A 'hot new journal' turns 25

Representations celebrates with an all-Berkeley lineup

| 05 February 2009

On Oct. 16, 1980, 17 Berkeley faculty, plus three Santa Cruz colleagues, answered an invitation to discuss an idea that was radical at the time: reaching across disciplinary boundaries in the humanities to explore common issues of criticism and interpretation.

The result, a few years later, was the groundbreaking journal Representations, now celebrating its 25th anniversary with a special collection of essays.

Representations grew out of the New Historicist movement that arose in the 1980s around the idea of interpreting literature and other cultural artifacts through the lens of the events and issues of their time, publishing its first edition in February 1983. Published by UC Press, the journal exists to encourage innovative research among scholars who explore the way artifacts, institutions, and modes of thought both reflect and give a heightened account of the social, cultural, and historical circumstances in which they arise.

Representations has been both touted and parodied in its day. Shortly after its founding The New York Times called it "one of the hottest new journals around," while in 1990 Berkeley graduate students made hay of its "seeming obsession with sex, politics, the body, and, last but certainly not least, prestige," as The Chronicle of Higher Education wrote at the time.

A 25th-anniversary edition, Representations 104: On Form, contains essays from all 14 members of its current board, each one a Berkeley faculty member. Among the essays is one by Randolph Starn, also a founding member of the journalís board, that applies formal analysis and historical research to the 25-year history of Representations.

The 25th-anniversary journal and all back issues can be read or purchased through A special supplement of selected writings from back issues, along with the anniversary edition, are available at