Letter from the cofounders

On the founding and future of The Harper Review.

Suzanna Murawski and Surya Gowda

April 26, 2024

Dear reader,

When we set out to start a magazine, we knew that student publications at the University of Chicago had once produced some of our nation’s most incisive cultural critics and commentators. Yet there was no clear forerunner among campus publications for quality cultural criticism: serious, clear, and unbound by a uniform slate of political tenets. Much of the student writing we had read tended to be ideologically conformist, navel-gazing, or undisciplined. We wanted not only to develop thinkers who might go on to be prominent and exciting, but to set the standard now for the high quality which we believe our peers are capable of.

And so The Harper Review was born. Since our first issue in the winter of 2023, our masthead has increased fourfold, and our writers have written in from more than a dozen colleges and universities. They’re undergraduates, graduate and law students, postdocs, and professors alike. We have published on topics as wide-ranging as Gothic architecture, digital technology, military ethics, therapy culture, Michel Houellebecq, and Thomas Jefferson. As our mission statement says, “The Harper Review is not interested in dogma or provocation for its own sake; instead, we ask our writers and readers to engage in good faith with the political and cultural questions of our day.” Frankly, being doctrinaire risks being boring. We are looking for the frisson of good-faith disagreement, both on and off the page.

Nowhere does that frisson come out quite like our events, where frantic cocktail-fixing keeps the wheels of conversation turning. Our project may be new, but it has found a natural audience at the University of Chicago. Indeed, the Review and the University have a symbiotic relationship: the magazine is true to the University’s unique character, and the University continues to uphold the principles of free discourse the magazine stands for.

The issue you hold in your hands is the first one without our names, Suzanna Murawski and Surya Gowda, at the top of the masthead. This quarter, we’ve stepped down as coeditors in chief and watched as Noah Glasgow and the rest of the editorial team has confidently taken up our mantle. We’re proud to say that we’ll be leaving the Review in exceptionally capable hands.

We’d like to take a moment to thank those who have advised and mentored us over the course of founding the Review and our college careers as a whole. First and foremost, we want to thank our mentor David Lyons for inspiring us to pursue our interests in political philosophy—and without whose matchmaking skills we may have never become friends. Thank you also to Rachel Wiseman of The Point Magazine, writer Blake Smith, and Rita Koganzon, who, as a UChicago undergrad, founded The Midway Review, all for their guidance and kindness as we founded the magazine. Thank you to Nora Titone of the Parrhesia Program for Public Discourse for her confidence in our project and the opportunities she has provided our magazine. Thank you, especially, to the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, who has financially supported our project, and to Bridget Ruffing and AJ Fezza, who have advised and supported us through the past two years.

And, finally, we’d like to thank all our readers, not only for appreciating the work we do but for engaging in the world of ideas that this magazine provides a forum for discussing and debating. We are incredibly grateful for your support and hope it continues for as long as the Review lives on.

Farewell,

Surya Gowda and Suzanna Murawski

Suzanna Murawski and Surya Gowda are fourth-year undergraduates in the University of Chicago’s Fundamentals program.