Introducing a New Series: “Responses”

By April 17, 2012

In today’s age, when the internet fosters a close-knit community with immediate access to news and information, reactions to new scholarship come at a blistering speed. Most academic journals are now available in digital form, scholarly organizations maintain frequently updated websites, and the blogging world makes it possible to discuss new ideas and research within minutes after they appear. In past decades, if one were to read an article in, say, Journal of Mormon History and wanted to write a response or rebuttal, the only option would be to write and mail a letter-to-the-editor and, if it’s accepted, wait several months before it appears. While these letters will still play an important role for many journals, their snail-like pace can often be too slow for today’s twitterworld.

Similarly, while books will always be the cornerstone of academia, and thus book reviews are the most common form of “response,” the importance of articles are often overlooked because of both their fleeting nature in and of themselves (many are mere stepping-stones to later books) as well as the sheer number of articles that are produced every year–especially in Mormon Studies (broadly defined). This is a shame, because Mormon history has a proud tradition of strong and groundbreaking articles that serve as stand-alone works and deserve their own attention.

It is in this spirit, then, and with the belief that provocative dialogue is the highest end of scholarship, we are pleased to announce a new series here at Juvenile Instructor: “Responses.” In this series, we will respond to recent scholarship—mostly articles, though sometimes books, essays, and even letters-to-the-editor—as well as, if circumstances permit, a rejoinder from the original author.

Though we did not introduce it as such, last week’s exchange between Jonathan Stapley and Connell O’Donovan provided the first contribution to the series: Stapley offered a response to O’Donovan’s letter in the most recent Journal of Mormon History, followed by O’Donovan providing his rejoinder. Besides an important discussion of specific ideas, contexts, and facts, the dialogue was a wonderful reflection on the process of writing history and the merging of personal politics and historical research. Stapley and O’Donovan should be commended for setting a high standard for everyone to follow. (Their exchange was so helpful, in fact, that JMH has now instituted a new policy of allowing authors to respond to critical letters in the same issue they are printed.)

We hope that future installments will be similarly provocative and enlightening.

Article filed under Announcements and Events Book and Journal Reviews Responses


  1. I’m really excited about this series, and was very pleased with how J and Connell’s exchange went.

    Comment by Christopher — April 17, 2012 @ 7:04 am

  2. I think I just heard the bell toll for the Letters section of Dialogue and JMH…

    Comment by Kristine — April 17, 2012 @ 8:17 am

  3. I think the whole concept of expedited publishing and response fascinating. What has taken perhaps 40 years to research, publish and drain through might only take months now. This is particulalry poignant as an increasing amount of primary sourced are e-enabled, thus, new avenues can be found. Sounds like an exciting prospect Ben.

    Comment by David M. Morris — April 17, 2012 @ 8:56 am

  4. Ben, this is an exciting development/experiment. One of the advantages of responding to one’s critics in a print journal is permanence and, frankly, possibly a little prestige. In some instances, working with an editor can also be beneficial. Plus, I can’t help wondering if Jonathan and Connell set an almost impossibly high standard of civility, especially in view of the “thin skins” that sometimes surface in the blogs. That said, I’m curious to learn how you see the responses working? Is responding available only to JI bloggers? To anyone who wants to respond? Or must one be invited by JI to respond? Will monitoring be left to the original poster? (What if the object of the JI response wants to respond but the JI responder is reluctant to permit such.)

    Comment by Gary Bergera — April 17, 2012 @ 10:01 am

  5. “In this series, we will respond to recent scholarship?mostly articles, though sometimes books, essays, and even letters-to-the-editor?as well as, if circumstances permit, a rejoinder from the original author.”

    Gary, these are good questions. I’ll let Ben clarify further, but his description fits my understanding that this is primarily a forum for JIers to respond to recent scholarship and invite a subsequent response by the author whose work is under review. On occasion, JIers may invite someone to begin the exchange as in the case of Stapley (he, though we love him, being a BCCer) and then reach out to the other author to respond (as Connell was gracious enough to do). Hope that helps.

    Comment by Jared T — April 17, 2012 @ 10:52 am

  6. Scholarship marching into the 21st century.

    Comment by Ryan T. — April 17, 2012 @ 11:24 am

  7. Jared, thanks for the response. I’m anxious to see how this plays out. It should be very enlightening and instructive.

    Comment by Gary Bergera — April 17, 2012 @ 12:13 pm

  8. Jared summarized my intent quite well. I too am excited to see where this goes.

    Comment by Ben P — April 17, 2012 @ 12:40 pm

  9. Will you take requests?

    If so, I’d enjoy seeing a discussion of Christopher Rich’s article “The True Policy for Utah: Servitude, Slavery, and ‘An Act in Relation to Service'” (Winter 2012, UHQ) by someone with expertise in the field of American slavery and emancipation.

    But I must admit that I don’t know if there is anyone with that expertise in the field of Mormon studies, and I don’t know how you’d convince someone outside the field of Mormon studies to take on the project.

    Comment by Amy T — April 17, 2012 @ 2:39 pm

  10. Fantastic suggestion, Amy. We’ll see what we can do…

    Comment by Ben P — April 17, 2012 @ 2:56 pm

  11. Amy, that UHQ article is pretty interesting, isn’t it?

    Comment by Gary Bergera — April 17, 2012 @ 3:49 pm

  12. Yes, very interesting.

    Comment by Amy T — April 17, 2012 @ 5:19 pm

  13. […] continues our new series "Responses," which offers a venue to respond to and discuss recent Mormon scholarship, especially journal […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » Responses: Christopher Smith and Jonathan Stapley on Brigham Young’s Vision of Adoption — April 24, 2012 @ 6:10 pm

  14. […] JI introduced the ?Responses? series a few weeks ago, Amy T. suggested that someone review Chris?s fascinating article. David G. invited me to give it a go, since I […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » Responses: Ricks critique of Rich’s UHQ Article on Utah Servitude/Slavery — May 31, 2012 @ 11:27 am


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