Society & Culture

Sewanee, Deconstructed

“Make it new!” demanded Ezra Pound.  Would he have liked the cover for the outrageous winter 2017 issue of the Sewanee Review, America’s oldest continuously published literary quarterly?  It consists of a mustard-yellow ground on which, in addition to the title, in a new font, are scattered six rough parallelograms, blue, as if scissored from the blue cover introduced in 1944, now mutilated.  The message of this art, as the new editor called it, could not be clearer—deconstruction, with an eye toward reconstruction.

For more than two centuries, the role of literary quarterlies in Anglo-American culture has been important.  George Core, the Sewanee editor from 1973 through 2016, called them “an ornament of the great age of reading,” “a linchpin of civilization since the eighteenth century,” and “the most important form of periodical so far as literature proper is concerned.”  As Monroe Spears, a prior editor, asserted, they “try to keep alive the ideal of the profession of letters . . . as the center of a unified culture.”  In 1952 T.S. Eliot wrote,

The Sewanee Review . . . has reached the status of an institution—by which I mean that if it came to an end, its loss would be something more than the loss of one good periodical.  It would be a symptom of an alarming decline in...

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