Nearly four decades ago, Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature (TSWL) debuted as the first journal in the world dedicated to women’s literature. Since 1982, similar publications more focused on specific time periods have joined the field, but TSWL’s longstanding history of high-quality scholarship is prestigious among literary scholars.
“For a lot of people present at the emergence of women’s studies as a discipline and the recovery of women’s writing, we were the only resource, and we still hold that place in their academic hearts,” said TU Associate Professor of English and TSWL Editor Jennifer Airey.
The global evolution of women’s writing
Professor of English Holly Laird served as the journal’s longest-running editor — from 1988 to 2005. “When the journal started, it was based in the recovery of women writers, but early on more theoretical content was introduced,” said Managing Editor Karen Dutoi. “That was a significant debate in the early 1980s – what it meant to be an early feminist scholar. Three decades later, I feel like we have a much more solid sense of what women’s studies is and what it can encompass.”
A journal of worldwide acclaim
TSWL produces two issues per year (spring and fall) featuring six to seven articles about women’s writing of any genre, time period and nationality. Subscribers — both individuals and institutions — live across the United States and abroad. From studies of 6th-century Arabic poetry written by Al-Khansa to explorations of novels penned by contemporary authors, such as Zadie Smith and Sapphire, the journal is a limitless portfolio of women’s literature. Submissions are regularly received from across the globe, including France, Germany, Argentina and Korea.
Special issues have examined women’s writing related to young adult literature, 18th-century laboring class poets, breast cancer narratives and other dynamic subject matters. In addition to full-length articles, TSWL includes essays, book reviews and notes on recently discovered information or writers from the past. The journal reviews new tools for studying women’s writing, providing information about databases and resources centered on women’s roles in literature and the struggles they may encounter.
TSWL’s broad variety of content, along with other prominent TU journals, such as the James Joyce Quarterly, Nimrod International Journal and the Modernist Journals Project are valuable to writers and support TU’s reputation as a center for literary studies around the world. “When I was on the job market, I’d never heard of TU, but I knew TSWL, and that was a big deal for me to work at a university that housed such a well-known journal,” Airey explained.
Sharing the publication experience with students
Current TU students benefit from TSWL through graduate assistantships and undergraduate internships that offer exposure to and hands-on experience with the publication process. Publishing can be an intimidating and mysterious process for students, Airey said, but facilitating peer reviews and witnessing the formulaic, impersonal tasks of an academic journal can alleviate some of those fears.
“Students learn general trends on what submissions are typically rejected,” she stated. “Graduate students can learn what to avoid in their own publishing, and it makes them better editors and teachers.”
“They start to realize the people who are published in journals are not just some group of scholars on a high pedestal – these writers make mistakes too,” Dutoi added. “TSWL gives our students more confidence to find their own voice, put their writing out there and feel like ‘I’ve got this.’”
The spring 2020 issue of TSWL will go to print in April. Learn more about the journal and its history at tswl.utulsa.edu.