The Beauty of Criticism by Lilly Kiel


The Madison Journal of Literary Criticism is a journal based in the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Their mission: “A space for undergraduate students of literature to publish their scholarly work and engage in contemporary literary debates.” The publication consists of 8-15 essays and is releases every April. The four main points they look for in submissions are “originality, eloquence, internal coherence, and quality of engagement with academic scholarship.” Thoughts and work are meant to intertwine to create pieces that not only display literary concepts but the thoughts and comments by the author. The publication is run by students. Their two editors-in-chief are Eliza Weisberg and Kristina Sherk.

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Their submission guidelines are very defined. They require more of an essay style format for submitted pieces with restricted creative influence. They must have clear theses and thought-provoking argument. Each submission is read in rounds. The essay must be read by all members of the staff before being discussed in a group. If a piece does not make it to the following round, it’s not considered for the journal. The ones that make it through each round are then compared to fellow chosen essays and thoroughly discussed as to which deserve to be in the journal.

This journal caught my eye when searching for literary journals to profile because I’ve never run across this before. The topic of debate can be touchy because it can rise and get heated very quickly. But the fact that this journal has published six successful issues is outstanding. I find the submission guidelines very articulate but greatly differ from the Great Lake Review. The Great Lake Review allows more freedom compared to The Madison Journal of Literary Criticism. The critique and debate aspect is of strong value and if the submitted piece does not contain that, it doesn’t make it to the final round of review. The process of publication compared to other journal styles is unique and brings a new touch to the variety of journals out there.

The Madison Journal of Literary Criticism has a strength that I’ve never seen appear in a journal. Critique is a part of writing that everyone seems to dread. Writers want their first drafts to be perfect and never look at them again. I enjoy the fact that The MJLC focuses on this component and focuses their whole journal around it. It’s refreshing and I hope to see this in future journals.

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One thought on “The Beauty of Criticism by Lilly Kiel

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  1. Thanks for introducing us to this journal! It would be great to have some of Oswego’s students submit their literature papers here.

    A couple parts of the post are a little unclear, though. Is the “debate” you’re referring to the conversation about what will/won’t get published by the journal? Or are you thinking of the “criticism” involved in the essays themselves? I was also a little unclear on your final paragraph, where you seem to be conflating workshop “critique” (meant to improve a piece of writing) with literary “criticism” (which is meant to comment on a finished piece of writing). That’s an understandable mistake, but the two are actually quite different. To get a better handle on just what this journal is, you might read through some of their table of contents pages.

    Also, while it’s still fine to note that you haven’t come across this type of journal before, it’s important to be aware that it’s not actually so uncommon! Just as we have literary journals that publish creative writing at both the local and national level, there are numerous journals dedicated to literary criticism (what you’d probably think of as literature papers). Three major publications that do this are PMLA, Modern Fiction Studies, and American Literature. And some student-run literary journals (like _Catch_ at Knox College) include literary criticism as well as creative works.


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