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University Press Named in Mellon Collaborative Grant


Robert Oppedisano, director of Fordham University Press
Photo by Bruce Gilbert

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 was launched last month, will help bolster scholarly publishing titles primarily in 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 copyediting, design, layout and typesetting for work in American literatures.

The funding should add about five more titles to the Fordham University Press catalog each year for the next five years, said Robert Oppedisano, director of the press. It also will provide modest royalties for authors, who typically will be scholars writing their first books, develop joint marketing campaigns 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. Helen Tartar, editorial director of Fordham University Press, will be in charge of Fordham’s segment of titles in the collaborative program. With the grant, Tartar said that the press is interested in emphasizing scholarship that extends disciplinary boundaries in philosophy, religion and literature, and that showcases in fresh ways the methods of close reading.

“We already have more than a few promising manuscripts we can designate as American Literatures Initiative books,” she said. “We’re excited to explore ways with our partner presses that might help broaden opportunities for young scholars.”

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,” Oppesdisano said. “Despite notices of the death of the book, there really has been no creditable electronic substitute for it.”



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