March 31, 2009 — After 40 years at the helm, Ralph Cohen has retired as founder and editor of New Literary History. Cohen, the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of English Emeritus at the University of Virginia and the former director of the Commonwealth Center for Literary and Cultural Change, has been the only editor of NLH, the leading journal of literary theory and interpretation worldwide.
Cohen's four-decade tenure as editor is without precedent. He has played a leading role, nationally and internationally, in defining the field of literary studies and opening up new areas of intellectual inquiry.
"Ralph Cohen is the father of criticism and theory in our time," says W.J.T. Mitchell, editor of the journal Critical Inquiry.
Rita Felski, William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of English at the University of Virginia, will take over as the new editor. She is the author of five books, including "The Gender of Modernity" and "Uses of Literature," and also the editor of "Rethinking Tragedy."
New Literary History, published by the Johns Hopkins University Press, was the first journal to focus on the theoretical aspects of criticism and interpretation. The journal has translated and disseminated the work of major scholars whose work was not previously available in English.
The journal, established at U.Va. in 1969, extends well beyond literature departments, publishing the work of philosophers, sociologists, historians, anthropologists and other scholars who address important issues of method or interpretation. New Literary History has received six awards from the Council of Learned Journals.
Prominent scholars who have written for the journal include Roland Barthes, Harold Bloom, Helene Cixous, Jacques Derrida, Terry Eagleton, Stanley Fish, Jurgen Habermas, Wolfgang Iser, Fredric Jameson, Frank Kermode, Claude Levi-Strauss, Martha Nussbaum, Richard Rorty, Gayatri Spivak, George Steiner and Tzvetan Todorov.
A special issue of New Literary History paying tribute to Cohen's extraordinary achievements will be published at the end of 2009. Contributors will include Nussbaum, Hayden White, Toril Moi, Jerome McGann, W.J.T. Mitchell and U.Va. President John T. Casteen III.