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The Southwest Review was established in 1915 at the University of Texas at Austin by a coterie of faculty members dedicated to the belief that there was a place for arts and letters in the land of cotton fields, cattle ranches, and oil wells.

They christened their publication The Texas Review. Its first editor, Stark Young, wrote that “The Texas Review does not dream of great popularity” and “pleasing the general” and will not “reek of the Texas soil.” From its inception, the magazine set out to publish the best works it received neither attempting to please a mass audience nor limited by its region. The inaugural issue opened with a letter from the critic Edmund Gosse dated London, March 23, 1915, which said The Texas Review would “have the advantage of slighter competition in Europe,” an ominous foreshadowing of the subsequent years of the first World War. His letter went on to say he was certain the magazine would “uphold the banner of scholarly elegance” and further would “stoop to no word unworthy of the Muses.”

In August of 1924, The Texas Review moved to its new home at Southern Methodist University and was rechristened the Southwest Review. The name change echoed what the new editors sought to represent, “the new Southwest,” a region that was rapidly making the transition from cotton and cattle to skyscraper and city.

Southwest Review editors, advisory editors, and contributing editors have been drawn from both inside and outside the Southern Methodist University faculty, and have included Jay Hubbell, George Bond, John McGinnis, Allen Maxwell, Henry Nash Smith, Mary Austin, J. Frank Dobie, Lon Tinkle, and Margaret Hartley.

Contrary to popular assumption, J. Frank Dobie did not found the Southwest Review nor was he sole editor-in-chief; though over the course of his career he did serve as a contributing, associate, and co-editor. He was an influential and longtime supporter of the magazine. In turn, the magazine published over fifty of his works, including stories, essays, poems, and reviews.

From 1932 to 1935, Louisiana State University and Southern Methodist University joined forces to publish the Southwest Review. Cleanth Brooks joined the magazine as a contributing editor in 1932 and, along with Robert Penn Warren, was named an associate editor in 1935. With the help of the collaboration, the Southwest Review was able to continue publishing, without ceasing, during these years of the Great Depression. The arrangement ended in 1935 when Louisiana State University founded The Southern Review.

In 1984, for the first time in forty years, editorial responsibility for the magazine was returned to a member of the faculty. Willard Spiegelman, professor of English, was named editor-in-chief, a position he still holds. In 2005, Mr. Spiegelman won the PEN/Nora Magid award for literary editing. PEN stated, “The Southwest Review has emerged in the last twenty years as one of the best literary quarterlies in the United States. Poetry and fiction, memoirs and criticism, appear side by side in its pages, in balanced proportions... It seems impartially welcoming both toward luminous and unfamiliar names, so long as the writing is genuine.”

Southwest Review contributors have included D. H. Lawrence, Maxim Gorky, Cleanth Brooks, Robert Penn Warren, Mary Austin, Quentin Bell, Horton Foote, Larry McMurtry, Joyce Carol Oates, Amy Clampitt, James Merrill, Margaret Drabble, Iris Murdoch, Arthur Miller, Naguib Mahfouz, and many others.