American higher education, as James Axtell notes at the opening of his essay, has been called “the envy of the planet.” Yet, beginning in the late 1980’s, America’s colleges and universities particularly the elite universities have been praised and pilloried, denounced and defended, commended and castigated. So what is the state of higher education today? What is wrong and what is right with it? These questions are examined by Mr. Axtell, and he concludes his tour through “some of the things that are right, wrong, and not wrong with American higher education should renew our faith in the power of colleges and universities to transform lives and society for the better.”
James Axtell is William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Humanities at the Colleges of William & Mary. He is the author most recently of The Pleasures of Academe: A Celebration and Defense of Higher Education and Natives and Newcomers: The Cultural Origins of North America. He is currently writing a history of Princeton University (which he did not attend) from Wilson to the present.
When the editor of this journal was up at Oxford University many long years ago, the state of British cuisine—to employ British understatement—left a great deal to be desired: soggy Brussels sprouts, endless cauliflower, dishes overcooked and undercooked. The cuisine had no place to go but up—and up it has gone in recent years, as Richard Jones attests in his discussion of “The New Look—and Taste—of British Cuisine.” Mr. Jones is eminently qualified to discuss what has now become the high quality of the current British menu since he has resided in London for many years and is a native of Wales. Among other things, he finds that some of the finest restaurants in London today are now on a par and even superior to those in fabled Paris. A former BBC correspondent, Mr. Jones has long been a contributor to the VQR and was also a member of the English department at the University of Virginia in the mid-1970’s. He is a former Middle East correspondent for the BBC and the author of several novels.
Ronald Weber’s lively look at the “World’s Zaniest Newspaper” is drawn from a work underway about American journalists in Paris between the World Wars. Mr. Weber is a professor emeritus of American studies at Notre Dame. His most recent books are Hired Pens: Professional Writers in America’s Golden Age of Print and Catch and Keep, a mystery novel.
K.A. Longstreet’s collection of short stories, Night-Blooming Cereus, was recently published by the University of Missouri Press, Her stories have appeared in numerous literary magazines including The Georgia Review, New Orleans Review, and The Sewanee Review. She is a recent recipient of the Andrew Lytle Prize for short fiction, and lives in Montpelier Station, Virginia.
A professor of history at South Dakota State University, John Miller teaches courses in 20th century American history and regional history. He has published books on Laura Ingalls Wilder and small town history and is currently working on a book about small town boys who grew up in the Midwest.
Sanford Pinsker, a professor of English at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA, is one of VQR’s most prolific contributors. His latest contribution concerns, as his essay states, why so much in contemporary black culture went wrong.
Roberta Silman is the author of Blood Relations, a story collection, and three novels, Boundaries, The Dream Dredger, and Beginning the World Again. Her stories have been published in The Atlantic Monthly, The New ‘Yorker, Redbook, McCall’s and many other magazines here and abroad. She has won several awards and just completed a new novel called A Country of Their Own.
Charlie Smith has published five books of poems, the most recent being Heroine and Other Poems from Norton in 2000. He is working on a new poetry book, Women of America, and a novel called 30,000 Holes in Hell. He is also the author of five novels and a book of novellas, has taught at Alabama and Princeton, and lives in NYC.
With poems appearing in African American Review, Verse, Ploughshares, Chelsea, American Literary Review, and other publications, Edward Bartók-Baratta is also represented in the anthology, Poets Respond to Violence in America, appearing from Iowa Press last spring.
A former Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, Brian Teare lives and teaches in the San Francisco Bay area. His poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Pleiades, and Boston Review, among other magazines, and his first book, The Room Where I Was Born, winner of the 2003 Brittingham Prize, will be published this fall.
John McKernan teaches at Marshall University in West Virginia, and recent poems of his have appeared in Manoa, The Paris Review, West Branch, and Leviathan. Pudding House has issued a chapbook of his poems in their Greatest Hits series.
Elisabeth Murawski is a training specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau and has served as an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University Washington Center and the University of Virginia Falls Church Center. She is the author of Moon and Mercury and a chapbook, Troubled by an Angel. Her poems have appeared in many journals including VQR, Grand Street, The Yale Review, The Literary Review, and American Poetry Review.
Author of several volumes of poetry, including Demons in the Diner, Kangaroo Paws, and Sam’s Book, David Ray has two books forthcoming, One Thousand Years: Poems About the Holocaust and The Endless Search, a memoir. He has twice been a recipient of the William Carlos Williams award from the Poetry Society of America. He lives in Tucson with his poet wife, Judy Ray.
A native of Southwest Virginia Mariflo Stephens was born just after the polio epidemic of 1950, and she recalls that “polio summer” in her latest VQR essay. A former newspaperwoman, Ms. Stephens writes both fiction and non-fiction, and she is currently working on a novel and a memoir, of which “Polio Summer” is a part.
Carl Rollyson is a professor of English at Baruch College of The City University of New York. He has published biographies of Marilyn Monroe, Lillian Hellman, Martha Gellhorn, Norman Mailer, Pablo Picasso, Rebecca West, and Susan Sontag. He is currently completing a biography of Jill Craigie.
Jane R. Shippen grew up in Atlanta, GA. She spent the year 2000 in Argentina translating poetry and freelancing for The Buenos Aires Herald. She is teaching at Lawrence University in Appleton, WI and her fiction was included in New Stories from the South, 2001.
A veteran correspondent for The Baltimore Sun now retired, Richard O’Mara was a Sun correspondent in Buenos Aires and London as well as an editor on the foreign desk. As his essay about nuns notes, he was educated in a school where these ladies ruled supreme.
Originally from Andrews, NC, Matthew Vollmer lives with his wife and son in Lafayette, IN where he works as an “underpaid” lecturer without health benefits, teaching business writing at Purdue University. A fiction editor at www.gutcult.com, his work has appeared in New Letters, Paris Review, McSweeny’s Internet Tendency, Tin House, and Maize. He recently completed his first novel, The Fugitive Son.
Bernice Grohskopf, free-lance book reviewer, writer and editor, has published books, short stories, and essays. Her book, The Treasure of Sutton Hoo, has recently been reprinted.
Frederick Betz is the chair of foreign languages and a professor of German at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. He was elected in November 2001 to a three-year term as president of the Sinclair Lewis Society. He has published editions, commentaries, articles, and reviews in the areas of 19th- and 20th-century German and American literature and journalism.
Richard Wertime is a professor of English and the director of graduate studies in English and humanities at Arcadia University in Glenside, PA. He is the author of Citadel on the Mountain: A Memoir of Father and Son, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 2000 and recipient of the James A. Michener Memorial Prize in 2001. Mr. Wertime served for 22 years as a contributing editor to Archaeology Magazine, and his work has appeared in The Yale Review, The Hudson Review, Southwest Review, and Ploughshares as well as other journals.
James Allen Evans is professor emeritus of classics at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. His The Empress Theoroda: Partner of Justinian was published by the University of Texas Press last year, and he has just completed a book entitled The Power Game in Byzantium: Antonia and the Empress Theodora for a London-based publisher.
As noted earlier in this issue, George Garrett is a writer for all reasons. The Hoyns Professor Emeritus at the University of Virginia, he is the author of 33 books and is the editor of 19 others. He is now serving as poet laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia. A native of Florida, he has long been a student of the American Civil War.
Paul Breslin teaches at Northwestern University in Chicago and he is a Ph.D. graduate of the University of Virginia. His books include The Psycho-Political Muse: American Poetry Since the 50’s, and Nobody’s Nation: Reading Derek Walcott (Chicago 2001). He has published widely as a poet, literary essayist, and reviewer.
COVER PICTURE: Photo by James Carpenter and on loan from the UVA Development Office.
COVER CREDITS: Thomas McDaniel, Cadmus Professional Communications
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