Margaret Anderson

Irony and Anarchy in TLR

The decline of terms regarding anarchism is due to Margaret Anderson's determination to no longer "preach" the tenets of anarchy.  She confesses that she was naive to think anarchism could actually happen and iniate social changes.  This confession sounds defeated, but I don't think she loses her interest in anarchism.  

Anderson's sense of anarchism superficially change to something more similar to individualism.  For her, anarchy was always about individual enlightenment and improvement.  She never lost sight of the need for this and often explains this same concept whenever she talks about being bored with conventionalities.  Her early attachment to anarchy was due to anarchy's close relationship to individuality and non-conformity.  She later develops her own understanding of individuality that continues the same concept that first drew her to anarchism.  Emma Goldman, a famous anarchist, first attracted Anderson to anarchism and their relationship eventually fell apart as Anderson became more focused on "Art," and more specifically form.  

This article, which actually predates the first link, claims that anarchism and art are connected by the same motivating principles.  Although she later admits that anarchism cannot instigate change, it seems that she has just transfered her energies from propagandizing anarchism to focusing on the aesthetic form that anarchy should take: irony.  This explains the n-gram of The Little Review that visualizes the decline of anarchy-terms and the rise, or at least spikes, in the usage of irony.

The Words Trend graph provides an easy way to locate the uses of irony that occur in these two spikes.  I would have to read these volumes to find their specific usage and context, but that's much easier than reading through the entire run start to finish.  I had read most of The Little Review on the MJP for another class and chose these terms to see how accurately they matched my own thesis.  I marked TLR 4.4 as the last issue to really approach anarchy directly and Voyant tools seems to agree.  

I will need to read these volumes that mention irony more than the others to get a better sense of how TLR envisioned the political registers of this aesthetic.    

Anarchy and Irony in TLR

I've been working on a project in which I'm hoping to show how Margaret Anderson used irony as an aesthetic register of her anarchism.  I am trying to show that she contributed significantly to the type of difficult irony in modernism, the kind that cannot be resolved without sacrificing another equally plausible perspective.  One example of this difficult irony is the conclusion of The Waste Land​, where nobody is really sure if it rains or not.  I used Voyant tools to show me what it could find when I searched the terms "anarchism, anarchy, anarchist, irony, and ironic."  


This "Word Trends" graph shows that anarchism faded from the magazine's interests just as irony began to spike.  The spike in "irony" wasn't sustained, though.  There are a few possibilities for this, I think.  Irony doesn't explicitly call itself out, which means it would evade Voyant tools's word search.  So, it's possible that irony had a constant presence throughout TLR's run.  The spike, however, suggests that some writers were talking about it explicitly perhaps as a form.  I think the drop in anarchy-terms and the two spikes in irony-terms shows the magazine shifting its interest from explicit politics to form, an implicitly anarchic form.  


This visual collator graph shows that "ironic" only connects to "anarchist" through "tale."  This isn't necessarily a strong bond, but it does show at least some connection between anarchy, irony, and (fictional) writing.  Also, some of the clusters reveal more connections.  Irony connects to style, ironic connects to experiment, anarchists connects to rhetoric, and anarchism connects to art. Anarchy links with laughter, which might relate to Wyndham Lewis's concept of "corrosive laughter."  I think this quick analysis of TLR begins to develop some of the links between anarchy and irony.

Post WWI Censorship


I browsed postwar issues of The Little Review looking, at first, to see if any anti-government sentiments similar to those that I had observed in earlier issues could still be found, despite the passing of the Espionage Act of 1917. Instead, I found content specifically concerned with the Espionage Act and censorship. The first item I decided to add to the timeline is from the June 1919 issue, and it explains the censoring of the May 1919 issue. This item, like the second item I chose, adopts a snarky tone in its regard for government censorship. The second item is a poem from the May 1919 issue of The Little Review, which was deemed "unmailable" by the United States Postal Service -- probably for various reasons. The third item is an advertisement from the June 1919 issue that raised questions about censorship for me.

This announcement was printed in the front matter of the June 1919 issue of The Little Review. It informs readers that the May 1919 issue of the magazine was "declared unmailable," or censored, by the "P.O. Department" and snidely suggests that readers ought to "[a]sk the Government to reimburse [them] for [their] loss":

Although this announcement is not as directly anti-government as some former content from TLR, I am curious about how the tone passed USPS censorship. Furthermore, at the bottom of the page, Havelock Ellis is quoted, commenting on the usefulness of The Little Review. I am wondering why Ellis, specifically, was quoted here and whether the inclusion of a quotation by him may have anything to do with the reasons for which the May issue was banned, given that he was known for studying human sexuality.

Another item of interest that jabs at postal service censorship is Elsa Baroness von Freytag-Loringhoven's poem, "King Adam," from the May 1919 issue:

The poem is one of a series of three (all by von Freytag Loringhoven) that are focused on the body. I chose to add it because of the asterisk/footnote that suggest that text has been cut out and "[d]onated to the censor" (73). Whether a deletion was actually made by either the author or The Little Review, I thought that this constituted a political remark worth noting, particularly since this poem is vulgar in connotation. Furthermore, the remainder of the issue contains additional content that was obviously censored and banned from distribution. 


I also noted an advertisement in the back of the June 1919 issue for "Three Important Books," one of which is a series of five one-act plays by Grover Theis, titled Numbers:

According to the advertisement, the content "confronts facts with such grim directness that a year ago, while the war was still being fought, it would have been impossible to publish the play." This advertisement and the other materials I found raised some questions for me: What would have constituted "obscenity" at this time? How would the U.S. Postal Service have determined whether an item in a magazine or a magazine itself was too "obscene" for distribution? Also, I chose not to add it to the timeline or discuss it at length, but why are two pages of William Carlos Williams's "Prologue" from the May 1919 issue printed on white paper (77-78), in contrast to the rest of the issue? Might this have anything to do with the censorship of the issue? 


The Little Review: Cover Layout and its Relation to Self-Marketing Strategy

Beginning in June 1917, just after Ezra Pound became the magazine’s foreign editor, the cover of The Little Review began to evolve from the layout it had featured to that date. From its inception in 1914 until June 1917, the cover of The Little Review was beige with a colored box at the top for the title, subtitle (“Literature Drama Music Art”), and Margaret Anderson’s name as Editor. Below was the date followed by the table of contents. The cover page of the June 1917 issue is much brighter: both the title information and content are encompassed in a large, vibrant orange rectangle, which creates a sense of greater unity between the magazine title, Anderson (now listed as “Publisher”), and the publication’s content. Due to Pound’s influence, the magazine’s title section also changes; beneath The Little Review is listed a new subtitle--“A Magazine of the Arts”--and motto--“Making No Compromise With the Public Taste” (which, as Scholes and Wulfman point out, establishes a deliberate contrast to Poetry’s slogan borrowed from Whitman, “To have great poets there must be great audiences too”). Issues of The Little Review from June through September 1917 feature this brighter table of contents and new slogan as its cover design.


 Beginning in October 1917, the cover design changes again. This time, the layout is much sparser than it had been in the past. The two-color rectangle/frame pattern transforms into a vibrant solid-color title page which features the magazine’s title and subtitle and the date of the issue. Anderson’s name and the table of contents are moved to the interior, and are found on the first right-hand content page. This content page also features the slogan “The Magazine that Is Read By Those Who Write the Others,” which accentuates the elitist literary attitude held of The Little Review and Pound in particular. The remainder of available issues on the Modernist Journals Project follow this final pattern for cover art, with some variations. The November 1917 issue, for example, features a solid orange cover with an illustration of a tiger and no printed date. And beginning in February 1918, with Pound’s essay “A Study of French Modern Poets,” the cover page begins to feature an article by a well-known author in the bottom left corner, where the date had been printed in previous issues. Tracking the development of the cover page (which functions as an ad for the magazine itself--providing information about the magazine's abstract position and the contents of the particular issue) over time illustrates the evolution of marketing strategy within a single magazine. Each of the material changes described above seems to be part of an attempt to modernize The Little Review, to develop its reputation as a leader in publishing elite modernist literature, and to sell more magazines by isolating (and thus accentuating) the names of famous contributors on the front cover.


War Commentary through Bibliographic Coding in The Little Review

In “How to Read a Page: Modernism and Material Textuality,” Bornstein suggests an analogous relationship between Benjamin’s idea of “aura” and a text’s bibliographic coding, or its material characteristics, which can range from page layout to typography to the physical materials used to the inclusion of notes. According to Bornstein, both “aura” and bibliographic coding are significant because they reflect “the presence of the work of art in time and space”: in other words, they historicize the text (Bornstein 6).

Various features in the April 1917 issue of The Little Review emphasize its historicity in relation to World War I. On page 4 of the publication there is a piece by Margaret C. Anderson, the magazine’s editor, entitled “The War.” The heading at the top of the page corresponds to the page headings throughout the magazine--page number is printed in the corner; The Little Review, small above the piece’s title (“The War”) and the author’s name. What makes the piece most interesting is that below the standard heading, the page is completely blank except for the bracketed and italicized comment “[We will probably be suppressed for this.],” printed at the bottom right (4). The war (or “The War”) appears almost by necessity in the magazine, as a dominant contemporary social and political subject. The starkness of the page, in comparison to the rest of the magazine, which is covered in traditional-looking text, suggests a commentary on the meaninglessness of the war effort. The statement at the bottom can also be read as a critique of the American social climate, in which anti-war sentiment was discouraged as unpatriotic.

In another section of the magazine, “The Vers Libre Contest,” Anderson publishes a selection of poems from a recent competition and includes commentary by the judges (William Carlos Williams was one) and herself. The piece includes poems recognized by the judges as well as a representation of some of the many “really bad poems” that were submitted (11). Two of the poems published were written about soldiers. Anderson praises the first of these two, “The Soldiers” (which describes the “Hell[ish]” quality of war), though it was not included in the judges’ “Honourable Mentions” (20-21). The final poem, “A Mother’s Sacrifice,” is prefaced by an anticipatory jab at the beginning of the section calling it “involuntarily humorous” (11) and by a later note: “This last one may be printed as a sample of the rest of the contest, and speaks for itself. It came with a little note saying ‘I hope it may win one of the prizes of the contest, being original free verse and very patriotic’” (23). Anderson’s inclusion of the poet’s commentary (calling the poem “very patriotic”) emphasizes this thematic aspect of the work, above its heavy rhyme and sing-song quality, as a primary cause for ridicule.

It is important to note that the U.S. declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917. Particularly considering that fact, the magazine’s composition--the nearly-blank piece “The War,” the contrasting commentary offered by the two explicitly war-related poems from the contest, and a back-cover advertisement for “A war novel that is different” (ie, one which posits war as “a stupid return for education”)--creates a narrative of disillusionment with the war.

Opening of The Little Review

The first poem published in The Little Review, "Five Japanese Prints" is preceded both by a letter from John Galswothy and an announcement from the editor, Margaret C. Anderson. Both of these serve to establish a tone for the journal from scratch.

In the letter Galworthy says, "...I did seem to notice in America that there was a good deal of space and not much time: and that without too much danger of becoming 'Yogis' people might perhaps sit down a little longer in front of things that they seemed to do. But I noticed too a great energy and hope..."(p 3) This solidifies that the intended audience of the journal is an American one. By leading the journal with a poem entitled "Five Japanese Prints", it seems that the journal will not be limited by its perceived American audience. Instead, it  will encourage a broad scope of subjects. The idea of spending  time is also seen in the structure and formatting of the poem. Each section of the poem takes up a different amount of space, with the fourth section featuring stanzas longer than each of the previous ones. Each individual stanza is a part of the larger poem, and even though they begin to represent more  of a time commitment as the poem goes on, their connection to each other validates the reader's commitment to the text. We can see just from context the importance of the poem, even before looking into the poem itself.

Bibliographic Coding and Juvenile Rebellion

In the April 1914 issue of The Little Review (just one issue into the journal's 15-year existence) editor Margaret Anderson laments the loss of another small, innovative journal, The Germ. In what appears to be a letter from the editor (even a manifesto of sorts), she goes on to describe its founders as “a league of unquiet and ambitious young spirits, bent upon making a fresh start on their own.” (p.1) Seeing only four issues, The Germ’s work was “as simple and spontaneous as children; in their criticism they were rhetorical.” (p.2) Anderson, whose own journal had been deemed “juvenile” by critics, ultimately compares The Little Review to The Germ, ending with,“Our sympathy is somehow very strongly with the spontaneity, whatever dark juvenile crimes it may be guilty of.” (p.2)


Anderson’s letter is directly followed by the first poem of the issue, aptly titled “Rebellion” by George Soule. (It’s interesting to note that George Soule may well be a pseudonym. George Soule was also a well-known, young, indentured servant aboard the Mayflower's voyage to the New World. He survived the first winter when over half the pilgrims died from disease and exposure.)


The placement of this poem is, of course, no accident. In Soule’s closing quintain the speaker exclaims, “Try out life’s worth—and burst all cages!” (p.3) It is the voice of the “juvenile” or spontaneous child identifiable in The Germ. Anderson, in only her second issue, wants there to be no confusion for her reader—the content of The Little Review will be cage-busting, rebellious, and even juvenile if need be.  Like Soule, it will outlive others like it.