Gettysburg, Oh Gettysburg, Where Art Thou?

In 2013, my favorite TV show was canceled. Oddly enough, it was one titled Bunheads—a series created by Amy Sherman-Palladino who, years earlier, also created the popular Gilmore Girls. Bunheads ran for only one season, and when it was reported the show would not be returning, I was devastated. I queried the Internet to find out more about the situation, and remember reading one dedicated fan's comment: Congratulations, ABC Family. You just killed the best show on television.

This same type of comment applies today in the literary world, as a result of what happened in October of this year. Congratulations, Gettysburg College. You just killed one of the best literary magazines in the country.

I truly believe The Gettysburg Review was one of the best. It was indeed my favorite. In my mind, every issue since 1988, once it hit my hands, was simply guaranteed to contain at least one essay, story, or poem that I absolutely adored. The magazine was staffed much lighter than most others of the same caliber, and the selection process, to me, was commendably fair and impartial in a time when favoritism has a rather large and very ugly presence.

A story of mine ran in Gettysburg years ago, and I am very thankful for that. I am not a schmooze or brown-nose; I did not offer a round of drinks to their staff the year prior at AWP, nor, admittedly, donate. Their readers simply liked my story for what it was, and decided to publish it. We should all be so lucky.

Though the administration's statement was "...the Review did not significantly enhance the student experience," it seems the reason for the closing was monetary. The journal was likely not operating in the black, and so. It is a very unfortunate view this college has taken, and this college is not alone in thinking this way. A few years ago, I had a discussion with a newly appointed editor of another of the big guns, and she said she was given one year to get the journal to independently support all expenses it is incurring, "or else."

I think it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to have a self-sufficient journal and still remain true and devoted to its mission: publish the highest possible quality of literary art while minimizing noise. The right approach should be to first realize this, and then make sure all current spending is absolutely necessary.

I fear other colleges may follow suit, particularly private schools. I teach at two New York State colleges and enrollment at both has been reported in 2023 to be higher than ever. This could be connected to the country's student loan debt crisis, where the current generation of students (and their parents) may be shying away from the more expensive schools, causing notable drops in revenue and consequently a search of programs to be cut.

The great debate between art and business will always be there. Let's be reminded that the word heart rhymes with art, and that maybe it's more than a coincidence. This is an appeal to all those faced with weighing their literary programs: You're not going to make money. Get over it. Be smart about spending and continue to bring beautiful and necessary work into the world.

- J Levens      

A photo of one of my literary magazine bookshelves. I had been getting concerned that I would need to build another shelf to house future issues of The Gettysburg Review. Thank you, Gettysburg College, for saving me this work.


Further information on the closing can be found in the Gettysburgian.