The Journal of Narrative Technique. SSNL was founded in 1984 by scholars whose varied interest in narratives were joined in support of The Journal of Narrative Technique, which George Perkins had edited at Eastern Michigan University since its founding in 1971. SSNL's adoption of JNT as its official publication more than doubled the journal's circulation within a year and markedly increased the quality of its submissions. At the same time, the expectations of a worldwide scholarly community created pressures that Eastern Michigan University, a regional institution lacking doctoral programs in literature, proved ill-equipped to withstand.
The EMU administration assisted the cooperative arrangement between JNT and SSNL by increasing the position of Managing Editor, held by Barbara Perkins, from 1/4 to 1/2 time, by granting the General Editor, George Perkins, 1/4 released time from teaching, and by assigning a graduate assistant to the journal. Unfortunately, with no increase in the allocation for printing, mailing, or office expenses, the editors soon found that rising costs continually threatened the solvency provided from year to year by SSNL subscription income. More troubling were the problems posed by the on-campus paucity of scholars with narrative expertise or interest. With a budget that greatly limited the amount of off-campus mailing that could be arranged for manuscripts under consideration, a relatively few EMU scholars were regularly overburdened as first and second readers.
Readership difficulties were greatly compounded by a resolution passed at the SSNL business meeting in May 1987 that advised "the JNT Editorial Board and the SSNL officers to investigate ways and means of considering submissions on narrative literature in languages other than English." When JNT began to advertise its willingness to consider "submissions written in English dealing with narrative literature in any language" in the first issue for 1988, it greatly increased its potential value to the scholarly community but it also greatly stretched its editorial resources.
Special issues of JNT eased the editorial pressures for the years 1987, 1989, 1990, and 1991. The first of these, for Winter 1987, consisted of 15 essays selected from those delivered at SSNL's inaugural conference at Ohio State in May 1986. For the second special issue, for Winter, 1989, James Phelan served as a guest editor for an issue containing 12 essays from the 1986, 1987, and 1988 conferences. The third, for Spring 1990, was edited by Susan Stanford Friedman and contained 13 essays from the 1989 conference. The fourth, for Winter 1991, derived from George and Barbara Perkins's teaching at the University of Newcastle, New South Wales, in 1989. The guest editor, Ian Reid of Deakin University, collected 12 essays on contemporary Australian literature. During the four years in question, the focus of the special issues and the work of guest editors provided the regular JNT editors with more time to devote to producing the two remaining issues of each volume. Still the pressures posed by the journal's widening scope, the increased volume and quality of its submissions, and its restricted budgets continued to mount.
Eastern Michigan University's decision in fall 1990 to cut the salary of the Managing Editor by 50% precipitated a crisis. Although in response to protests the salary was temporarily reinstated for a year at the full rate, the prospect loomed of another cut in the following year, and it became clear that EMU was no longer willing to continue a level of support appropriate to JNT's scholarly mission. Budgets were tight, and support for scholarship a low priority. JNT would have to find support elsewhere or diminish its scope and effectiveness. Under the circumstances, SSNL decided to reconsider its relationship to the journal.
At the 1991 International Conference in Nice, SSNL members revised the Bylaws of the Society, removing reference to JNT as the Society's official journal and giving the Executive Committee the authority to designate official publications. Discussions were already underway as to what form a new journal might take.
Narrative. As a result of the close relationship between the Ohio State University and SSNL that had developed over the years, it seemed natural to approach OSU Press with a proposal for a new journal. George Perkins wrote a prospectus for Narrative, James Phelan was persuaded to assume the editorship, and the press accepted the proposal. At the 1991 MLA meeting in San Francisco, Narrative was designated as SSNL's official journal, replacing JNT. An announcement and call for contributions was issued in the SSNL Newsletter for February 1992, with the first issue to appear in 1993. George Perkins and Barbara Perkins accepted positions as Associate Editors, and the new journal began seeking scholars to form an Advisory Board.
The success of Narrative was immediate. The inaugural issue, January 1993, boasted an Advisory Board of 24 major scholars in narrative and included contributions by Robert Scholes and Nancy R. Cromley, Susan Stanford Friedman, Elaine Showalter, Ramon Saldivar, Nancy Armstrong and Leonard Tennenhouse, Seymour Chatman, Gerald Graff, Ralph W. Rader, and Michael McKeon. In a difficult time for new journals, it quickly sold out. In December 1993 the Council of Editors of Learned Journals presented Narrative with its award for best new journal. Comments from the letter of congratulations included: "First-class presentation and design. Authors and Articles are all top-drawer. This journal has it all: significant subject matter . . . fascinating articles . . . distinguished advisory board; will have a significant impact."
Since then, Narrative has appeared in three issues a year. For each the first two years, the total pages were about 270. In 1995, funded in part by increased dues, the journal increased its page count to 314.