Main»History

History

The Who, What, When, Where, How, and Why of Bartleby,

UMBC's Creative Arts Journal

by Nicole A. Mooney

Author's Note
The following is a history of Bartleby, the Creative Arts Journal of UMBC. I have researched the changes that the magazine has undergone since it began 30 years ago by interviewing former and current staff members and faculty advisors and by comparing past and present issues, available in the Special Collections of the Albin O. Kuhn Library. As the current managing editor, I think it is important that present and future editors have knowledge of the magazine's complex and interesting history. I also think the English department should have a recorded documentation of the magazine and the students and staff members who have worked hard to produce it year after year. I hope the following will serve such a purpose.

Acknowledgments
I would like to thank Linda Benson, James McKusick, and Sally Shivnan. Without their inspiration and support, this task would not have been undertaken nor completed. I offer my thanks to Anthony McGurrin, Richard Byrne, Martha Campbell, David Durham, Bernard Daskal, Suzanne Stebbins Trimmer, Stephen Shobe, and Nicole Ventura. Without their generous input, this historical record would have lacked its most important ingredient, the recollections of the faculty and staff who made and continue to make Bartleby such an interesting and lasting publication. My thanks also to the staff of the Special Collections department who generously gave their assistance to aid my research.

The Who, What, When, Where, How, and Why of Bartleby, UMBC's Creative Arts Journal
Shortly after the founding of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) in the 1960s, a group of students dreamed of producing a literary magazine that would feature poetry, fiction, and artwork by UMBC faculty and students. Their dream became a reality in the form of The Red Brick, UMBC's first literary magazine (McGurrin). Unfortunately, in March 1969, the editors published a photograph that would forever sink their publication. It was a blurry photo of a man and woman, both nude, posing in graceful dance positions behind a thin veil. The photo caused an outrage both on campus and in the surrounding community. So much so, that local press covered the story and the Board of Regents came to UMBC to determine the motives of the publication: "Judgments on the publication from artistic, moral, financial and social points of view were also applied to UMBC itself, and the school's responsibility to the electorate became a matter of public debate" (Skipjack 1969).

As a result of the meeting, The Red Brick was ordered to cease publication; all remaining copies of the issue were taken by university officials and disposed of. No other issue of The Red Brick was ever printed, and UMBC's literary magazine ceased to exist.

Despite its sad end, creating The Red Brick had been a good idea and one that would not be forever squelched by a racy photograph and a stuffy committee. In the early 1970s, another group of UMBC students once again had a great idea. They wanted to start a literary magazine that featured the work of local writers and UMBC faculty and students. While mostly a poetry publication, they also wanted the magazine to feature creative fiction and artwork. The result of their group effort was Bartleby, a literary journal that featured poems, short fiction, and photography from local artists and members of the UMBC community.

Bartleby derives its name from Herman Melville's "Bartleby, the Scrivener," the tale of an eccentric copyist who replies to all his boss's demands with a simple, "I would prefer not to" (Melville 4). Eventually, Bartleby declines to do any task which his boss asks him to complete. So frustrated by his scrivener's behavior is he, that the boss moves his office up town, leaving Bartleby behind. However, he is forever intrigued by his peculiar employee who, in the end, is arrested for loitering in his former place of employment. Eventually, the copyist wastes away in a jail cell, refusing to eat and refusing to accept that change is a part of life. Choosing this name was the decision of Bartleby's founders. In the 1970s, Melville's character was viewed by literary scholars as a symbol of non-conformity. According to Bartleby editor Bernard Daskal [1], in the early years of UMBC--when the school was a haven for activist, radical, non-conforming students--Bartleby was an important, even heroic, figure. Melville's Bartleby is a truly unique character, unlike any other in classical fiction. Like its namesake, Bartleby is a unique publication. Its purpose is to provide the university with work by the students for the students. It features "a variety of levels of accomplishment--from the ideas of young writers and artists just beginning to create to the refined expressions of more experienced students...By giving recognition to these artists, we motivate them--and other aspiring creators--to improve the quality of their work and thereby improve the quality of life for us all" (Bartleby 1995). The poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, and artwork found within its pages serve as a lasting tribute to UMBC students who were unafraid to share their creations. The magazine also serves as a tribute to its staff of students who, each year, spend months advertising to solicit submissions, host special events to raise money, and choose winning pieces from hundreds of submissions. Without their hard work and dedication, Bartleby would cease to exist, as it sometimes has in the past.

What Are They Doing Now?
How former Bartleby members are spending their post-UMBC days

Richard Byrne has held a variety of positions in journalism--including interim editor-in-chief at The Washington City Paper, editor of St. Louis Magazine and senior editor at The Riverfront Times (St. Louis). He has also written media columns at all three publications. Byrne is also an editor for the Belgrade-based literary magazine, Biblioteka Alexandria, and a contributing writer for the New York Press. Among the awards that he has won include a 1999 Pew Fellowship in International Journalism and the 1989 A.E. Hotchner Playwriting Prize for his first play, Untangling Ava. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Washington University in St. Louis. He has traveled and freelanced extensively throughout Central and Eastern Europe, with extended stays in Prague and Sarajevo.

David Durham is a published author. His first novel, Gabriel's Story, has done very well in hardback and will be released in paper back in January 2002. He is currently working on his next novel, A Walk Through Darkness, and Doubleday has signed him to write two more novels. David is married with two children and has spent the last few years moving between Scotland, Maryland, California, France, Scotland again, Massachusetts, and Colorado.

Martha Campbell graduated from UMBC in 1982, but returned to school in 1984. She became a nurse, working as a neuroscience critical care nurse and a nurse researcher for about 15 years. Now a licensed acupuncture practitioner in a private practice, Martha lives with her partner of 20 years, Johanna. She continues to write poetry.

Bernard Daskal lives in Riverdale, New York with his wife Sherry and their son Mark. He is a litigation associate at Flemming, Zulack, & Williamson, LLP in New York City.

Work Cited

Bartleby. UMBC: Department of English, 1995.

Bartleby. UMBC: Department of English, 1996.

Campbell, Martha. Personal Email. Aug. 6, 2001.

Daskal, Bernard. Personal Email. Aug. 6, 2001.

Durham, David. Personal Email. Aug. 13, 2001.

McGurrin, Anthony. Personal Interview. April 30, 2001.

McKusick, James. Personal Interview. April 30, 2001.

Melville, Herman. "Bartleby the Scrivener."

Murray, Emily. "How To Run and Produce Bartleby," 1996.

Shobe, Stephen. Personal Interview. Sept. 1, 2001.

Skipjack, UMBC, 1969, 191-3.

Stebbins, Suzanne. Personal Interview. Aug. 3, 2001.