Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Media International: Book Notes: >Little Magazines & Modernism: New Approaches

Media International Australia
Television Comedy and Light Entertainment
No 134, February 2010

Theme Editors: Felicity Collins, Sue Turnbull and Susan Bye

Churchill, Suzanne W. and McKible, Adam (eds), Little Magazines & Modernism: New Approaches, Ashgate, Aldershot, 2007, ISBN 9 7807 5466 0149, 292 pp., £55.00.

Scholars of modernism have long considered the thousands of little magazines that came to be published in the first half of the twentieth century as important vehicles for the Anglo-American artistic and literary movement. After all, it was in the pages of such avant garde publications as The Egoist, The Little Review and The Dial that canonical writers such as James Joyce, Marianne Moore and T.S. Eliot found their first readers, and in tiny-circulation periodicals such as The Blindman and Others that modernist manifestos and highbrow pranks were let loose on the world.

This collection of essays edited by Suzanne W. Churchill, an Associate Professor of English at Davidson College, and Adam McKible, an Associate Professor of English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, brings together periodical studies scholars who are forging new approaches to understanding these publications and the culture that produced them, treating the little magazines as primary texts worthy of study rather than as mere distribution vehicles for elite genius.

Forget the ‘Great War’ theory of modernism, the editors argue, little magazines require a ‘Great Party’ model, ‘one that duly recognizes the era’s sense of urgency, mechanization, and conflict but also address’s modernism’s spirit of creativity, conviviality, and playfulness’ (p. 13). The focus for the researchers in this collection is the collaborative and dialogic nature of the print culture of which little magazines were a part, an approach that explores the way artists and intellectuals of the era used media as a space for exchange and engagement and a wedge against (and sometimes in tandem with) mass- market publications.

Among the 11 essays are Alan Golding’s consideration of the rivalry between The Dial and The Little Review, Jayne Marek’s exploration of the role women editors played in the Harlem Renaissance, Suzanne W. Churchill’s meditation on modernist mischief-making and ‘the Great Spectra Hoax’ in Others, and Tom Lutz’s thoughtful examination of the often-overlooked role of regional magazines and regionalists in the development of modernism. In addition to students of modernism and periodical studies, this volume enriches current debates about collaboration and reminds us of the power that the media representation of marginal and unconventional voices can have on the culture at large.

— Margie Borschke, Journalism and Media Research Centre, University of New South Wales

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