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What is Janus Head?

What is a Janus head and why would anyone want to name a journal after it?

A Janus head is a sculpture typically found at the doorway of a person's house.  The god it represents, Janus, was two-headed, with each face poised in opposite directions.  The phrase "Janus faced" as it comes down to us means "two-faced" or deceitful; but the original signification of the two-headed god meant vigilance and new beginnings, as in the word "January."  To quote from Bergen Evans' Dictionary of Mythology, "It was a peculiarity of this god that the doors of his temple were kept open in time of war and closed in time of universal peace.  They were rarely closed." 

Like the Janus head sculpture, this journal can be understood as standing at a threshold.  Janus Head, the journal, aims to be a threshold by which graduate students and professionals may enter a world in which they  may be heard and dialogue among one another.  The space beyond the Janus head, then, is a space where dwelling can occur, where thinking can take place, and where community can be built.  With the opening of a dialogue there is the possibility of new beginnings.  What shape that will take will depend solely upon the path which is opened through the dialogue within the community beyond the threshold.  Yet, without a threshold, one cannot enter upon a path at all -- nor can a community be built unless there is a clearing where the community can dwell. 

The image of Janus as two-headed reminds us that, as human beings, we are always radically de-centered and unknown to ourselves.  It is no mistake that the doors of Janus' temple were kept open in times of war.  In war, the other can take on the menacing quality of what is unknown to ourselves.  Janus' signification of vigilance calls us to continually remain open to what has been marginalized, split off, and left out of dialogue, for it may appear in the face of that which aims to destroy us.  The opening up of a dwelling-space can offer the dialogue which may thwart the mutual destruction which can result when we fail to recognize our disowned face in the face of the other.  And, with such a dialogue, we cannot help but be transformed.  Self and other offer each other, in this space, the opportunity for new beginnings with new dialogues.  Further, the significance of Janus being two-headed reminds us that, as Nietzsche wrote, "Truth is the kind of error without which a species cannot survive."  The 'truth' of any community is always only partial, both revealing and concealing, and thus necessitating a never-ending dialogue by which the meaning and ground of the community can continue to be renewed. 

We feel that in the wake of the current continental philosophical crisis (e.g. postmodernism and poststructuralist critiques of both modernism, and to some extent, phenomenology), the discourse of particular thinkers in the fields of literature, philosophy and phenomenological psychology have been swept under the rug.  This is not to suggest that postmodernism and poststructuralism have yet to yield fruits --they indeed have --but rather to suggest that the dialogue is not over.  In other words, this is not a time for the doors of Janus to be closed. 

Further, we feel that the epistemological debate over how it is we know loses strength when a culture remains bound to one specific ideal for the basis of knowledge, e.g. the scientific method in Western culture.  The prevailing cultural belief in one discourse as the only acceptable format for 'truth' is inappropriate and dangerous, fostering the conditions of war in which those discourses which have been marginalized return with a face of destruction.  There is more than one discourse for opening the concealing-revealing path of 'truth,' and when those alternative forms of discourse are ignored, our culture suffers.  So, rather than "either/or," we prefer "both/and" when it comes to exploring the various ways in which humans may come to know the truths of their existence.  Our underlying project with Janus Head strives toward maintaining this kind of attitude:  an attitude of respect and openness to the various manifestations of truth in human experience and an attitude which also fosters understanding through meditative thinking, narrative structure, and poetic imagination. 

It is a difficult task to initiate into the current readership a new journal published in ink.  The costs of publishing alone prevent many such endeavors. The advent of the "Web page" in the last two decades circumvents the obstacles of overhead costs and readership attainment.  Many are discovering the ease of web publishing and the relatively inexpensive utilization of web hosting services.  With the advent of the WWW, one is able to publish anything for anybody to anywhere in the world.  But typically one does not read a journal because anyone has created it; one reads it because someone known and trusted has produced the kind of work one expects.  Our only apology in the face of those who are skeptical about web publishing (including ourselves) is to ask the reader to assess the quality and value of the work produced and to critique, comment on, or question the ideas and research put forth on each page of the journal.  We honestly believe that quality can live within any form or means of human communication, whether it be oracular, printed, or technological.  In being mindful of such matters, we thus offer you, the reader, a journal dedicated to the excellent and often overlooked scholarship and creativity of those new to the dialogues of our culture.

Victor Barbetti
Brent Dean Robbins