Courtesy of Meghan O'Rourke

One summer, when she was a child, Meghan O’Rourke ’97 fashioned a booklet filled with original poems — a literary journal in miniature. Youthful penmanship adorning the back of the booklet read “Edited by Meghan O’Rourke.”

This winter, The Yale Review — Yale’s premier quarterly journal, which features both fiction and nonfiction — announced the appointment of O’Rourke as its next editor. O’Rourke will assume her new role on July 1, 2019, the 200th anniversary of the Review’s founding.

O’Rourke intends to usher the Review into an increasingly digital age.

“The task of a magazine is to find its way into a new era while maintaining its DNA,” O’Rourke said. “I’m excited about the Yale Review becoming both a presence for students, a roof that people gather under for the exchange of ideas, as well as a platform from which to extend those ideas to the rest of the world.”

The history of the Review is storied — the journal was founded in 1819 under the name “The Christian Spectator.” Since then, the journal has abandoned strictly theological inquiry and broadened its scope to cover discussions of national and international politics, economics and history. The Review also features works of fiction and according to O’Rourke, her love for poetry and prose will likely influence the content of the quarterly.

Each editor of the Review has the opportunity to dictate the breadth and depth of the magazine’s content. O’Rourke is considering plans for Yale Review podcasts, Twitter chats, interviews and events. She also hopes to create an online presence for the magazine that will occupy a different space than the print magazine does. Still, O’Rourke said she plans to maintain the Review’s presence as a “dimensional space of ideas, beauty and renovation of language.”

Past editors of the Review include former Connecticut governor Wilbur Cross, class of 1885, sociologist Kai Erikson and former Head of Jonathan Edwards College Penelope Laurans. O’Rourke will succeed acting editor Harold Augenbraum, who has served as editor of the Review since 2017.

“The previous editor had been there for 25 years and carried on a venerable tradition,” Augenbraum said. “The idea is that it will go from a primarily print magazine focused on a specific idea of literature into one addressing many different aspects of culture, which includes not only the way in which the material is presented, but the material itself being presented.”

Augenbraum said that the Review’s current transition marks an “exciting point in time,” adding that the Review will likely progress from reflecting on the intellectual ideas of the United States and the University into a journal that will lead those ideas into the future.

According to Langdon Hammer ’80 GRD ’89, the English Department chair and former acting editor of the Review, the 10-person committee tasked with searching for a new editor “felt it was time to look deeply at the magazine and consider its future.”

After a yearlong search, the committee chose O’Rourke due to her long history as a high-level literary editor. After graduating from Yale, O’Rourke took a position assisting Bill Buford at The New Yorker and later became the youngest fiction editor ever hired at the magazine. She then established the culture section at Slate when it was primarily a political publication. Since then, she has served as poetry editor at The Paris Review. She also writes in a variety of genres and has published three collections of her poetry.

During the committee’s initial search, O’Rourke was in the middle of writing a book and was unsure as to whether she wanted to apply for the editorship. Yet after O’Rourke drafted her application, she realized that she missed the social elements of editing and organizing and decided to pursue the position.

O’Rourke will also teach a new course at Yale on the art of editing, scheduled to run in the fall semester of 2020.

Rianna Turner | rianna.turner@yale.edu