About the Cover
Our cover design by Nanette Black
features a silver gelatin photograph by Ron Guidry entitled Trees
in Fog Grand Coteau. Taken in October 1985 in Grand Coteau, Louisiana,
the image reflects the mystique of southern Louisiana. Guidry, who
works with medium- and large-format cameras, has exhibited his work
in Louisiana and throughout the United States. To see more of Guidry’s
work, visit his site at http://www.absolutearts.com/portfolios/r/rongui/.
Every two years or so we have been devoting an
issue of The Kenyon Review to a single topic or theme.
This seems a reasonable balance with our general issues. The next
special topic is exciting and perhaps a little daring for a literary
magazine: I am delighted to announce that the Winter 2006 issue
(published in December 2005) will focus on the artistic, ethical,
and imaginative implications of the Human Genome Project. Essays,
poems, stories, short plays, and photographs that engage these issues
are invited no later than April 1, 2005.
Near the start of this millennium an organism—the human—evolved
for the first time to the point of reading the code of its own being.
Now comes the far greater task of interpreting, of struggling to
understand that digital genetic text. Surely this must be an artistic,
a humanistic, as well as a scientific endeavor.
The effort of a first-generation genetic sequence was gigantic in
scale, but the full dimensions of the genome itself have only begun
to be measured. It is now possible to investigate the fundamental
bases of many human attributes, from susceptibility to specific
diseases, to the workings of the brain and even, potentially, cognition
and consciousness. So far most public discussion has focused on
developing new medical therapies and commercial opportunities. But
even more far-reaching aspects—and challenges—have only
begun to be glimpsed.
No longer will debates over heredity be theoretical. The availability
of a full code has already made it possible to study how heredity
manifests itself from generation to generation. The implications
for our understanding of ethnicity and race, in relation to the
shaping influences of culture, of what we share and what we do not,
are enormous. Likewise, the age-old tension of “nature vs.
nurture” will be dramatically recast. The code will establish
new and more precise perspectives, for example, on childhood development.
Many questions necessarily arise: to what degree, for example, are
creativity and intellectual proclivity embedded in our biological
selves— and how do they manifest themselves in different cultures?
Should genetics, still at such an early stage and with immense complexities
arising, influence social policy in such areas as education, social
services, and child rearing? Or do we risk losing the individual
amidst the genome?
From a different disciplinary perspective, defining aspects of human
history across great spans of time will reveal themselves. Great
migrations of the ancient past may be charted in the archaeology
of vestiges imprinted in our genes. Even the process and timeline
of human evolution will be laid bare. In other words, the genome
will profoundly alter how we understand the human—the past,
the present, and implications for the future. Indeed, it will alter
how we understand what it means to be human. That, of course, is
the great province of art and philosophy. And ramifications already
extend beyond the medical to the social and even the political.
And it is precisely at that crux that this great achievement must
collapse the gulf between the “two cultures” of science
and the humanities. Together they will help us begin to grapple
with the full implications of the genome and of molecular biology
as a whole. The genome is a milestone, a tool, and a foundation
for further research. But it is not directly an explanation for
Although daring and unprecedented, it strikes me as entirely appropriate
that The Kenyon Review should bring together exceptional
work by artists, scientists, ethicists, and others to foster this
conversation. I look forward to seeing what the efforts yield.
Speaking of submissions provides me with the opportunity
for another important announcement, this about process rather than
substance. Beginning this September 2004, as we resume reading unsolicited
submissions once again, The Kenyon Review will for the
first time accept them electronically. Authors who wish us to consider
their work will visit the KR Web site, www.kenyonreview.org,
where they will create a “profile” for themselves and
then attach or paste their files into the system. We will not accept
submissions by e-mail.
Let me hasten to add that paper manuscripts will continue to be
welcome according to our standard guidelines. We still regularly
receive treasures punched out on manual typewriters—remember
them?—and I am leery of turning any distinguished writing
away. Since I recall only too keenly the bold technological leap
from my Smith-Corona manual to a Selectric—with a correction
key!—I retain a weakness for an “r” that is slightly
out of alignment, or an “e” and “f” jammed
too closely together.
I have also resisted turning to electronic submissions until now
because e-mail seemed so difficult to keep track of, not to mention
the problems of viruses and other unwanted pests. But the new processes
available on our Web site will allow us to track submissions much
more carefully and efficiently. The risk of losing an occasional
manuscript altogether will be lessened, as will the incredible burden
for our staff and volunteers of opening, logging, and sorting the
deluge of thousands upon thousands of manila envelopes that wind
up in postal tubs on my office floor and elsewhere through the offices.
Nothing so grand as mapping the billions of characters in our genetic
map, let alone interpreting their significance, but an evolutionary
advance for KR nonetheless.
—David H. Lynn