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Welcome Back, Palimpsest!

April 13, 2015

Failure, Volume VI of Palimpsest, is anything but. 

Susan Morrow (Germanic Languages and Literatures) decided to awaken the dormant creative arts magazine that graduate and professional students had produced from 2002 to 2007, and thanks to funding from McDougal Graduate Student Life, the GPSS, the OISS, and the Yale University Art Gallery, the newest edition of Palimpsest came out in December.  

Working on publications is a foil for my academic work,” Susan says of Palimpsest. “It’s the satisfaction of making something with other people.” As an undergraduate, she had worked on the Yale Literary Magazine and on several arts and academic publications, and when she enrolled at the Graduate School last year, she looked for a “creative project that would allow me to collaborate with students doing things quite different from what I did. A friend who'd graduated from the Yale School of Architecture showed me old copies of Palimpsest, and I decided to revive it.”             

Getting from idea to final product involved the efforts of many people. Art School student Richard Espinosa designed the publication. Medical School student Hannah Zornow was arts editor. Brandon Menke (English) edited poetry; Peter Raccuglia (English), Wendi Bootes (Russian and European Studies), and Till Hilmar (Sociology) edited non-fiction; Hana Bajramovic (Law School) edited fiction. Nick Kline (Forestry and SOM) served as business manager. Other volunteers, such as Caitlin Woolsey (History of Art), helped focus the theme, select pieces, and plan the launch.

Tim Altenhof (Architecture) proposed “failure” as a theme, and “it sounded right to everyone,” Susan says. “In some ways it was a nod to our all being students, to experimentation and the possibility of trying and not succeeding at something or other.” In the foreword to Volume VI, Susan wrote, “I won’t tell which shortcomings and crises inspired our choice of theme. Not because everyone who worked on the present issue did not have some FAILURE or other in mind, whether economic and political, personal and professional, or artistic and intellectual. We all did. The point about FAILURE, though, is its abundance, and, in a certain way, its specificity.”

Tim thinks of the theme as “an overflow room of sorts that could accommodate all kinds of things that either had already failed or were just about to fail. Much in the sense of a second, additional exhibition presenting those artworks that didn't make it, despite their relevance.”

Volume VI is a small black and white soft-cover book that includes a freestanding postcard (“Man Rolling Egg,” by Comparative Literature student Ayten Tartici), along with a poster, photos, reproductions of art, poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.

Next year, Susan and Nick Robbins (History of Art) will co-edit Volume VII. Nick became involved in Palimpsest “to connect with other students in the graduate and professional schools here and to help develop a platform for people to share work and interests that may be outside of their studies per se. It is also nice to have the chance to work collaboratively, especially given the fact that, in the humanities at least, research and writing is often a relatively solitary pursuit.”

As a Yale undergraduate, Nick worked on several publications, and looks forward to creating the next issue of Palimpsest, which will have “Hybrid” as its theme.

Even in the present moment, when there are so many digital means of sharing and showing one's project, I think there is a lot of value and pleasure in a print publication, and in creating an object that proposes its own kind of cohesion or connection between different peoples' work,” he says.

To join in the making of Volume VII and to obtain a copy of Volume VI, email

For more information, check out the website and Facebook page.

Palimpsest is one of about 40 extracurricular organizations available to graduate students at Yale. There are clubs that focus on sports, arts, religion, ethnicity and culture, professional and academic pursuits. The roster of activities changes every year, as students come together to create new groups, according to their interests.