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  • Introduction:“Visualizing Periodical Networks”
  • J. Stephen Murphy (bio)

In a 1919 review of the third Wheels anthology, T. S. Eliot acknowledged the value of networks, without, of course, using our word du jour: “If we are passionately devoted to good literature, we look for individuals: but people who are keen on literature look for groups. But when writers gather together . . . [and] forget the group is for advertisement . . . they become simply instances of a type.”1 Eliot reminds us that joining a coterie could be advantageous to writers and artists since it could make writers more recognizable in the always overcrowded marketplace, both by tying the artist to a group with an identity and by creating greater opportunities for discovering new writers within this network. In the same way that group shows in galleries could provide an impression of commonality among artists (whether real or not) and lead someone who is interested in one artist to another, so too could writer’s groups. Someone might have gone to look at the Manets at Roger Fry’s 1910 Post-Impressionism exhibit and seen Cezanne for the first time; likewise, a reader who picked up Wheels out of an interest in Osbert Sitwell might discover and become devoted to Aldous Huxley.

But who and what constituted a coterie? Even if only to advertise, as Eliot suggested, a group of artists had to publicly establish its membership and its defining attributes. In recent years, much attention has been paid to modernist manifestoes as mechanisms of self-articulation and self-creation, and there is no doubt they sometimes played a role in defining [End Page iii] a group of writers and artists.2 More important than manifestos, however, were media such as publishers’ lists, advertisements, and magazines; they were the means by which a coterie took on substantial form and became not a manifesto but a manifestation.

Any medium that groups writers together has the potential to turn writers into conduits through which other writers can be discovered. Manifestos made a group’s qualities and priorities explicit, but mere co-appearance could establish similarities in methods, themes, or other qualities, out of which a group identity could emerge. A magazine like Blast, which Wyndham Lewis created with Ezra Pound’s assistance to be the organ of Vorticism, is only the most extreme Anglophone example of the power of magazines to link writers together under a common purpose. The imprimatur of magazines with strong editorial viewpoints, like The Little Review and Others, helped determine the identity of scores of writers and of modernism itself. Periodicals also shaped the interpretation of individual texts and writers by linking them to other works and authors. For instance, readers of one of John Dos Passos’s earliest publications, “Young Spain” in The Seven Arts, need not have relied on the fabled “text itself” in order to gain a sense of who Dos Passos was and what his priorities were. They could have looked at other contributors and contributions to the same issue, including several pieces openly criticizing American war policy, to gain a sense of who this young writer was and what he was trying to say.

That manifestos attract literary scholars is no surprise. As texts, they are familiar territory, open to exploration using traditional methodologies like bibliography and close reading. They also seem to promise that gem so rarely found in literary history: the (relatively) straightforward expression of intention. Literary criticism will not go very far, however, in tracking the kinds of links that magazines made among writers and texts. Despite Eliot’s denigration of “people who are keen on literature,” an adequate history of modernism demands that we “look for groups.” It was out of groups, or really out of the grouping of particular writers, texts, and attributes, that modernism emerged as a cultural phenomenon. While Eliot and his New Critical heirs might have succeeded in persuading generations of readers to focus on a few individual writers, contemporary modernist studies has expanded both the canon of modernism and the range of relevant topics for study, including advertisements and magazines as media rather than as depositories for texts. With this new expansiveness has come the need for...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2152-9272
Print ISSN
1947-6574
Pages
pp. iii-xv
Launched on MUSE
2014-08-13
Open Access
No
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