts the sense of imperilment and culpability so many of us feel in the face of climate change and globalization. In the “Criticism” section, you will find a renewed dedication to what my predecessor as the Review’s editor, the late J. D. McClatchy, once called the “substantial and provocative commentary” for which the Review is known. Inside, too, you’ll find Langdon Hammer commemorating McClatchy’s remarkable work and life, his headlong commitment to literature and opera.
This issue happens to celebrate a “200th Anniversary” of the Review’s deepest roots at Yale: the launch in 1819 of its precursor journal, The Christian Spectator, by faculty at the university. We will be honoring the rich legacy of the Review by reprinting online a few of the extraordinary articles and poems we’ve published over the years; this spring, we encourage you to visit our new website for a dive into the archives.
Every issue, like every piece of good writing, is the product of a series of accidents colliding with intentions. This is an issue that constellates around stories. Collectively, these pieces are testimony to the necessity of imaginative literature as an act of critical interrogation of the world—or the selves—we inhabit. “If every event which occurred could be given a name,” John Berger once said, “there would be no need for stories.” In the meantime, the need persists, all the more in the period of genuine ferment and flux we find ourselves in today.
We hope that you enjoy the issue, and that you’ll join us for a conversation that has been 200 years in the making, by subscribing and by visiting our site regularly.