Publishing Academic Articles (Gordon Hutner)

Gordon Hutner, editor of American Literary History and professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, talked with a group of English graduate students on October 14, 2010 about academic publishing in literature. Below are some salient points of advice. Please feel free to add anything I missed or email me (jmburrel@english) with additions!

What should you submit for publication?
Publish only one chapter of your dissertation as an article. When you are turning it into a book, publishers will be hesitant to publish a work that is available elsewhere.

Take the opportunity to turn conference papers into articles. Use topics that are in your field, but not necessarily part of your dissertation.

How does one turn a dissertation chapter, a seminar paper, or a conference panel paper into a journal article?
Cut out extraneous examples & the accumulation of examples that might be needed for a dissertation.

Prose should be readable, crisp, and as tight as possible.

Everything in the article should serve to advance the thesis.

Things to avoid: The anecdotal opening. These rhetorical moves: “Not only, but also…” and “I’m not saying X, I’m saying Y…”

What is the form and genre of an academic article?
Essay must have a critical occasion; it must tell a critical “story.” Do this briefly and right away in the article, with a history of a critical problem (first paragraph) and then your intervention into this problem and your argument (second paragraph).

Come up with a “principle of inclusion,” which determines your rhetoric and what belongs in the article.

What is the process of submitting an article for potential publication?
Do your homework! Publish in journals that might reasonably accept you. Look at books you like—where were those authors published?

Make a list of 10-15 journals. Look at a few issues at a time to see what kind of essays they publish. Look at the MLA directory of periodicals (, which provides information such as acceptance to submission ratio.

Cover letters: less is more. Avoid name dropping. (“Enclosed is… I look forward to hearing from you…”)

What should you expect after you have submitted an article?
You might get revision suggestions, but not an invitation to revise.

Revision suggestions: look at them critically and strategically. Do they really fit with your vision? Ultimately, this is your article with your name on it, so you should be satisfied with final product.

Revise & Re-submit: willing to reconsider provided you revise it accordingly. If there are 10 points of revision, you’re not expected to do them all, and you can perhaps address this approach in your cover letter.

KEEPING SENDING IT OUT if it gets rejected!

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