The Trowbridge Initiative was instituted in AY 2004-5, when Professor Gordon Hutner first arrived at UIUC, as part of the recruitment offer that Dean Jesse Delia tendered.  It was conceived as a “platform” to support the continuing growth of the journal he founded and edits, American Literary History. That support was intended both to give the journal a basis for creating programs and to fund its graduate student assistants.  Such programs were the means whereby the journal could also contribute to the intellectual life at the University.  Indeed, before the arrival of the International Forum of US Studies (2007) on campus, there was no other campus entity specifically responsible for organizing and facilitating activities of specific interest to Americanists from various disciplines.  Beyond the ALH editorial assistants, no funding is assigned to support staff for Trowbridge events. These activities usually include one event or symposium a semester, with lectures variously scheduled, often in cooperation with English graduate seminars and academic units across campus. The Trowbridge is situated in Professor Hutner’s department office.

In creating the Trowbridge Initiative for the furthering of American Literary History, Dean Delia was acknowledging the journal’s somewhat unusual structure, which was founded in 1989 as a joint venture with Oxford UP, while Professor Hutner was an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin.  The journal resulted from a proposal that he offered to Oxford University Press, which assumed all costs associated with its production and distribution.  Unaffiliated with any professional society, the journal’s activities are under his direction, in consultation with the Press.  The journal operates with a Board of Editors, whom he appoints, and includes Contributing Editors. The journal is free to move with Professor Hutner.  Although both his previous universities, Wisconsin and Kentucky, funded graduate assistants, Dean Delia sought to improve on this arrangement by endowing the journal so that it might (a) expand its activities in ways that would, in turn, contribute to the English department’s international profile; (b) enhance the intellectual life of the Americanist community here; and (c) support the training of grad students, as it has done, in two annual 2/3rds appointments—one devoted to copy-editing and production; the other, to vetting submissions and helping to arrange book reviews. (Through Trowbridge funds, ALH has effectively supported two RAs a year for fourteen years, freeing fellowship money to be distributed elsewhere in the department.) Indeed, nearly all of the assistants have moved into tenure-track jobs since the journal came to campus.

Since its inaugural issue, ALH quickly achieved recognition in the field and is now seen as having at least equal stature with American Literature, an MLA-sanctioned journal of some 85 years standing.  Many scholars turn to ALH for its record in opening up new subjects of scholarly and critical discourse as well as its receptivity to new methodologies and interdisciplinary studies (having published scholarship from more than 14 academic units). Other features include “essay-reviews” that constellate the interests of several recent books (less as omnibus studies and more as think pieces devoted to new topics).

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