JSTOR, one of the preeminent digital libraries of academic journals, books, and primary sources, lists 431 journals under the heading “Language and Literature.” If we assume each journal publishes roughly two to three issues annually with an average of five to six articles per issue, we’re talking about the publication of more than five thousand scholarly articles on language and literature per year. Of course, a smaller subset of these articles are devoted primarily to literature in the English language—the general subject of English Language Notes—but even this number is staggering. Putting aside for the moment the much debated issue of whether an institutional emphasis on the quantity of publications necessary for professional success has reduced the quality of what’s available, the abundance of material alone poses problems for the reading audience. Assuming no one can read them all,...

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