- Notes from the Field
Seven years ago, the Journal of Modern Periodical Studies launched with these words from founding editors Sean Latham and Mark Morrisson:
The Journal of Modern Periodical Studies is devoted to the study of modern periodicals, by which we mean periodicals published roughly in the period from 1880 to 1950, whether they were aggressively modernist or anti-modernist, popular or elite, mass-circulation or specialized, long-lasting or brief.
The time was propitious for such a journal, Latham and Morrisson went on to note, because scholarly interest in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century periodicals had been burgeoning for the previous fifteen years, and because the vogue of such work had made plain how much work there was to do. “The magazines,” the editors wrote, “in effect shaped modernity in deep yet still largely unexplored ways—and it is the mission of this journal to facilitate the scholarly exploration of this long-neglected history of the modern.”
As new editors of the journal, we want to begin by expressing our gratitude—and the gratitude of the scores of scholars whose work has drawn on, been inspired by, or been published in the JMPS—to Sean and Mark. They had the vision to recognize the need for such a journal, but also the drive, commitment, and organizational skill to make it happen. From its earliest stages as an idea— during which we had the pleasure of meeting with Sean and Mark and the other board members they assembled—the JMPS became an important institution of modern periodical studies, a node within the larger network of modernist studies around which people excited by the possibilities of this emerging field [End Page III] could cluster. The continued vigor of the field, registered in the publication of field-expanding scholarly books every year, owes itself in no small part to their work.
This vigor continues unabated today. We counted no fewer than twenty papers and roundtable presentations at the Modernist Studies Association conference in Pasadena in November that covered specific periodicals, to say nothing of the many more that touched on vital, broader issues such as mediation, inscription, archives, and print culture that frame the field. Last year also saw the launch of the new Journal of European Periodical Studies (to whom we offer a hearty welcome) and a special issue of Modernist Cultures that revisited the question of “Modernism in Public” through a lens profoundly influenced by periodical studies. In addition, as detailed in a note written by Victoria Bazin included in this issue, the Network of American Periodical Studies (NAPS) was recently formed by Bazin and Sue Currell, with the ambition of supporting work on American periodicals.
A change in editorship is also a time for stocktaking and a return to first principles. There can be no doubt whatsoever that the journal has succeeded in its overarching mission “to facilitate the scholarly exploration” of periodicals’ profound roles in the transformations of modernity. The journal has, of course, published micro-histories and analyses of individual periodicals “popular or elite, mass-circulation or specialized, long-lasting or brief.” Equally important, the journal has, through special issues, sponsored deep dives into vital issues in modernist studies from a periodical-studies angle and into crucial methodological and theoretical issues in the study of periodicals.1 To “facilitate the scholarly exploration” of modern periodicals means more than providing a place to publish essays; it means recognizing where gaps in scholarship lie, not only in content but in the theory, methodology, and access to resources that undergird a healthy field.
Forthcoming special issues will speak to our sense that modern periodical studies needs to move further in the direction of diversity, loosening its commitments to self-consciously modernist and avant-garde publishing and seeking to map more widely the dizzying multiplicity of periodical publishing (and, by extension, cultural production) in the early twentieth century. A number of pieces in this double issue speak directly to this commitment. Work that focuses on modernism will always [End Page IV] be welcome in the JMPS, even while we also actively seek work focused on anti-modernist, non-elite, and mass-circulation...