Letter from the Editor
It has felt daunting to succeed to a role that Paula Rabinowitz pioneered so ably during her six-year tenure as the first editor-in-chief of the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature. It has also been a thrill. I hope that in this letter of welcome I can communicate to you something of the intellectual exhilaration I’ve felt since joining this enterprise—which is a continuously evolving anthology of peer-reviewed critical writings devoted to the study of literature in the most capacious sense of that term. Individually, and even more so in tandem, the state-of-the-art essays composing the Encyclopedia make a powerful case for the dynamism, imagination, and vitality of contemporary literary studies. The 800-some (and counting) articles demonstrate just how useful our discipline’s critical, theoretical, and historical methods and materials can be for understanding the challenges of our moment.
Over the last few months, I have had the good fortune to encounter essays, for instance, that treat the “Turk” plays and “Persian” plays of the early modern English stage and analyze the complexities these works introduce into our histories of empire; that consider the portrait of the dictator that can be assembled from global anglophone fiction and trace the colonial and neocolonial roots of the dictator’s power; and that show readers how often our current ecocritical concerns are anticipated in Renaissance representations of the natural world. Some of our contributors model new ways of thinking about old forms of literary expression. Thanks to their articles, the Encyclopedia provides a growing readership with a reliable, go-to reference on lyric poetry and poetics; on song; on authorship; on textual studies; on close reading, and on many, many other of the topics that are the traditional building blocks of literary studies. Attesting to the elasticity of literature as a category, other contributors have been tracking new and emerging forms of literary expression, from around the world. Over the last few months, I have also been fortunate enough to encounter stimulating and challenging essays on, for example, the art of the podcast; on the new theories of the autobiographical subject and new definitions of life-writing that have been elicited by Web 2.0 and its new technologies of the self; on the recent fiction and poetry composed in Zapotec and Maya by indigenous writers who are reclaiming languages that colonial powers thought they had eradicated.
At a moment when geopolitical borders appear increasingly impassable, the ORE of Literature is a truly international project, bringing together critics from across the globe. The Encyclopedia aims, as well, to do justice to the ways in which literature, constitutively category-busting, opens out onto multiple other disciplines-anthropology, politics, moral philosophy, psychology, the history of the material book, the study of visual culture.
As a born-digital encyclopedia, the ORE of Literature offers possibilities to its contributors that print publication cannot afford. Entries to the ORE of Literature are often enriched with audio and visual materials; and all our articles are extensively cross-linked with one another and seamlessly linked to other on-line resources. With my colleagues at OUP, I look forward to seeing how future contributors continue to exploit these new possibilities for critical writing. If this description has intrigued you, please urge your libraries to subscribe to . Go further, please, and consider proposing an article yourself.
Deidre Shauna Lynch
Ernest Bernbaum Professor of English Literature, Harvard University
Editor-in-Chief, Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature