I finally got far enough in my summer reading pile to reach the May 2006 PMLA, which includes a higher-than-normal percentage of articles that I felt compelled to read. Gregory Jackson's article on homiletic novels is pretty interesting, as are Juniper Ellis's exploration of tattoos in Samoan literature and Paul Acker's "Horror and the Maternal in Beowulf."
Best of all, though, is the round-table discussion titled "What Can a Journal Essay Do?" It's punchy, clever, accessible, and full of information so helpful I read part of it to a class full of upper-level literature students making their first foray into literary theory. (There's actually a cheesy acronym! In PMLA!)
Here is the paragraph I appreciated most, from Marianne DeKoven:
I would add that people shouldn't think they have to write a PMLA essay with a kind of high seriousness. I mean I think there's a sense that a PMLA article means that you are speaking from on high, you're laying down the law, to the profession. It can be whimsical; it can be daring and imaginative. We want to read interesting articles. We enjoy reading imaginative, engaged, well-written articles that feel passionately about their subject and are not just dry and careful; in fact, dry and careful is not what we're looking for, as I see it.
Important if true--and if this issue's articles are any indication, it may just be true.