Tag Archives: Modernism


I’ve posted a new blog on Speed, Writing, and Popular Magazines over on the Pulp Magazines Project blog, and thought that it would be of enough interest to MagMod subscribers to repost here. Enjoy. Fast Modernism: Popular Magazines and the … Continue reading

Enough Blast Already, or Magazine Networks Matter

Bookslut recently posted a piece by Greer Mansfield praising the Modernist Journals Project and modernist little magazines. “We Will Convert the King if Possible: The Greatness of Little Magazines” is an interesting read.  It’s more evidence of the reach of little magazines and the MJP beyond academia and the uses to which they can be put.  Mansfield (a nice name for someone writing about modernist magazines!) uses the discussion as an occasion to blast the parochialism and homogeneity of what he calls “American book-chat culture.”

What is striking in these old Modernist magazines, aside from the roll call of their famous contributors? Mainly that they have very little in common with prominent literary magazines in today’s English-speaking world. There is no gee-whiz tweeness (surely you can find your own examples without too much trouble), no senile genteelism (ditto), no forced jokiness, no desperation on the part of the authors to prove that they’re good guys and gals who aren’t necessarily smarter than anyone else and maybe want to be your best friend.

I wonder if the “niceness” of contemporary literary magazine/blog culture is any less desperate than or even all that different from the combativeness of modernism, since both can be diagnosed as simply playing the rules of the game in the struggle for cultural and symbolic capital, etc.  But that isn’t the subject of this post.

What interests me is the reference to the “famous contributors” above and below: 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

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.

The MJP on Flickr and Youtube

Hi all,

I hope the new year has been a good one so far! I just wanted to drop a quick note and mention that the Modernist Journals Project has started a new endeavor to broaden our web web presence on Flickr and Youtube. So far, our Flickr page features covers for The Crisis and a special selection of covers and ads from our “on or about” 1910 collection — hopefully, with more theme and cover sets to come. In addition, we have planned a series of Youtube tutorials to help users navigate the database more efficiently. So far, we have our first basic tutorial up and running and will begin work on a new one soon. Any suggestions or feedback you might have on these projects is welcome.