Fordham University Press is one of five universities named in a $1.37 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to expand academic publishing in the humanities.
The American Literatures Initiative, which is being launched this month, will help bolster scholarly publishing titles primarily in the areas of literature and literary studies. In addition to Fordham, participant presses in the grant include New York University, Temple University, Rutgers University and the University of Virginia. The five-member collaborative, which will be administered by NYU Press, will construct a joint operation for copy editing, design, layout and typesetting for work in American literatures.
According to Robert Oppedisano, director of the Fordham University Press, the funding should make possible about five more books a year in the Presses’ catalog in each of the next five years. It also will provide modest royalties for authors—typically scholars writing their first books, develop a joint marketing campaign for new titles among all of the participating presses and help expand markets.
“University presses face many of the same pressures and challenges in publishing specialized scholarship, but literary studies is particularly affected, and we’re delighted Mellon sees that,” Oppedisano said. “The collaboration makes so much possible.” Oppedisano added that the grant will help the press develop models and practices that will lead to “self-sustaining” publishing in the area of literary studies.
The American Literatures Initiative encourages the presses to seek out high-quality work from promising scholars and the best scholarly work on English-language literatures of Central and North America and the Caribbean. Editorial Director Helen Tartar will be in charge of the Presses’ books within the collaborative program.
Oppedisano said the initiative responds to a crisis in scholarly publishing, which has been faced with rising costs and dwindling sales even though publishing remains essential to a scholar’s tenure and promotion.
“The scholarly book is an absolute cornerstone of the humanities, and of the research university,” Oppedisano said. “Despite notices of the death of the book, there really has been no creditable electronic substitute for it.”