- The Network of American Periodical Studies Symposium: “Radical America: Revolutionary, Dissident and Extremist Magazines”
The Network of American Periodical Studies (NAPS) hosted its second symposium, “Radical America: Revolutionary, Dissident and Extremist Magazines” on May 20, 2016, at The Keep, the University of Sussex’s Special Collections. Organized by Sue Currell, this event was attended by more than fifty delegates and guests and successfully launched the University of Sussex’s special collection of the New Masses magazine. Sue’s development of the New Masses archive at Sussex builds upon an impressive collection of more than two hundred issues of the magazine donated to The Keep in 2014. She spoke about the conservation and digitization process by which the collection has been preserved and scanned into high-resolution single-page images that have then been formatted into accessible online editions. The online magazines are now being developed into a high- quality open-access online exhibition with the ongoing addition of metadata and complementary scholarship on the magazine, with full search capability. Sue hopes to crowdsource missing issues and to eventually complete the archive as part of her wider digital (and print) scholarship project.
The day began with an overview of the collections of radical periodicals at The Keep including the Harvey Matusow papers, a vast and eclectic repository that includes, among other things, a range of underground magazines. Doug Haynes’s introduction to his own research on the British counter-culture set the scene for papers that dealt with the representation of the body and the obscenity laws in Britain and the United States. [End Page 163] The first panel, titled “Sexual Dissidence,” covered the sexual politics of the radical Berkeley Barb and the San Francisco Oracle, the painting and the revolutionary art of The Masses, as well as transatlantic feminist periodical networks of the Women’s Liberation Movement. The second panel, “Spaces of Segregation and Incarceration,” examined that aspect of magazine culture, including the marginalization of Black World staff in the physical work environment of the 1970s Johnson Publishing Company; white racial rhetoric in The Citizen magazine 1961–79, and American women’s prison zines as sites of art and protest.
Over lunch, delegates were invited to view The Keep’s collection of radical magazines and the newly conserved issues of the New Masses as well as to attend a demonstration of the digital version of the magazine under development.
After lunch, at panel 3, “Writers, Artists and Intellectuals as Editors,” authors presented papers on Dennis Cooper’s Little Caesar magazine, Orestes Brownson and the Boston Quarterly Review (1838–42), and Pamela Colman Smith’s The Green Sheaf. The final panel for the day, “Visual Radicalism and the Avant-garde,” featured papers on French visual culture in American periodicals, the influence of modernism and surrealism in Radical America, and the radicalism of underground comix.
A wine reception was then followed by a lively and captivating personal recollection, called “The Rise and Fall of the Chicago Seed and the American Underground Press in the Sixties and Seventies,” from former underground magazine editor (and most able raconteur) Abe Peck. Bringing the New Left to life by offering a history of the Chicago Seed, Peck described the heady days of countercultural dissidence in relation to the radical journalism of the sixties. Underpinned by the idea of providing “news from below,” The Seed, along with many other publications, such as the “Bohemian hotbed” that was the Berkeley Barb, the Fifth Estate, the San Francisco Oracle (bullhorn for the summer of love), and the “freak-freely” East Village Other all offered a range of oppositional stances to the cultural hegemony of mainstream mass publications. Caught up personally in the political turmoil of the late sixties, Peck’s reflections on the role of the radical magazine in relation to activism touched on a number of issues that had been identified throughout the day, such as the fraught relationship between feminism and the New Left, the ways in which radical magazines were as interested in mediating the movement as they were in circulating the news, the relation between social networks and magazine publication, the role of [End Page 164] the magazine...