The Dialogics of Modernism(s) in the New Age
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The Dialogics of Modernism(s) in the New Age

Was it right, I have been asked, for THE NEW AGE to allow "T. K. L." to "mimick" Mr. Pound's articles on Parisian writers while these were still being published? My own answer is, Yes, and with more reasons than I can set down. Nobody, I suppose, thinks it odd that Mr. [Hilaire] Belloc should write in THE NEW AGE in criticism of the National Guilds System; and nobody will think it odd if the editorial exponents of that system reply either currently or at the conclusion of the series. Why, then, should it be thought strange to publish Mr. Pound's articles and subject them to criticism while they are still before our readers? . . . It will be found, if we all live long enough, that every part of THE NEW AGE hangs together; and that the literature we despise is associated with the economics we hate as the literature we love is associated with the form of society we would assist in creating. Mr. Pound—I say it with all respect—is the enemy of THE NEW AGE.

R. H. C., "Readers and Writers," the New Age, November 1913 1

Although the New Age under A. R. Orage's editorship (1907–1922) has always been recognized as an important platform for modernist literature and art, scholars are currently taking more careful note of this British journal's very deliberate self-positioning in a public sphere that was, even by 1907, segmenting into multiple, and complexly interrelated, counterpublics. Funded by George Bernard Shaw and Lewis Wallace when Orage and Holbrook Jackson first took it over in 1907, the New Age quickly outgrew its Fabian Art League support and went on to promote [End Page 407] National Guild Socialism in the early 1910s, "a democratic alternative to the authoritarian tendencies" of collectivism that also distinguished itself from other socialisms in Britain at the turn of the twentieth century through its emphasis on the role that the arts play in any truly revolutionary agenda for social change.2 As first an "Independent Socialist Review of Politics, Literature, and Art" and then a "Weekly Review of Politics, Literature, and Art," the New Age distinguished itself from other political weeklies by covering literature and the arts as well as politics. But it also distinguished itself from both mainstream literary reviews and non-commercial little magazines such as Blast and the Egoist, with whom it shared numerous contributors, by devoting roughly half of any given issue (and the first half, at that) to political commentary. As a "political weekly that performed some functions traditionally associated with the literary review," it published a multiplicity of works by writers such as T. E. Hulme, Wyndham Lewis, F. T. Marinetti, and Ezra Pound.3 Yet it published these writers side by side with articles challenging their work: visual and verbal parodies of modernist texts, artists, and manifestos; columns by the editor and other regular contributors questioning specific aesthetic precepts; and letters to the editor that continued debate about such concerns from one issue to the next.

Because of its interest in staging open-ended exchanges about the social and aesthetic values of "modern" writing4 —and its justification of this practice in terms of its commitment to staging similarly open-ended political debate, as Orage does in the November 1913 editorial excerpted above in the epigraph—the New Age offers a very different window onto the early-twentieth-century Anglo-American cultural scene than that afforded by the little magazines whose role in the production and dissemination of modernism was featured in the first several generations of bibliographic scholarship on modernism post-World War II, and is currently the focus of some very exciting new research in modern periodical studies.5 Moreover, it offers a more richly heterogeneous record of early twentieth-century cultural debates about the arts than current scholarship on the pluralization of modernism is able to index.6 This essay focuses on two series of articles published in the fall of 1913 by Ezra Pound and Beatrice Hastings (Emily Alice Haigh) that exemplify the New Age's willingness to both showcase...