A jargon-free zone for cross-pollination

June 16, 1995

Nathalie Teitler has launched a magazine forum for research students. Aisling Irwin met her. When she is not studying Argentinian women poets for her PhD, Nathalie Teitler makes truffles to sell to academics, writes pleading letters to vice chancellors and has a part-time job making fundraising telephone calls.

But the money she has raised is not for herself. It has funded the launch of a magazine which aims to give research students an opportunity to publish work before they are awarded their doctorates.

The first issue of Arts and Academic Review appeared at the end of last year in university bookshops and miscellaneous galleries. Its theme is "Hell".

Teitler - small and energetic - had the idea of producing the magazine when she began her PhD. She had studied science A levels in London, majored in comparative literature at Brown University in Rhode Island, United States, and returned to do research at King's College, London.

"I realised that there are about 30,000 postgraduate students, and that's just in the written disciplines, and noone knows what anyone else is doing," she says.

She wanted to encourage the exchange of ideas and methods between disciplines amongst younger researchers: "There are a lot of things that go on in anthropology that could be used in literature, for example."

She also wanted to encourage academics to talk to the public, an activity which she believes is particularly lacking in Britain.

She put up posters around the universities in London and received 30 responses. The keener ones formed an editorial group. They all work for free.

The letters to the vice-chancellors yielded nothing but Pounds 300 from her own college and Pounds 100 from the Courtauld Institute. The remaining Pounds 1,100 came from hers and her devoted team's sweat and toil. This paid for 500 copies to be printed. She swears that the finished product is jargon- and pretension-free and anti-elitist. The editorial reads: "The intention of this new review is to contribute to breaking down the elitism associated with research and the arts and to serve a wider readership."

Plenty of articles are coming in for future issues. The next one is in production and its theme is "The Body". Future issues will be on "Time" and the "Real World". Some articles are "so bad I just don't know what to do with them". Others are not sufficiently rigorous. "One article read 'men are rubbish' - I don't want unsubstantiated stuff."

Other pieces have been good: "I've had the most wonderful poetry; and all our artists now have exhibitions." Several professors have sent in their poetry. She has heard nothing from scientists, despite pleading to them. "I want to see them entering a bit more into the mainstream," she says. "Scientists tend to isolate themselves." She had hoped they might make interesting contributions to the theme on the body. But the issue contains mainly contributions from the visual arts "and some stuff about dance theory which I think is unusual". For this issue, too, she has received only two cheques from universities. But she also now has the income from the first edition. She says she regularly felt like giving up before the first issue came out. "But every time I thought of it I got in a really good piece of work or a piece of art for free and I just had to go on."

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