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Reviewed by:
  • Little Magazines and Modernism: New Approaches
  • Stephen Bury (bio)
Little Magazines and Modernism: New Approaches. Ed. by Suzanne W. ChurchillAdam McKible. Aldershot: Ashgate. 2007. xvii + 276 pp. £55. ISBN 978 0 7546 6014 9.

The little magazine has been poorly treated: librarians have excised their covers and advertisements, bound them together at the back (and in some cases have thrown them away), or trimmed them to a ‘normal’ size in the binding process. This is something to bear in mind in digitization and research reserve projects. To add insult, literary scholars have also used them merely as a source of texts, ignoring the context of their appearance and the influence of editors or of their readership. The emergence of ‘periodical studies’ has done something to restore little magazines as primary source material and an important constituent of print culture.

This volume is a collective project to reinvestigate the role of the American and English little magazine in the Avant Garde and Modernism in the first three decades of the twentieth century. Jay Bochner e plores the relationship between the shortlived Rogue and The Soil, reflected in the marriage of their two stars, Mina Loy and Arthur Cravan. Alan Golding looks at the dialogue between Scofield Thayer’s The Dial and the eponymous The Little Review, edited by Margaret Anderson, concentrating in the role both played in the publication of T. S. Eliot. Editorial practices are e plored by John Timberman Newcomb and Jayne Marek. The former restores the editor of Poetry, Harriet Monroe, from Pound’s description of her as ‘Aunt’ Harriet and situates her own poetry within an American modernist canon. Marek investigates the African-American little magazines associated with the ‘Harlem Renaissance’, focusing on Jessie Fauset’s literary editorship of The Crisis in 1919–26 and her de facto editorship of its spin-off, The Brownies’ Book, in 1920–21, as well as the editorial work of Nora Douglas Holt (sometimes known as Lena Holt) for Music and Poetry. Suzanne Churchill gives an account of the Spectra hoax of 1917 in which Witter Bynner, Arthur Davison Ficke, and Marjorie Allen Seiffert [End Page 492] hoodwinked Alfred Kreymborg’s Others into taking the invented Spectrism seriously.

Indeed one of the important contributions of this collection of essays is to bring to the surface the role of women in the little magazine and in early modernism. They operated as editors, contributors, and artists/illustrators: Mina Loy and Gertrude Stein contributed to Globe; the Dadaist Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven was the most frequently published contributor to The Little Review. Editors included Laura Riding (Epilogue) as well as Anderson, Monroe, Fauset, and Holt. Artists and illustrators included Clara Tice (Rogue), Jessica Dismorr, Marguerite Thompson, and Dorothy ‘Georges’ Banks (Rhythm). It has been suggested that it was the cofounder of Rogue, and a contributor to The Blind Man, Louise Norton (later Varése) who submitted Marcel Duchamp’s ready-made Fountain to the Society of Independent Artists’ annual exhibition in 1917, perhaps the founding gesture of modern art.

A second area that this collection starts to explore is the role of advertisements. John T. Frederick’s The Midland pursued advertising with determination: its first issue, January 1915, had no less than six pages of advertisements. The June–July 1915 issue of The Little Review had seven pages of invented small notices suggesting what could have been advertised there. Even Poetry contained advertising: the July 1913 issue had an advertisement for The Art of Versification by Esenwein and Roberts, marketed by the Home Correspondence School, Springfield, Massachusetts. But Epilogue refused advertising.

However, despite the invocation of ‘periodical studies’, the materiality and rootedness in print culture only comes across in a flickering way in this volume. We need to know about how the magazines were financed, and their sale prices. We need to know how they looked, their colour, paper quality, and size. Epilogue was printed as a hardcover book of over two hundred pages; it cost seven shillings and sixpence, and Riding’s assistant editor, Robert Graves, managed to persuade Constable to publish it jointly with Seizin Press. Monroe’s Poetry was funded by a hundred guarantors who pledged $50 per...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1744-8581
Print ISSN
0024-2160
Pages
pp. 492-493
Launched on MUSE
2009-02-18
Open Access
No
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