The great tavern of the mind

Many humanities graduates want to get published. This crew decided to become publishers.

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Bewitching video, thoughtful essays and fiction, photography, and poetry to read or listen to find a home in Colloquium, the new online journal of the Master of Arts Program in the Humanities (MAPH). Three of the seven founding editors—Bill Hutchison, Liz John, and Chaz Oreshkov, all AM’12—sat down to talk about the publication’s debut.

Why a MAPH journal now?

Bill Hutchison: Before any of us came along, there had been conversations among MAPH students and staff about putting together a publication because, clearly, there’s a lot of interesting stuff happening in the program. As students we saw the reality of running up to the end of the year, finishing your thesis, and not getting to see what everybody else did. This motivated the idea to have a venue that would let us do that. Over time and a lot of conversations it evolved into what became Colloquium.

The October issue has a theme—Chicago—and 12 pieces from different genres. How did you get submissions?

Liz John: For the first issue we solicited work mostly from people we knew. It was an interesting process.

Chaz Oreshkov: How many people did we e-mail—was it 16? We got stuff back from basically everyone we asked. I don’t know what that says about former MAPHers being willing to engage in a dialogue or contribute to the cause.

LJ: I was really excited for the future of Colloquium that so much of what we got back was good and ready to go.

What’s distinctive about the work?

LJ: I really liked Margaret Fink’s [AM’07] piece on Chris Ware. I don’t know anything about comics; I don’t read comics. But the way she wrote about his work was so interesting—and now I want to read Chris Ware.

CO: Ingrid Haftel’s [AM’10] essay on climate change and Tyler Jagel’s [AM’10] dispatch from Cambodia got good responses too.

BH: What makes many of the pieces feel so different is that they’re so personal—the person who wrote it is in there. The best part of being in MAPH was having this tremendous and intense intellectual stimulation at the same time as you have a feeling of true fraternity with a group of people. There’s not this sterile separation between what’s academic and what’s personal; that, for me, is a real strength of the MAPH program and of Colloquium.

With so much to read on the Internet, what is your niche?

LJ: MAPH has more than 1,500 alumni, so we’re lucky to have a built-in audience to draw from and to work with and for. A lot of people will tap into Colloquium because they’re curious to see what people who came through their program did, or they know someone who submitted or edited pieces.

CO: The work being done in MAPH interacts with real-world problems but at the same time retains a critical academic attitude. Colloquium succeeds because it’s both a lowbrow academic journal and a highbrow general reader’s magazine. It could have a wider audience.

So you’re trying to be lowbrow.

[Laughter]

BH: Lowbrow in the sense that we all get together in the great tavern of the mind to have amazing conversations, but feel tremendous joy about the kind of conversations we can have.

Any plans to get this virtual community together in person?

LJ: We did have a launch party at the new Logan Center for the Arts in October, which was exciting.

CO: It was off the hook.

LJ: We had video screens up playing Young Joon’s [Kwak, AM’10] video. It was a huge success. A number of the contributors came and met each other.

BH: One thing that surprised me was how many alumni were there—people who weren’t necessarily friends with contributors or contributors themselves. They just wanted to come and see this thing, which makes me feel that MAPH runs deep in people’s lives after they leave. And that people feel good about returning.

CO: Or they’re traumatized.

BH: They need to go back to the scene of the crime.

How are you going to top this first issue?

CO: The first issue was done in two months. Now that we have more than two months to do the next one, we can breathe a little easier.

BH: We’re also trying to figure out how to make it sustainable. Ideally, each year there would be a group of senior editors, who are program alumni, on the editorial board. Current MAPHers would join in as assistant editors and start getting involved while still focusing on their studies. Those folks will be the inheritors of the project. One of our invisible goals is for it to live long enough to find its audience.

 

Colloquium is published each fall and spring. The editors welcome submissions from contributors with some relation, past or present, to MAPH. For more information visit colloqium.uchicago.edu or write to the editors at colloquium@uchicago.edu.

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