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Editorial: An Open Letter to the James Joyce Community

The Modernist Review has taken the decision to publish an open letter regarding alleged sexual harassment and assault within the modernist studies community and, specifically, James Joyce studies. The letter and accompanying statement can be found here, signed by over 100 academics from around the world.

Although this open letter refers to instances within a specific sub-community, we share the views of the signatories of the letter that that academia is not a silo, and that the issues it outlines are present across the entire field. As research exists in context, so too do researchers move between disciplines, conversations and spaces. Together, we form a wider community. It is this community that this publication is accountable to.

The editors have taken the decision to publish the letter seriously and have spoken about the potential ramifications this decision may have on their future careers or access to more immediate opportunities. This is nothing however, compared to the lives jeopardised and threatened by sexual harassment, nor to the professional exclusion faced by those who have had their education and progress interfered with for resisting unwanted sexual advances. If we are not doing our utmost to ensure that the community is safe and accessible to all, then we are not upholding our positions with BAMS with integrity.

Fear is a potent tool that prevents all too necessary conversations. With many afraid to speak out about the abuse they have faced, whisper networks play an important role in safeguarding our community. The signatories of the letter write of lists being given to new PhD students of figures to avoid at conferences and workshops. The editors of TMR share the experience of having warned about certain colleagues by our peers. At least one of us has experienced sexual assault in an academic context – we have all witnessed it.

We know that, for many, this may remain an invisible problem, despite the growing mass awareness of sexual assault generally in the wake of movements like #metoo. You may not have previously been made aware of issues and this, in itself, is a problem. By virtue of their existence, whisper networks fail to protect everyone. We need to strive for more transparency, better support networks and direct accountability. By publishing this letter we hope to assist those who are calling attention to a problem that has been left in the dark for far too long.

The signatories stress the need for imminent reform to help put an end to abuse within James Joyce studies. We wholeheartedly agree and encourage readers to reflect on their words and hope that other author-based and modernist studies communities will follow suit. This publication stands by the signatories of the letter in saying that none of us can stand by and watch our friends and colleagues continue to face harassment.

We can all do better to create a community that works for everyone.

With empathy, respect and hope,

Séan, Gareth, and Ruth

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