The Crisis

A Voyant Perspective of The Crisis and The Egoist

I compared two magazines, The Crisis and The Egoist. The Crisis is always an interesting magazine to look at because of its vast amount of magazine issues and its distinction as an NAACP house magazine that acted as a voice for the black community of America in the racially turbulent times of the 20th century. I wanted to compare it to The Egoist because though The Egoist put a focus on the promotion of modernist literature, according to MJP, it also continued in the vein of The Freewomen by addressing social and philosophical issues. I thought that perhaps The Egoist would discuss issues surrounding race in its social or political discussions. 

I decided to search these magazines for race-related words such as "colored" "negro" and "nigger." Not surprisingly, "colored" and "negro" are among the most frequently used words in The Crisis. "Colored"  and "negro" are almost always among the top five most distinctive words in each issue of The Crisis.

My word trend search of "Nigger" showed me that it is rarely used more than once per issue by The Crisis and from looking at its usage in context; I was able to determine it was never reflected as as an appropriate title for black people. 

The results from my search for race-related words in The Egoist were surprising. Though the magazine's most frequently used words are "life" and "man," hardly any mention is made of the "colored" man or the lives of a negro or negroes. "Colored" was not once used in reference to a person or people, and "negro" was used less than 15 times in the entire corpus and never used more than twice in an issue. "Nigger" was used twice in the entire corpus and it was difficult to tell from the context whether the writer using it was regarding it as an appropriate title for a black person or not. 

I wanted to look at the word usage of these words in the corpus containing all nine magazines, but I couldn't get the download to work.  I assume however that the majority of the usage of these words would be found in The Crisis.  

Music in The Egoist and The Crisis

Brooke Boutwell and Miranda Dabney

Brooke and I chose the word Music  to look at in The Egoist and The Crisis.  We originally chose BLAST, but had some issues getting into Voyeur with BLAST, so we chose The Crisis to replace it.  

In The Egoist, some of the most frequent words used were life, man, and new.  From this, we can tell that the magaznie's focus was to talk about humanity and life, what happens in the lives of the readers or people like the readers.  The word "music" peaks in volume 5, issue 6, an issue which also references Poetry and The Little Review.  There are 25.75 uses of the word "music".  Among those mentions of music, there is an article about Debussey.  The issues tied for lowest number of "music" mentions, with zero mentions, are volume 1, issue 2; volume 5, issues 8 and 9; and volume 6, issue 4.

This lab helped us to explore more of what it means to close read using Voyeur tools.  Using the graphs and other tools to track words across different magazines helped to link what different issues focused on as well as figure out where certain words were more prevalent to narrow down issues and articles with the specific interest word.  

Editorial Appearance in The Freewoman and The Crisis

In an attempt to find less obvious trends within The Freewoman and The Crisis, and inspired by our discussion of editorial control, I decided to examine the recurrence of the names of the editors of The Crisis and The Freewoman in their respective publications. Both magazines featured consistent editors whose names were strongly linked to the magazine: Dora Marsden, in the case of The Freewoman, and W.E.B. DuBois heading up The Crisis. '

Below are the Voyant Tools graphs showing the relative frequency of appearance of each editor's name in his or her magazine:

The Crisis


The Freewoman

The differences between these graphs is fascinating, and combined with some knowledge of the magazines, illustrates the difference between the two in terms of their bibliographic coding. The number of recurrences of Marsden's name throughout the run of The Freewoman seems to be very low considering the amount of content she is known to have contributed to the magazine. However, when examining the magazine, many pieces are not directly credited, and it seems to be taken for granted that these pieces were authored by her. Moreover, many of the occurrences of her name within the magazine (particularly in the issues that show spikes in the graphs) appear within letters or articles written by others mentioning her. Thus, something that might be indicative of the number of pieces a person authors within a magazine, or at least a mark of a person's imprint or influence on a magazine, turns out to have little correlation with these concepts, due to that particular magazine's established style for attributing authorship. 

I am less sure as to the significance of the fluctuation of the appearance of DuBois' name in The Crisis. The much higher relative frequency I interpret to be indicative of the frequency with which DuBois appears within stories in the publication, as well as part of lists of officers of the NAACP and the recipient of reader letters, as illustrated by the Words in Context widget below:

The Crisis


Man, Woman, Men, Women: Comparing Mentions of Gender in The Freewoman and The Crisis

Both The Freewoman and The Crisis offer intriguing divergences from the common words of other magazines, particularly in regards to their usage of gendered language, such as the words "man," "men," "women," and "woman."

Here are my customized skins for the two magazines:

The Freewoman

The Crisis

Previous texts we have examined have listed "man" as one of the top words within the texts. The Crisis is no exception, with "men" and "man" coming in at 8th and 9th most recurring, respectively.

The Crisis



The number one word of The Freewoman, however, is "women."

The Freewoman



It is expected that a feminist publication would refer to women. More intriguing, however, is the fact that the most common is the plural, "women," and not the singular, "woman," in parallel with the "man" of other texts. This suggests a focus on women as a group, rather than some usage as a referent to an ideal or a monolithic "woman." This is similar to The Crisis, in which "men" squeaks by "man" in popularity, by a margin of about 1000 appearances.

The Crisis

A comparison of the word trends of the two publications illustrates these phenomena:

The Crisis

The Freewoman

The above graph of The Freewoman is actually a graph of the five most common words within the publication. Below is the graph of the five most common words of The Crisis, in which none of the four words in question make an appearance.

The Crisis

So, perhaps not the most revelatory discovery of the ages: that a feminist magazine talks about women a lot. But I did find interesting the ways in which both magazines speak of the collective more than the whole (except for the case of men in The Freewoman, intriguingly), emphasizing genders as a group more than a monolith or an ideal.

Now That The War's Over: Peace in Post WWI Magazines

In browsing several postwar magazines, I noticed a recurring theme of embracing the coming of peace. For example, The Crisis of January 1919 features the following cover:

Not only is it good that the war was won, this cover also suggests that war, in itself, is undesirable, and thus it is good that the war is over. This is somewhat of a contrast to the magazine's embrace of the war and celebration of its African-American soldiers during wartime, but also to be a predictable shift back to its peaceful leanings of antiwar sentiment, as seen in the previously discussed piece "To the Children of Peace" of the October 1914 issue:

Intriguingly, not only is the end of war good, the advent of peace is positively Christlike. "Ring in the Christ, that is to be!" urges Tennyson. This makes for an intriguing contrast with the also previously-discussed piece, "WAR," in the October 1914 issue, which places The Lord in a somewhat conflicted role with regards to the war, with the power to end or sustain it. 

Lastly, war in the January 1919 cover of The Crisis is connected with the old as well as the undesirable. Being rung out is "old shapes of foul disease" along with "the thousand wars of old." It seems to suggest that peace is the wave of the future, the true and desirable state of modernity.

Sadly, although The Crisis previously painted involvement in the war as the ticket to equal rights for African-Americans, the first editorial in the January 1919 issue suggests that this did not prove to be the case. 

The author here contrasts the good things peace is bringing to European nations with the plight of the black soldiers who fought in the war and those who supported the effort at home, who still return home to a country in which "POLITICAL EQUAL­ITY, ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY, CIVIL RIGHTS, JUSTICE before the law, all these, our "old desires," are as far away as ever" (111). Thus, though the end of war is certainly to be celebrated, there are still som who do not benefit from peace. The author does conclude, however, that the war did result in "the awakening of the social conscience," and thus if (and only if) the readers of The Crisis keep up their spirited efforts, change can still result.


The postwar content of The Little Review is somewhat less clear-cut. Yeats' play "The Dreaming of The Bones" is a complex exploration of Irish history and death. 

Most notable for my purposes here, however, is the way in which the Young Man speaks of war on page 4 when he notes, "I think there was no man of us but hated/ To fire at soldiers who but did their duty/ And were not of our race."

Coming on the heels of World War I, it is difficult to not put this statement into the context of that conflict, and the Man's regret at these conflicts suggests a dubiousness toward the validity of international conflict. He does go on to say, however, "but when a man/ Is born in Ireland and of Irish stock/ When he takes part against us--" which suggests that although international conflict is hard to justify on an individual level, or is at least a regrettable circumstance, traitorousness is a different matter. 

Essays and Egoism: WWI and the MJP Timeline

Unsurprisingly, a search for "Egoism" brings up four pieces from The Egoist. The most interesting piece of these was "'The Egoist's' Employment of Words," a letter to the editor of The Egoist taking Dora Marsden to task over her earlier condemnation ( "I Am," in the January 1, 1915 issue) of the way in which other feminists attempt to fight for their rights. Moreover, clicking through to this piece gave me access to many other critical pieces on the same page, other letters to the editor questioning Dora Marsden's writings and her commitment to egoism, feminism, and logic. These writings would be intriguing to tie together with Marsden's pieces in the August 1914 issue that I examined for today, comparing the 1915 criticisms of these readers with Marsden's earlier writings and examining the common themes between them. 

A search for Dora Marsden as author only turns up four pieces. As it seemed that Marsden had at least one piece in almost every issue of The Freewoman, The New Freewoman, and The Egoist, it seems that The Egoist has not been extensively recorded within the timeline as of yet. Of the four pieces, two were ones I had added. The remaining pieces were "I Am," previously mentioned, which detailed the magazine's mission and professed a decided distaste for both words and civilization, and a "Views and Comments" section of May 1, 1915 which asserted that workers were being taken advantage of and criticizes the principles of democracy. These pieces are far less focused on war, but the "Views and Comments" piece seems to hearken back to Marsden's assertions in her earlier "Views and Comments" section of September 1914, in which she states that World War I is not inspiring men to enlist in high numbers largely because they cannot afford it.  
Under the topic of class, there is little to be found. The two previously mentioned "Views and Comments" pieces are present, as well as an intriguing advertisement from Scribner's: "If a King's Doctor told you to take Sanatogen..." The advertisement ties issues of class to the purchase of the medicine in question. 
As all of the pieces I chose were essays, there were quite a few results in this category. Significant related pieces include "The War," an article from The Crisis which deals with racial issues surrounding World War I and could make for interesting comparison with Marsden's articles on class, "Artists and the War" from BLAST II, which examines the roles of artists in the war, a topic that coincides nicely with Richard Aldington's piece. The large number of essays found here under this genre illustrates the dependence of magazines of the period on this form of content. 
The timeline features 22 entries from The Egoist. Many of these are pieces already mentioned above. The others are mainly either poetry or reviews of art, such as "Gaudier-Brzeska's Art" from the September 1, 1915 issue, which describes the evolution of the sculptor's work and laments his death (which again echoes the assertions of Aldington that artists are being killed in the war and bringing about the end of modernist art). Poetry includes "Chicago" and "Poems of France." Additionally, there are several entries marking various events in Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which was being published as a serial in The Egoist during the period. It appears, then, that the material within The Egoist is neatly divided between literary or artistic material and discussion of Egoism and its philosohy and practice. 
I see the timeline as a promising tool for discovery with great potential. Though there were not many terribly unusual connections, the timeline did alert me to things I might not have noticed or connected otherwise, such as the recuring discussion of Kongzi (Confucius) and his philosophy, as well as discussion of other ancient Chinese philosophers. Moreover, it was intriguing just to scan through the timeline and let the names of pieces catch my eye, and to see wildly disparate pieces arrayed in chronological order, placed in temporal context. 


The Crowds in BLAST and The Crisis

As Peppis says in his article, the Vorticists "fight for a future in which Britannia rules not only waves, markets, and industry, but culture as well" (131).  Peppis's reading of BLAST II, specifically Lewis's "The Crowd Master," parallels a similar thematic presence regarding crowds in The Crisis.  "Lewis's text defines participation in a crowd as a state in which more primitive instincts subdue the promptings of reason," Peppis argues, and "participation in a crowd is an 'anesthetizing' of self that can inspire persons willingly to die for country" (111).  BLAST II blurs the strict boundaries between individual and community (crowd), which he established in BLAST I.  This Blast negotiates with community while trying to maintain the Vorticist's intellectual ivory tower.  In "Artists and the War," Lewis suggests, "The Public should not allow its men of art to die of starvation."  Here, he almost reaches out to the public for patronage.  He, then, distances himself from this implicit requests, somewhat passive-agressively, as he states, "But as the English Public lets its artists starve in peace time, there is really nothing to be said."  Peppis's argument and Lewis's "Artist in the War" reveal Lewis's, perhaps only momentary, contemplation of cooperatingpublicly.   


The June, 1918 issue of The Crisis similarly creates a tense negotiation between individual and public.  Du Bois positions the "Foreign" and "Ghetto" sections of "The Horizon" beside each other.  These news bulletins juxtapose foreign and domestic events for African Americans, creating a dialogue about race and war.  One item in the report recognizes Corporal V. E. Johns Lee for "conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty... Under heavy shell fire, he remained on duty at his post in a particularly exposed position."  Although the report mentions that Lee was with "the advanced troops" (or, the avant-garde), the article heightens the sense of his isolation by naming only him among the other members.

On the same page, in the "Ghetto" section, Dubois lists the lynchings that had taken place since the last recording.  These reports do not go into detail, but, I think, all lynchings carry connotations of mob madness/the crowd and individual isolation.  In Poplarville, Miss., "Claud Singleton, [was] hanged."  He "was accused of murdering a white man.  He had been sentenced to life imprisonment."  Du Bois intentionally positions these two sections in order to connect their thematic similarities.  In each report, an individual African American is surrounded by people.  The thematic work of these two reports subvert lynch mobs by making them synonymous with military (Prussian) aggression.      The presumably white lynch mob echoes the attack on Corporal Lee, thus making lynch mobs unpatriotic.  

WWI in The Crisis and Blast II


The most notable difference I observed between the treatment of World War I in BLAST II and The Crisis was the focus on the war itself in BLAST II versus the focus on the status of African-American soldiers in The Crisis. This dissimilarity manifests most evidently in the titling of each of the issues dedicated to the war; the July 1915 issue of BLAST II is the "War Number," while the June 1918 issue of The Crisis is the "Soldiers Number." Furthermore, the attitudes inherent in the two magazines vary. In BLAST II, the attitude toward the war is more detached and impersonal than it is in the June 1918 issue of The Crisis. To cite one example (many are available), in Wyndham Lewis's "A Super Krupp--Or War's End," he writes that "[a]ll men cannot, and never will be, 'philosophic men,'" so instead, they'll work as soldiers and politicians, and they might be "happier" that way (14). Lewis proceeds by instructing that readers "[d]o not let [Men of Thought], like Christian missionaries, spoil the savages all round [them]" (14). Lewis's designation of soldiers and politicians as "savages" is dramatically divergent from the treatment of soldiers and officers in the June 1918 The Crisis, in which soldiers and officers of the war are lauded throughout the issue.

Moreover, the cover of The Crisis is decorated with a patriotic and honorific image of a soldier, holding his rifle upright and standing atop a knoll. BLAST II's cover image, on the other hand, depicts a scene of defense.

Art: Robert Edmund Jones, "After the Poster for the Circle of Negro War Relief" Art: Wyndham Lewis, "Before Antwerp"

On that note, the treatment of war violence in The Crisis is, in general, more subdued than it is in BLAST-- although the closing pages do contain three different advertisements for life insurance:
Advertisement: Standard Life Insurance CompanyAdvertisement: Southern Aid Society of VirginiaAdvertisement: The North Carolina Mutual and Provident Association


Furthermore, in The Crisis, the war is treated as though it is anticipated to catalyze significant changes in the civil rights of African-Americans. The June 1918 issue contains a representational image of war freeing the African-American soldier from the shackles of work in the United States. "War. The Grim Emancipator"Earlier in the issue, in "The Black Soldier" section of the Editorials, W.E.B. Du Bois writes about the war as not only an end but "a Beginning," claiming that "[o]ut of this war will rise, too, an American Negro, with the right to vote and the right to work and the right to live without insult. These things may not and will not come at once; but they are written in the stars, and the first step toward them is victory for the armies of the Allies" (60). This anticipation that the war will bring improved civil rights extends back to the October 1914 issue of The Crisis, published before the United States even joined the war, in which a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People advertisement expresses hope for change in that it suggests that the war may bring people of varying races together in "a mutual understanding of human brotherhood" (291).


Although the tones of the two are different, both the June 1918 issue of The Crisis and BLAST II share in their treatment of Germany as a device for promoting the ideological goals associated with each magazine -- to advance the civil rights of African-Americans and to promote avant-garde art, respectively. In Lewis's Editorial to BLAST II, he equates Germany with Romantic poetry, which he disdains as outdated (5). Likewise, in a segment from the section entitled "The Looking Glass" from the June 1918 issue of The Crisis, Attorney General Gregory is quoted as having compared the brutality of lynch law to the brutality of the German army during an address to the American Bar Assocation's executive committee (71). Despite this, a look back to the October 1914 issue of The Crisis can reveal that the magazine did attach a sense of humanity to the Germans; "Of the Children of Peace" from the Editorial section of that issue speaks for the children of the war (289). The piece does not exclude the German children, as it describes children "whisper[ing] 'Mother,'" "cry[ing] 'Mama,'" and "sob[bing] 'Mütterchen'" (291).

Nationalism, Art, and the Great War in The Crisis and BLAST!

In looking at the June 1918 issue of The Crisis and its treatment of World War I in relation to BLAST! II , I was struck by the overt nationalism present in each magazine.  This nationalist tendency was especially striking given the dissenting tone of previous issues of each magazine.  Wyndham Lewis’s “Constantinople Our Star” emphatically states that “[a]ny German claim to World-Dominion would be ludicrous.  The modern Englishman is naturally better liked abroad than the modern German, apart from politics” (11).  Unlike the Blasts that targeted England in the previous issue, Lewis’s attack here is aligned with the rampant Germanophobia that Paul Peppis identifies in “‘Surrounded by a Multitude of Other Blasts’: Vorticism and the Great War” as central to the propaganda of the British government (98).  By comingling his critique of German aesthetics with the broader public discourse surrounding World War I, Wyndham Lewis imbues both the vorticist movement and his view of World War I with a nationalist tone.  In similar fashion, John D. Swain’s “A Lost Dialogue of Plato” exemplifies a nationalist allegiance while maintaining the primary purpose of The Crisis – critiquing the social structures that actively oppress African Americans.  The dialogue leads to the recognition that “those in authority, and whom you as a good citizen obey, have seen fit to choose this barbarian to be a captain in the fight; and it may be supposed that, being a Macedonian, he needs not blows but encouragement rather, that he may offer up his life for his friends rather than waste it for those who spit on him” (64).  While the implicit message in the dialogue is the recognition of the merit of African American soldiers’ service during World War I, Swain creates an ironic distance in his critique.  Unlike the pointed, journalistic critique of the racist views and actions underlying mistreatment of African Americans in “Segregation,” Swain’s piece veils this same critique, rendering it less direct.  In doing so, he implicitly exemplifies a nationalist mentality that seeks to align the primary goal of The Crisis with an unwavering support of America.

Although similar in their embrace of nationalist sentiments, The Crisis diverges from BLAST! II in its treatment of art’s relation to war.  In the editorial that opens BLAST! II, Lewis exclaims that “[w]e will not stop talking about Culture when the War ends!” (5, emphasis his).  By juxtaposing culture and war in this manner, Lewis creates an implicit connection between the two.  Furthermore, the exclamation makes clear that the discourse of aesthetics in BLAST! is expressly concerned with its relation to war through this alignment of culture and war.  This perceived interrelation between World War I and art is further expressed in the Vortex of Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, which Erin has astutely discussed elsewhere on this blog.  In direct contrast with BLAST!’s conception of war and literature, The Crisis depicts the two as mutually exclusive, giving more attention to war than art.  This relationship is most expressly stated in the difference in the obituaries of Major James Walker and Roscoe Jamison.  In direct contrast to the immense detail given to Major Walker (pictured to the left), the Personal section of The Crisis tersely explains that “Roscoe C. Jamison, the promising young Negro poet, is dead” (86).  The incongruous attention paid to the deaths of these two individuals – both to be held to some merited esteem – underscores both the perceived differentiation between art and World War I and the emphatic focus on war in this issue of The Crisis.

"For Valor:" Advertising in America, England, and France in WWI

By Samantha Friend, Ellen Guirl, and Michelle Parker

The early 1900s were a period of great cultural turmoil: between the variety of artistic, poetic, and literary movements, let alone the presence of WWI, the time between the turn of the century and the end of the war mark an era of rapid change. There is no better place to study these movements than through the literary magazines, especially the “little magazines” that became immensely popular at the time. One of the best ways to understand how these magazines related to the world surrounding them is through their advertisements – what better way to understand a culture than by analyzing its goods and services? In looking at those in modernist publication from America, England, and France, we came away with a wide range of results regarding how each country treated the war, a distinct turning point in European and history, in their advertisements. Essentially, by looking at different countries' approaches to advertising during wartime, we can gain a better understanding of how each country coped with The Great War, and on a deeper level, how it affected the national psyche as a whole.

Looking at Scribner’s Magazine between 1914 and 1916, it comes off that America really did not care that there was a war going on in Europe. The advertisement content that does mention the war seems to be just various book ads.  Then after a few travel ads stating that Hungary was a great place to visit and a trip to Munich was just what the doctor ordered for 1914, there came three advertisements that blatantly used war language and imagery.  Yet these advertisements were not your usual war bond ads, but three cereal ads.    

The first of these was for Shredded Wheat (Vol. 56, No. 5 1914).  This advertisement, instead of blatantly supporting the war, commented on food shortages and the rising price of certain food items.  The advertisement begins with in large bolded font the title “In Peace and in War” and then goes on to state:

-in Sickness and in Health- in Good Times and Bad Times- in all climes and in all seasons – for children and grown-ups -  the food that builds strong and sturdy bodies, fit for the day’s work or the day’s play, is…

This seems to be a play on the average marriage vows, yet considering that certain words are capitalized and others are left lower case it becomes obvious that there is a meaning to be taken from the ad itself.  After the exclamation above, the ad goes back to the title stating:

The one staple, universal breakfast cereal that sells at the same price throughout the civilized world.  War always furnishes an excuse for increasing the cost of living, but no dealer can raise the price of Shredded Wheat.  It is always the same in price and quality – contains more real nutriment, pound for pound, than meat or eggs and costs much less – is ready-cooked and ready-to-serve.

The advertisement itself instead of commenting on the war effort just comments on the food shortage, showing that, as stated above, America really did not feel the need to raise awareness in their advertisements but instead felt the need to almost complain about the food shortage, but at the same time use it to their advantage. 

This was not the only advertisement from Shredded Wheat that had a war tone to it.  Another advertisement found in Scribner’s Magazine (Vol. 57, No. 1 1915) a year later has as a title “On the Firing Line” which seems to parallel both a “front line” imagry and then also a firing squad.  The advertisement itself just depicts a group of people working and states:

The man or woman who accomplishes anything in business or in the home must be on the firing line.  Keeping at the front in any department of human activity calls for a good brain and muscular energy, and these must come from the foods you eat.

The only thing that seems out of the ordinary are the uses of “firing line” and “front” in this description.  The rest of the advertisement just focuses on the ability of Shredded Wheat to help build strong bodies, which could be used as a method of creating soldiers, but more explains just health advantages.  The rest of the advertisement also just explains what Shredded Wheat is:

Contains all the body-building material in the whole wheat grain prepared in a digestible form – a natural, elemental food that builds healthy tissue, sound bone and good brain.

Neither of these advertisements come close to the Grape Nuts ad found in Scribner’s Magazine (Vol. 57, No. 4 1915).  The title of this advertisement states “For Valor” and then straight underneath sits three war badges.  The first is titled the “Victoria Cross of England,” the next is the “Legion of Honor of France” and the third is the “Iron Cross of Germany”.  This imagery comes across as a bit extreme, considering Grape Nuts is a cereal and not some form of ammunition or medical supply or vehicle.  The text underneath the various badges then goes back to the title idea and states:

Deeds of Valor come from men of sturdy strength and active brain… builds stout bodies and keen minds…. “There’s a Reason”

This advertisement seems a bit different than most due to the fact that instead of paragraphs of text, there is just this one, simple, straight to the point sentence that seems to invoke a sense of strength yet false honor.  Considering the United States had still not joined the war, this advertisement seems to think that they would care about the “valor” of the countries involved.  But, the addition of “There’s a Reason” and then the small “Made in the U.S.A” seems to contrast or make the above medals seem not as important.  It could be said that this advertisement instead of embracing the war effort is actually making fun of it.  But that also seems to be just a waste of advertisement space for something that was changing Europe forever.   It’s not possible today to go back and find out why Grape Nuts decided to run this advertisement, at the time they could have truly thought that this was the best possible way of embracing the war, or showing that the war was as meaningless as cereal itself.  

All three of these advertisements seem to be a bit extreme, but that must be since today it would be impossible to really find this obvious of war references.  Just think of grabbing a box of Lucky Charms and on the front Lucky is dressed in the uniform of a soldier stating “There’s a reason you can never catch me lucky charms.”  Scribner’s Magazine is a magazine that was published and printed for the masses.  It is filled with advertisements of varying degree.  Many are for books, some are for schools or cars, but out of all of them it is the breakfast cereal advertisements that try to make a comment on the war.  

Its not surprising that the attitude towards war on display in the American magazines is very different from that of their European counterparts. Even the little magazines, known for expressing views outside the mainstream, displayed the American attitude of isolationism. In the May 1917 issue of The Crisis there is an ad on the first page of  the magazine advertising for memberships in the NAACP and subscriptions to The Crisis.  While this ad is a consistent presence in the magazine, this ad has a noticeable new element to it. In a large, mostly empty space in the center of the ad, it says “The fight for 1917 is to be against DISFRANCHISEMENT and JIM CROW CARS. If this is your fight, join and support us.”

Its clear that the war has finally become a concern for everyday Americans. Instead of embracing and encouraging this attitude, this ad attempts to quell it so that the readership can focus on issues that the magazine believes to be more relevant to their lives. This attitude is one that stays consistent in the magazine. The same ad is presented in the next issue, with the central text changed to say, “A time of National Crisis must be a time of redoubled effort and vigilance if the Negro is to advance his status during the war as the women of England and the oppressed masses of Russia have advanced theirs. The N.A.A.C.P. never needed your support more than now.” Here the war is more directly addressed than in the previous issue, demonstrating again that entering the war has become more of a concern for Americans than it was when the war first started. This represents an interesting twist on the isolationist theme. It draws on an implied knowledge of international political movements in order to reemphasize the importance of a local focus. In terms of the isolationist policy, The Crisis is fairly typical. By this time, however, the mass market magazines have largely embraced the war as a marketing concept. The Crisis, being specifically dedicated to an ideal, only invokes war imagery when it becomes inescapable.

For obvious reasons, the British magazines were much more involved with the war during this period. The New Age has no advertising, war related or not. It seems unlikely that a magazine with such incendiary rhetoric would be able to attract the kind of advertising seen in Scribner’s, even if they wanted to. In the April 6th, 1916 issue the Notes of the Week column on the first page demonstrates this attitude.


“Things are as they are, and no mere opinion about them alters them one way or the other. That we were persuaded at the outset of the war that the Germans would not or could not fight may be recalled by a glance at the Press of those days; but our then pessimism has had no effect upon the facts themselves; for here we are, after eighteen months of war, still engaged in the struggle which everybody thought would long ago have been over.” This is the antithesis of mass marketing, encouraging critical analysis of the war instead of blind patriotism. The fact that it is coming from those who are closely connected with the effects of the war serves to further highlight the ludicrous nature of the American advertising technique of glorifying the war in order to sell breakfast cereal.

France's modernist movement, as we have seen, has a different approach to its subject matter in text, a difference which carries over into magazines' structures as well. Two of the most prominent (or more specifically, two of the only) French Dada magazines still publishing during WWI were L'Élan and Dada. The International Dada Archive has 10 editions of L'Élan between April 1915 and December 1916/January 1917, and three of Dada between July 1915 and December 1918. In perusing them, I came to a number of interesting conclusions regarding advertisement in French wartime magazines. Firstly, I noticed a distinct lack of traditional advertisement, such as products, books, and the like that appeared in their English counterparts. Secondly, the type of advertisement that was there was either to promote the magazine itself or its direct associates, or was more closely associated with general cultural manifestos, especially those involving anti-German sentiment.

What I noticed immediately is that L'Élan is very much void of advertisements such as those of Scribner's. Instead of full pages displaying specific products or services, L'Élan concerns itself with much larger cultural issues. For example, in No. 2 (1 May 1915) there is a plea made to Camille Saint-Saëns, a beloved contemporary composer, regarding the music performed at his Sunday concerts. Titled “Le Cornet à Bouquin,” or “The Cornetto,” (though this could be interpreted in a number of different ways), this 2-paragraph, full-page article translates to:

It is announced to us that Mr. Saint-Saëns has just discovered an American Beethoven and that the Sunday concerts would be devoted mainly to him from now on, which would have the double and priceless advantage to attract the sympathies of a neutral nation and to replace the old Beethoven, with deplorable ancestry.

We dare however to acknowledge our fear that this new passion (or infatuation, depending on how you read it) does not leave sufficient place in the programs for the music of our venerated master Saint-Saëns. We could not in any case rent (or praise?) too much patriotic disinterest of this one that would be however indicated to keep the first place in these sorrowful moments.

Again, this is not exactly an advertisement. However, by comparing it with, for example, The Little Review's advertisement for a violin recital by David Hochstein from the November 1915 publication of The Little Review (, one can definitely see the “little magazines'” interest and investment in the arts outside of literature, poetry, and art. This is important to note, as national identity here is closely tied in with the arts, hence the importance of replacing a German composer. What these varied interests showcase is the magazine's relationship to the war raging around it by displaying the same patriotic attitude which exists inside the public, as well as artistic, communities; the editors of L'Élan obviously felt the need to remind both France and Saint-Saëns himself that the music that should be most heard by the French should itself be French. The author does add, however, that currying the political favor of a then-potential ally in the United States by playing an American's music is indeed in France's best interest, even in an alliance beginning with musical tutelage. This reinforces the message that Wyndham Lewis was attempting to convey in his “Editorial” from BLAST's “War Number”: that the arts play a significant role in national dialogue during wartime. L'Élan No. 3 (15 May 1915), like No. 2, is almost entirely lacking in ads as well. One of the only actual advertisements made in this release is for the magazine itself, but unlike its cohorts, it is not for a yearly subscription to give as a gift. Instead, it is an advertisement for a special edition of the magazine printed on Japanese paper – it is more of a collector's item than anything else.

Dada unfortunately has a significantly smaller catalog to work from in the IDA, but what it lacks in number it makes up in substance. Actually, it is also almost entirely void of traditional advertisements, so perhaps it is what the magazine does not say that is of interest. The way Dada chose to place its advertisements is true to the absurd and random nature of the movement itself. The advertisements themselves are very subtle; the first actual example I came across was on page 4:

On the page containing Pierre Reverdy's poetry, there is a small, diagonal section in the blank space that states the names of some of his poetry collections and their prices; the text running down the right side gives another poem and its price as well. A number of the other pages featuring different poets follow the same formula, though in a number of typographical variations. Instead of featuring these ads in large text and with images, they are tucked away in small text, going in different directions from the text itself. I had to hunt through the pages to find these ads, and it is interesting to see the difference in how prevalent ads are in French magazines, as opposed to its British and American counterparts.

However, what I found most interesting about Dada is that certain numbers, such as No. 3 (December 1918), have dual publications; one contains submissions from German authors, whereas the other replaces these submissions with those of French authors. The reasoning behind this was so that the magazine was able to pass through French censors, and so the separate edition become known as the “International Edition.” This title is particularly notable, as it implies a certain unity of nations under the banner of the Dada movement, including Germany. Though this publication originates from Zurich, Switzerland and is entirely in French, it also gives France the appearance of a certain inward-looking perspective, given their (understandable) complete rejection of all things German. The edition on the IDA is entirely in French, and I was unfortunately unable to find any with the German content to make a comparison. However, that Dada was able to transcend the hatred of the war in propagating a literary movement involving a coalition of different countries, let alone their success in doing so, is truly impressive.

Maybe it was due to the trenches marring the French landscape, and war invading every day of the French conscience, that they distanced themselves from references to this reality in their advertisements. Since it was part of the fabric of every day life, it seems as if the French did not feel the need to call further attention to its existence. The U.S., on the other hand, did not engage in this conflict until 1917 and did not have three years of death preceding. This may lend to the more casual use of war imagery, such as the strangely close association in Scribner's of war imagery and cereal advertisements. Ultimately, what we came away with after this endeavor was a sense of the immense impact WWI had on every facet of life. Its effects are innumerable, but for the purposes of this class, these all seem to relate to the obscure and often inconsistent use of advertisements within the early 1900s.