bonæ litteræ: occasional writing from David Rundle, Renaissance scholar

How to Research in the Online-Only World, part V

Posted in Academic Practices by bonaelitterae on 3 June, 2020

The use of periodicals was central to the previous tip. Many engage with recent scholarship through reviews or review articles (the difference being that the latter bring together several publications to draw out comparisons and shared themes); some journals, however, do not have a review section. What they all share is that they publish fresh research in the form of articles, usually around 8,000 words, but some journals allow more extensive discussions, while some also includer short notes. So, the latest tip is, put simply, check regularly periodicals, but not just them — do the same also for publishers’ websites.

You might think that if you want to know what appears in a journal, you will simply go to JSTOR. If only it was so easy: that website is a rich resource but, for the vast majority of leading publications, it does not have the rights to the most recent issues. As, then, you want to know what is at the cutting-edge in your subject, and you know you are not going to find that via bibliographies or by JSTOR, you will want to check relevant periodicals. Some of them help by emailing out the table of contents to each issue (e-TOCs). So, it is worth making yourself a list of the major journals, and, where possible, signing up for their e-TOCs. Increasingly, though, journals are listing forthcoming articles or giving some limited access to them by ‘early view’ (Renaissance Studies is an example of this). So, bookmark their pages and check them regularly. Some journals in the list below are annuals, but most publish more frequently (some twice, some four, some five) times a year.

Below I list some examples of leading journals, to which I frequently return for their articles and (where they have them) their reviews. In addition, I list some major academic publishers. That is because, if you want to ensure you are up-to-date with the very latest in your particular topic, you will want to be sure you know what is being published in the form of monographs or collections of essays. Some periodicals might advertise some of these, but the best way to reach them is, as with journals, to visit regularly and look for latest publications on these websites.

So, here are my personal and very selective lists of ‘go-to’ journals and publishers. The selection of periodicals is divided into three, reflecting some of my areas of interest (I omit manuscript studies and the history of the book, because my suggestions for those will appear on the MEMSLib website). The sections are (a) Medieval, (b) Renaissance and (c) History.

1. Medieval

Speculumthe journal of the Medieval Academy of America, published by the University of Chicago Press.

Mediaeval Studiesthe Canadian riposte to Speculum, this annual is produced under the aegis of the Pontifical Institute in Toronto. It carries editions of texts and articles, mainly on historical and literary themes.

Viatora third important North American journal is produced by UCLA and has a special interest in trans-national topics.

Traditio — another major US journal of medieval studies, this annual (with no reviews) is from Fordham and its main remit is intellectual history

Medium Ævumthe remit of this British journal is hinted at by the name of its publisher, the Society of the Study of Medieval Languages and Literature (who are worth checking for their events, grants and essay prize).

2. Renaissance

Renaissance Studies —  the publication of the British Society for Renaissance Studies, this is broader than its name suggests, being particularly strong in early seventeenth-century English literature.

Renaissance Quarterly — the American equivalent of Renaissance Studies but with more focus on the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, and with an extensive review section in in each volume. It is published by the Renaissance Society of America, who also organise the world’s largest (indeed, outsize) annual conference on the Renaissance topics.

I Tatti Studiespublished by Harvard’s I Tatti Center, situated outside Florence, it concentrates on the Italian Renaissance.

Rinascimentoas its name suggests, Italian is this journal’s first language but its remit is not confined to the Renaissance in Italy.

Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes (known as JWCI)do not tell the Warburg Institute that their annual is about the Renaissance! They insist it is much wider than that and it certainly is but it does frequently include important articles on Renaissance themes (in the latest issue, for 2019, five of the eight articles are relevant). JWCI does not carry reviews.

3. History

English Historical Review (known as EHR) — particularly associated with Oxford, this has traditional strengths in medieval history, though it ranges much more widely.

Historical Journal (known as HJ) — this is associated with Cambridge, and tends to see history as starting in the fifteenth century.

Transactions of the Royal Historical Society — the annual periodical, as its name suggests, of the Royal Historical Society. It concentrates on articles that began life as lectures and has no review section.

Past and Present (known as P&P) — like EHR, published by Oxford University Press. It sees its particular remit as social and intellectual history, and in some ways as a British riposte to Annales.

Annales — perhaps the world’s most famous history journal because of its association with a particular French ‘school’ of historical study, it now appears in English as well as French.

Of course, there is a balance: the broader the remit of a journal, the more prestigious it may be but the fewer the articles it will publish that will be relevant to you. At the other extreme, there are a plethora of publications which are more specialised but usually have a lower academic standing. That does not mean you can ignore them: if they are germane to your topic, it is important to know what they are publishing. These journals might be defined by a relatively narrow time-period (The Sixteenth Century Journal, for instance) or by a regional focus (Archaeologia Cantiana for Kent is a good example) or by affiliation to a cause (The Ricardian was set up by partisans of Richard III against his detractors, but it does now include important scholarly articles).

What all these will provide is insight into what are the ‘hot issues’ in your area, but they do not stand on their own. Alongside these, it is important to be abreast of what is coming out in book-length form, and for that, it will be useful to check what relevant publishers. They divide into three: your first port of call will be the big University Presses, both in Britain (Cambridge and Oxford but also Manchester) and in the States (Yale, for instance, has a high reputation for its books in art history). Second, there is that noble subset of commercial publishers who are willing to commit to scholarly monographs: in Britain, for medieval studies, Boydell and Brewer has a deserved reputation, and their catalogue includes series like York Medieval Press and King’s College London Medieval Studies; across the Channel, in Belgium, a similar service is provided by Brepols (which we mentioned in Tip III). Then they are the learned societies who act as their own publishers of monographs: two with which I have had dealings are the Society for Study of Medieval Languages and Literature (already cited for its journal) and the Oxford Bibliographical Society, which has a fine line in manuscript catalogues.

You may now want to rush off to look at all these websites but feel frustrated: you can find titles and abstracts or publishers’ blurbs for recent items but may not then have full access to them if your institution does not have a subscription. What are the ways around that? We will return to this in the last tip but there is also relevant advice in the next one, Tip VI.


One Response

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  1. David Ganz said, on 13 June, 2020 at 4:24 pm

    Deutsches Archiv, the journal of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, provides a prodigious and invaluable series of reviews, always giving a brief summary of what an article or book is about, and covering thousands of articles per volume (2 each year.) Medieovo latino is also very comprehensive if literature is dearer to you than history.

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