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The Association of Literary Scholars and Critics (ALSC) promotes excellence in literary criticism and scholarship, and works to ensure that literature thrives in both scholarly and creative environments. We encourage the reading and writing of literature, criticism, and scholarship, as well as wide-ranging discussions among those committed to the reading and study of literary works.
Today the ALSC is an organization of nearly 900 members.
Our goals are: (i) to promote meaningful encounters among scholars, critics, editors, and teachers, and fiction writers, poets, translators, playwrights and screenwriters; (ii) to foster connections between the academic study of literature and the wider literary culture extending beyond the academy; (iii) to sponsor and disseminate studies of curriculum and wider topics relating to literature (such as the teaching of composition, and the reading habits of citizens); (iv) to create links between the teaching of literature in primary and secondary schools, and instruction in colleges and universities; (v) to encourage debate and exchange between scholars of ancient and modern literatures, and between Western and Asian literatures; (vi) to explore the literary dimensions of other arts; film, drama, painting, and music; and (vii) to insist upon the literary nature of the teaching of literature.
Over the years, the ALSC has given its vision tangible form in a variety of ways. Its tri-quarterly journal, Literary Imagination (published since 1999), has earned an international reputation for excellence. The journal has been praised in, among other places, The Chronicle of Higher Education and in the London Times Literary Supplement, and two of its authors have won Pushcart Prizes for work published within its pages.
Each year, the ALSC holds a conference in a major city of North America, with panels covering a wide range of literary topics, and, often, presentations in film and theater. Imaginative writers are given pride of place as the ALSC never forgets that it gathers to celebrate the arts of literature. The ALSC also sponsors local meetings in cities across North America so that members can gather for readings, lectures, discussion, and literary conviviality during the year between national meetings.
In addition to Literary Imagination, the ALSC's other publications foster excellence in literary criticism and scholarship. The ALSC N ewsletter, both in print and online, constitutes yet another form of our community, printing contributions from members, news of the association, and the programs of the conferences. Fo rum, an occasional series, publishes studies of special topics and is distributed not only to members but to journalists, policy-makers, think tanks, and politicians to stir debate about the roles of literature in society and in educational institutions. A blog, The Valve, got off to a vigorous start and has presented two critical symposia.
Drawing on a decade of success, wherein the ALSC may be able to claim it has altered the tenor of the Modern Language Association, the ALSC enters a new era--an era of somewhat de-politicized literary study which has lessened the hothouse atmosphere in the profession. Key challenges facing the ALSC include but are not limited to transitioning from its powerful founding moment of a decade ago to creating a different way of thinking about the organization and to articulating it, as well as to defining our difference in public perception, replenishing and expanding membership, and securing long-term funding for programming and marketing.
The ALSC envisions literature as thriving in both creative and scholarly environments in a society where it is increasingly threatened by rapid technological change, declining rates of literacy, and widespread challenges to liberal arts curricula at all educational stages. In its second decade and beyond, the ALSC's evolving goal is to embrace a multiplicity of viewpoints--to become a "critics without borders" for those who care about literature and literary education at all levels. The crucial difference between the ALSC and other similar groups lies in this very multiplicity--it is open not only to scholars and critics of modern and contemporary literature but to classicists, editors, translators, and creative writers.
- Michael Gouin-Hart
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