Tag Archives: magazines

New Book on Transnational Modernism in a Periodical Context

One of the least tapped into but most exciting aspects  periodicals studies can play in literary history is the power of the magazine to create links across national literatures.  Modernist studies has been talking about transnational turn for the past decade, but transnationalism remains better theorized than actualized, which is why it’s so exciting to see that Gayle Rogers’Modernism and the New Spain Modernism and the New Spain:  Britain, Cosmopolitan Europe, and Literary History (Oxford University Press) is available now.  Rogers draws heavily on modernist magazines like The Criterion and the Revista de Occidente in order to uncover a long obscured history of collaboration that contributed to the mutual constitution of modernism in Spain and Britain.


Looking at Magazines: Marsden Networks (part 2)

Part 2:  Author Networks in the Marsden Magazines           

In part 1, I suggested that in order to really get a handle on The Egoist or even an article published in it, we should attend to the social nature of the magazine, which entails more than reading, for what the act of reading misses is some of the other work magazines do, namely, creating networks of authors, texts, media, readers, ideas, genres, and practices.  While we might no longer be able to appreciate the size and feel of the paper The New Freewoman was printed on when we look at it on-screen, the data that the Modernist Journals Project and similar sites generate in the process of digitizing magazines provide the raw materials for visualizing and analyzing components of magazines that cannot be immediately grasped by looking at a single issue but which are as material as the page layout of a magazine and as essential, if not more so, to defining a magazine’s character.  I am talking about the kinds of aggregate qualities Mark just ran through as well as networks of authors who appear together in the same issue and across many issues.  The big idea I’m exploring in my work these days is that it is out of these networks, created in the pages of magazines much as networks are made today on Twitter and Facebook, that people in the Teens, Twenties, and Thirties formed their ideas of what modernism was.

I am far from being the first person to talk about the significance of networks in modernism.  Indeed, network has become a favorite metaphor in literary studies of late, for the concept resonates with the discipline’s shift away from an author-centered literary criticism toward one interested in the collaborative and social contexts of production, circulation, and consumption.  Consider these passages:

¨Networks of artists and writers sympathetic to the aims of modern art formed in various parts of the world, whether on the Left Bank in Paris, around the British Museum in Bloomsbury in London, in Harlem or on Fifth Avenue in New York.”
 –Pericles Lewis, Cambridge Introduction to Modernism
¨[Modernist] aesthetic activity [belongs] within a network of activities:  making, exhibiting, reading, debating, viewing, reviewing.”
–Michael Levenson, Modernism
¨In England, this outbreak of modernist experiment influenced a loosely interrelated network of groups and individuals, many of them based in London.”
–Norton Anthology of English Literature website

What you won’t find in these or the vast majority of works of criticism that claim modernism was a particularly networked phenomenon is any consideration of the actual networks of modernism, and you certainly won’t find any network analysis.  Too often, however, a metaphor is all we get

But then what is network analysis?

A network is a structure of relationships among entities.  These entities, or nodes, are linked along edges, which represent some form of relationship.  You could, for instance, create a network of swine flu virus sufferers who were linked by passing the infection on or a network of friends on Facebook.  Network analysis graphs these relationships in order to perform a holistic analysis of the structure.  Here is one kind of network that existed within the Bloomsbury Group.

Can you guess what the connections are?  I have relied on a cursory survey of Internet sources for my data, and I’m sure that there are people  who are much more knowledgeable about the sexual life of Bloomsbury, so please let me know about my errors.  But how to read the graph? Continue reading

Looking at Magazines: An Argument for Not Reading (Part 1)

What follows is the slightly edited version of my portion of a paper that Mark Gaipa of the Modernist Journals Project and I co-presented at the  Space Between Conference on June 15.  The paper’s title was “Re-materializing Magazines:  A Network Analysis of The Freewoman, The New Freewoman, and The Egoist.”  I’ve included in Part 2 some of the slides I presented.  For Mark’s visuals, check out the section of the MJP Lab dedicated to Dora Marsden’s magazines.  This work is preliminary to a piece we’re working on for a special issue of the Journal of Modern Periodical Studies dedicated to visualizing magazines, so please share any thoughts, questions, criticisms, etc.

Part 1:  Stop Reading. Start Graphing.

There are many good reasons to think about the materiality of culture, but one of the strongest incentives for reconsidering materiality is the increased prominence of the immaterial—or at least seemingly immaterial—in all our lives.  I am talking, of course, about computers and the like. We read digitally nowadays, we research digitally, we shop digitally, we bank digitally, we converse digitally, and we meet and keep friends and even lovers digitally.  Where bodies once met and smelt and felt, we now interact with binary data presented to us in a primarily visual format. Continue reading

Is the Magazine a Hard Drive?

Over at Mimeo/Mimeo, there’s an interesting post arguing that if our aim is to understand the magazine as a medium we make a mistake when we focus too much on the single page or article.  Drawing on Matthew Kirschenbaum’s Mechanisms:  New Media and the Forensic Imagination, Jed Birmingham argues that we can make an analogy in which screen:hard dive as page:magazine, or as he puts it:

The little magazine is first and foremost a storage technology.  The focus is not the individual page but the totality of its contents.  Thus the little magazine is not just a single screenshot or an isolated moment in space and time but a library, museum, or archive of poems, stories, essays, paintings, photographs documenting a multitude of spaces and times, which in turn alter depending on when, where and how they are read.

I’m in accord with much of the argument here–particularly with the need to go beyond the page and close reading–but am not sure that hard drive is quite right, since the hard drive records in a digital format that is importantly not readable by humans, and I don’t think that magazines are first and foremost storage technologies.  That they can become such technologies certainly matters, but I think that it’s their dedication to the present rather than to posterity that marks one of the differences between magazines and books.

Mag MODS, MJP Lab, and Visualizing Data

A long overdue post on some really exciting news in modernist magazines/magazine modernism world.  At the Modernist Studies Association meeting in Buffalo last month, Mark Gaipa of the Modernist Journals Project debuted the MJP Lab, which makes available the MODS and TEI files for the following magazines:

This represents the next step in periodical studies, and it’s good to see that the MJP is putting itself there.

Data is both the blessing and the curse of periodical studies.  Because the field is not based in authorship and has not (yet) developed a canon, periodical scholars begin with basic questions of determining what texts exist in the archives and which are relevant to their scholarship.  When a field is this immense, its potential for revelation is also immense, but so too is the potential for getting completely lost in the archive or for being too intimidated even to enter.  As a result, in both Victorian and modern periodical studies a great deal of work has been dedicated to cataloging, or to put it in more contemporary terms, to creating reliable metadata in both paper format (e.g., the Wellesley Index, Hoffman, Allan, and Ulrich’s The Little Magazine: A History and a Bibliography) and digital (Modernist Journals Project).  While the contents of difficult to access magazines remain the main draw of digitized magazines for many users of such sites as the Modernist Journals Project and HathiTrust, scholars are now looking to do more than read magazines, thanks in great part to the existence of so much data.  Although the digitization of modern periodicals and creation of metadata will likely continue for many years to come, we have now reached the stage at which the data—the contents of the magazine which have been converted into machine readable information, in contrast to scanned images—and metadata are accessible, reliable, and rich enough that scholars can start digging into them qua data itself and not only as texts to be read and interpreted as literary texts are.  Even at this still early stage, the amount of information we have and our ability to generate more far exceeds our capacity to process it in textual format.  If the sheer time spent simply reading the complete run of The English Review wasn’t daunting enough, finding meaningful connections and patterns within all that information requires prodigious feats of endurance, memory, and attention, not to mention all those pieces of information that the human brain is simply not good at collecting (e.g., word frequencies, networked connections with more than three edges). And that is only one title among many.  If we are to discover just how it is, as Robert Scholes and Cliff Wulfman argue in Modernism in the Magazines, “modernism began in the magazines,” reading will not suffice.  We will need alternatives to reading texts, which is why visualization is quickly becoming a key practice of the digital humanities.  The benefits of visualizing data are not simply that it reduces the processing time required to find meaningful patterns in information; visualization is not simply a fast forward button, doing the work we would do otherwise, only much more slowly.  Visualization also helps researchers see data that would be otherwise obscured and direct their research.  The information scientist Katy Börner, the author of the Atlas of Science:  Visualizing What We Know (MIT Press, 2010), likes to describes data visualizations as maps because like maps they not only show you how data are positioned relative to each other but also help you determine where to go next, communicate what you’ve found, and provide ways to link data together.  If we are to determine where the young field of modern periodical studies is to go, visualizations will play a significant role in doing so.

Here’s one of the maps Mark Gaipa created using this data:

Node Tree of Others

For another graphic rendering, be sure to check out Chris Forster’s piece on paper and magazine production during the Great War.  And here’s one (really grimy image) by me, not using the MJP Lab, but still providing some idea of the scale of investigation we visualization allows.

Periodical Network: Authors who co-appeared with T. S. Eliot between 1912 and 1922

MagMods Essay Club: Moretti Replies!

The Essay Club comes to an end, as the book club did, with a generous reply from the author.  Franco Moretti is the author of Signs Taken for Wonders (1983), The Way of the World (1987), Modern Epic (1995), Atlas of the European Novel 1800-1900 (1998), and Graphs, Maps, Trees (2005) and the chief editor of The Novel (Princeton, 2006). He founded the Center for the Study of the Novel and, with Matt Jockers, the Stanford Literary Lab.

First of all, thanks to all of you for your generosity and engagement. Though I cannot address all your points, I will try to include all controversial and/or interesting issues. Answers 1-3 concern the pamphlet; 4-6 broader issues, that are open or require more thought. And 7, a couple of problems raised by Matt Huculak. Continue reading

MagMods Essay Club: Franco Moretti and the Prospects of Social Network Analysis for Literary Studies

Ok, “essay club” doesn’t have quite the ring that “book club” has, but we hope you get the idea.  Four Magazine Modernisms contributors are going to be posting several responses to Franco Moretti’s “Network Theory, Plot Analysis” (click title to get the essay) over the next week, and we invite all readers to jump in with their own comments.  *Professor Moretti has generously agreed to reply to the posts after they’ve been posted.*

Moretti’s essay uses social network analysis (SNA) to chart the relationships among the characters in Hamlet and, among other things, examine plot as a spatial phenomenon and not, as is typically thought, just a temporal one.   What’s SNA?  It’s a methodology, developed by sociologists,  for analyzing  the structures of relations between individuals in groups.  SNA typically graphs these relations (aka edges or ties) between individuals (aka nodes) in order to view their structure holistically, since it is that structure that in part determines the identity, attributes, and opportunities of individual nodes.  A quick Google search will show you a lot of diagrams of people’s Twitter and Facebook networks.  Here, for instance, is a map (made by Marc Smith), of the connections among the Twitter users who recently tweeted the words #rw2011 on April 28, 2011.  The National Security Agency has used SNA to study the records of millions of tapped phone calls in order to locate terrorist networks.  Epidemiologists have used it to trace the spread of disease.  The artist Mark Lombardi fused SNA, Sol LeWitt, and Cy Twombly (“these are a few  of my favorite things . . .”) in order to expose networks within and between corporate boards and governments.  If you’ve ever played Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon you’ve basically played around with social networks.

Literary studies has not done a great deal with SNA.  One notable exception is Bonnie Kime Scott’s map of modernism in The Gender of Modernism, although she wasn’t working formally with network theory–which is why the important notion of centrality (more in my post tomorrow) is absent from the diagram.

Scott’s diagram suggests that in order to get a better grasp of what modernism was, we need to expand our purview beyond the ten or so figures we tend to focus on in modernist studies.  I’d add on that we needn’t limit ourselves to authors or even individuals.  Nodes don’t have to be humans, and edge relations can take lots of forms.  We might fruitfully use the methodology to look at characters, genres, publishing houses, periodicals, and even themes in the literary field.  Moretti’s essay, which is not at all about modernism, provides us  an opportunity to think about the prospects of SNA for studying magazine modernism over the next week.  We’ll be taking up this issue again at a roundtable at the Modernist Studies Association meeting (3:30 on Friday October 7) in Buffalo in October, so come by if you’ll be there.

Read the essay.  Comment below.  How can you imagine using SNA to study modernism, magazines, and literature?  And please add your comments to our responses, which will be about Moretti’s essay, about SNA, about Digital Humanities, and, of course, about what any of these things have to do with magazines and modernism.