Accent: A Quarterly of New Literature
Date of Publication:
Autumn 1940 – Autumn 1960
Place(s) of Publication:
Frequency of Publication:
University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana Press (1952-1960),
1325 South Oak Street, Urbana, Ill.
24 cm. Straightforward textual layout: 10-15 pages of fiction, scholarship, theatre, and poetry. No illustrations or cartoons in any issue. The magazine for 20 volumes with four quarterly issue per volume. One-year subscriptions cost $1.00 and two-year subscriptions cost $1.75.
Kerker Quinn, Charles Shattuck, Kenneth Andrews, W.R. Moses, Thomas Bledsoe, Keith Huntress, W. McNeal Lowry, Donald Hill, and Robert Bauer.
Libraries with Original Issues:
University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana; Yale University; Pennsylvania State University; University of Michigan; University of Virginia
New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1946
Accent: A Quarterly of New Literature was inaugurated in 1940 by Kerker Quinn at his alma mater, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, while Quinn was an Assistant Professor at the school. The magazine was distributed regularly from 1940 to 1960, publishing quarterly issues without any deviations. Accent published well-known figures like E.E. Cummings, Richard Wright, Sylvia Path, Eudora Welty, Anne Sexton, Wallace Stevens, and William Carlos Williams. The magazine is also notably one of the first places where Flannery O’Connor, William Gass, and Grace Paley published their work.
Frederick Hoffman characterizes Accent as “eclectic”, a category he uses to describe magazines that are (perhaps loosely) associated with universities; they are not necessarily founded with the intent of glorifying a particular university, yet often reflect the character of the institution (Hoffman 9). From the very beginning, Accent sought to serve as a “representative collection of the best creative and critical writing of our time, carefully balancing the work of established authors with that of comparative unknowns” (Hoffman 350). The magazine attempted to avoid a ‘biased viewpoint’, rejecting what it considered to be ‘stereotyped and the trivial and the unintelligible’ from its pages (Hoffman 350).
Accent’s most distinctive feature may be its diverse assortment of poems, short stories, and critical articles. The magazine rarely emphasized one form of writing over the other nor did they have special issues dedicated to one writer or piece. According to Clement Greenberg, “its ‘unbiased’ editorial policy belies its name, placing accent upon nothing in particular and asking to be nothing more than a grab bag of good reading” (Greenberg 45). Yet Greenberg also criticizes its neutral, objective tone as lacking character. He writes: “as a whole, this magazine is unexciting and unambitious. It leaves the reader with a strong thirst for a good refreshing dose of bias” (Ibid). In spite of its more conventional style and straightforward structure with its writing, Accent was a valuable, open forum for many well-known and unknown writers.
Unlike many little magazines of the time, Accent never had an editorial column. The magazine also never published a manifesto – only at the end of the first issue was a short statement of purpose, one of the few direct communications from the editors during its entire run. The statement is reprinted below:
The editors of Accent hope to build a magazine which discerning readers will welcome as a representative collection of the best creative and critical writing of our time, carefully balancing the
work of established authors with that of comparative unknowns. By avoiding a biased viewpoint and rejecting the stereotyped and the trivial and the unintelligible, they will try to make the
contents of each issue significant, varied and readable.
America has need and room for such a magazine. Look down the list of today’s periodicals–the few that are open to the serious creative writer either allow articles on current events to dwarf the
space left for him or else specialize in poetry or short stories or criticism to the exclusion of the other fields. Accent has not first-rate parallel in aim and scope at this time.
(Accent: 1 (1940), 63, qtd in Hendricks 75).
Kerker Quinn (1911-1969)
Founder and Editor for the entire twenty-year runtime of Accent, John Kerker Quinn was born in Urbana, Illinois into an intellectual family; his parents encouraged each of their three children to attend the local university. (Hendrix 40) Attending University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana as a graduate student in 1934, Quinn began his first little magazine, Direction: A Quarterly of New Literature. Quinn edited Direction for two years, and the magazine was renamed Accent once Quinn joined the faculty as an assistant professor in 1940 (Greasley, 332). Accent published the work of talented writers like Flannery O’Connor, William Gass, Langston Hughes, and Grace Paley, publishing their work. While the list of contributors is extensive, Quinn had a particularly close relationship with Hughes, O’Connor, and Plath, corresponding personally and welcoming Hughes to campus for guest lectures. (“J. Kerker Quinn and the Festival of Contemporary Arts.”)
Charles Shattuck (1911-1992)
Co-founder of Accent with Kerker Quinn, Charles Shattuck was born in Belvedere, Illinois to a similar background that encouraged intellectual curiosity and education. Shattuck earned his BA, MA and PhD from University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. For most of his career, Shattuck was a full-time professor at the University of Illinois but he also taught as a Visiting Professor at Vassar College, specializing in teaching Experimental Theater (Saxon). An eminent Shakespeare scholar, Shattuck founded a reproduction of Bard’s Globe Theater and reestablished Elizabeth staging for Shakespearean plays (Ibid). A respected editor, scholar, and writer, Charles Shattuck corresponded with many of the premier writers published in Accent and helped the magazine flourish in its twenty-year career.
“The Horatians and the Curatians”
“The Criticism of Criticism” (reviewing R.P. Blackmur’s The Lion and the Honey Honeycomb)
“Motives and Motifs in the Poetry of Marianne Moore”
“In the Element of Antagonism”
“Goodbye and Good Luck”
“The Pale Pink Roast ”
“The Robber Bridegroom”
William Carlos Williams
Translations of Yvan Goll – “Landless John Circles the Earth Seven Times” and “Landless John Leads the Caravan”
Richard Wright “The Man Who Lived Underground”
Greasley, Philip A. Dictionary of Midwestern Literature, Volume 2: Dimensions of the Midwestern Literary Imagination. Indiana University Press, 2016.
Greenberg, Clement. “The Renaissance of the Little Mag: Review of Accent, Diogens, Experimental Review, Vice Versa, and View’ in Clement Greenberg: The Collected Essays and Criticism, Vol. 1, Perceptions and Judgements 1949-1944. edited by John O’Brian, University of Chicago Press, 1984. Pp. 42-46.
Hendricks, Fredric Jefferson. “Accent” 1940-1960: The History of a Little Magazine. 1984. University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, PhD dissertation.
Hoffman, Frederick J. The Little Magazine: A History and a Bibliography. Princetown UP, 1947.
Michelson, Bruce. “American Literature in the Cornfields: Stuart Pratt Sherman and J. Kerker Quinn.” No Boundaries: University of Illinois Vignettes, edited by Lillian Hoddeson, University of Illinois P, 2004, pp. 88-101.
Accompanying text for Dream Singer and Story Teller: Langston Hughes at University of Illinois by Jameatris Rimkus “J. Kerker Quinn and the Festival of Contemporary Arts.” University of Illinois Archives.
Saxon, Wolfgang. “Charles H. Shattuck, 81, Shakespearean Scholar.” The New York Times, 23 Sept. 1992. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/1992/09/23/obituaries/charles-h-shattuck-81-shakespearean-scholar.html.
Compiled by Matt Bell and Naira Oberoi (Class of ’19, Davidson College)