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The Carletonian

Extinct Carleton literary magazine gets digital revival

<artment and Library announced last May that issues of the Carleton Miscellany, one of Carleton’s historic literary magazines, had been successfully archived online.

Founded in 1960 as a non-conformist publication by Carleton professor Reed Whittemore, The Miscellany became a nationally acclaimed magazine until its end in 1980. The publication attracted a number of writers who went on to prominence, including at least twelve who eventually won a Pulitzer Prize. Among them were Richard Eberhart, Donald Justice, Carolyn Kizer, Maxine Kumin, R.W.B. Lewis, Howard Nemerov, Anne Sexton, Karl Shapiro, Mark Strand, Mona Van Duyn, C.K. Williams and Charles Wright.

Unusual for its time, the Miscellany printed works by Carleton faculty and staff as well.

“The magazine was urbane and eclectic, but still had a certain Midwestern feel that distinguished it from other magazines,” explained Michael Kowalewski, a professor of English and Environmental Studies at Carleton who taught a freshman seminar on the magazine.

“It was well-known for mixing nationally known writers and local talent.”

Kowalewski, whose interest in the magazine led him to assemble an anthology from the magazine, has become an expert on many of the Miscellany’s past contributors. August Heckscher, for instance, published the 1964 article “Democracy and the Arts” in the Miscellany before it went on to influence some policies in the Kennedy administration.

In its final years, The Miscellany continued to drop its number of issues due to dwindling funds, and in its last year in 1980, only one edition was published.

Nowadays The Lens occupies a somewhat similar niche on campus but with a sleeker design and complete student leadership. A project on the scale of The Miscellany would entail a dually large investment in time and money.

“There isn’t much interest in reviving the magazine,” Kowaleski said.

Kowaleski still hopes that his upcoming anthology about the publication and the digital collection might inspire people to take another look at bringing it back. Kowalewski feels that current students who are interested in Carleton’s participation in the arts, or how Carleton’s unique wittiness and playfulness fits in to the history of the world at large, could certainly benefit from taking a closer look at this insightful collection.

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