- Modernism in the Magazines: An Introduction
Don't be deceived by the straightforward title. It is difficult to imagine a book that covers as much ground as successfully as Modernism in the Magazines: An Introduction. Robert Scholes, who among his countless accomplishments is the founder of the Modernist Journals Project, and Clifford Wulfman, coordinator of Library Digital Initiatives at Princeton and the Modernist Journals Project's first technical director, address this book to active scholars of modern periodical studies, to college and university faculty interested in pursuing early twentieth-century magazines as researchers and teachers, and to graduate and advanced undergraduate students wholly new to the field. These multiple audiences require multiple, overlapping agendas, which I will group for convenience under three large headings: literary history, advocacy, and methodology. That is, Scholes and [End Page 246] Wulfman demonstrate and probe the centrality of magazines to the history of modernism, offering a set of engaging, brief accounts of modernist interactions in a set of key magazines; advocate for scholarship and teaching that places magazines at the center of modernist studies and for the many resources still needed to make them optimally accessible; and sketch out and model a set of theoretical bases and critical protocols for periodical studies. Straddling these three categories uneasily are the book's most surprising features: an opening chapter declaring Ezra Pound "Founder of Modern Periodical Studies" and a 103-page appendix offering a complete edition of Pound's 1917 New Age series "Studies in Contemporary Mentality," a characteristically acerbic survey of the London periodical universe at that historical moment. I shall have more to say about Pound's problematic role here shortly, but my first duty is to endorse this impressive book. As theoretical treatise and practical call-to-action, how-to guide and exemplar, Modernism in the Magazines will prove indispensible to the growing cadre of modernist scholars and their students who are taking on the project of mapping and theorizing the vast and varied world of early twentieth-century print culture.
The book offers much to each of its audiences. In chapters titled "Modernity and the Rise of Modernism: A Review," "How to Study a Modern Magazine," "Modernism's Other: The Art of Advertising," and "On or About December 1910," Scholes and Wulfman primarily address students and faculty new to modernist periodicals. And they say almost everything one would want these readers to hear about the study of periodicals: we must read magazines as primary texts rather than as neutral vehicles of data; we need to read advertisements closely, with vigor, pleasure, and consciousness of the limits of what they can show us; we must both entertain the notion of a magazine as a coherent text and pay heed to its dialogic, heteroglossic nature, which lies both in the multiple voices within its pages and in its embeddedness in networks of other publications; we must maintain a constant dual focus when studying magazines, toggling between close reading and external, historical research. The authors are particularly insightful on magazine advertisements, observing that time has changed the very nature of these texts: once resolutely rhetorical and instrumental artifacts, geared to activating consumer desire for the commodities that stood behind them, period advertisements are for us not only historical but also aesthetic artifacts—objects that we can admire for their cleverness and design, and situate within the rhetorical and artistic practices surrounding them, precisely because they have lost their initial [End Page 247] claims on us. The authors urge us to consider such advertisements as "antiques, in which craft has become art thanks to the passage of time" (141), and to unpack the "symbolic juxtapositions" created in the dialogue between and among advertisements and text. They model this practice by reading wartime advertisements for Swift brand meats, Kodak cameras, Murad cigarettes, and Studebaker cars, contrasting realistic and impressionistic visual vocabularies with straightforward and more playful evocations of patriotism.
Chapters titled "Rethinking Modernist Magazines: From Genres to Database," "The Hole in the Archive," and "Modernism in the Magazines: The Case of Visual...