Le Petit Journal des Refusees

Le Petit Journal des Refusees

Le Petit Journal des Refusées only published one issue in 1896. Published in an age of anxiety and discontent, Le Petit Journal presents a prototype of the modernist visual and literary art of the World War I era, which would start less than twenty years after the magazine's publicaton. The description of Le Petit Journal in the Modernist Journals archive describes the magazine as giving "hints of Dada and Surrealism before these modes of modernism actually developed" -- a similar sentiment ties Le Petit Journal and post-WWI movements, such as Dadaism, together. The publication, it seems, would appeal to a very niche group - as evidenced by the fact the magazine never published more than one issue.

Page sixteen of Le Petit Journal des Refusées displays an advertisement advertising the engraving services of Union Photo Eng. Co. in San Francisco. It is on a leftside page, across from The Ghost of A Flea. This doesn't seem to hold any significance in and of itself, however these are the last two pages of this particular copy of the magazine. Nowhere else in the magazine is there an advertisement, and the address of the company advertised is the same as the publication's. While this is clearly a modern publication, the existence and placement of this advertisement displays an obvious self-awareness which matches up with a post-modern ethos. The entire magazine seems to be self-aware, and clearly pokes at contemporary publications by including the name of the magazine by which each piece was refused. The ad, in that case, seems to poke fun at advertisements of the time.

Maintenant nous permettre de discuter la musique et la poésie...

At the turn of the twentieth century, the world of classical music, much like the rest of the literary and artistic world, was undergoing revolutionary change in regard to what was considered tasteful and acceptable. If one were to review a basic timeline of the eras in classical music, they would note the very separate structure in these various eras, as well as particular attributes pertaining to the music of those respective times. To the connoisseur of classical music, identifying a musical work's historical origin is as simple as listening to a piece. When considering classcial music as has been made known to the world, France was never particularly prominent in producing great works until towards the end of the classical era. Its height is certainly noted to be within the Romantic era, while music's earlier roots held stronger in the Italian and Germanic world. The Romantic era spread throughout Europe in the nineteenth century, giving France the breadth to exhibit its emotional musical granduer; therefore, it is no suprise that when music began to break from its classically structured roots into the contemporary, experimental realm, France was once of the first nations to take the leap. French composer Claude Debussy is renown today for his contributions to the world of music. A genuine iconoclast, he was one of the first composers to break from the necessity of establishing melody: heresy to the old pricks at the conservatoire! Debussy had, in his mind, a genuis that not only revolutionized the world of music, but the critical way musicians use their inner ear. By experimenting with cacophany and the structure behind music theory, what was generally and concensually considered pleasing to the ear, Debussy delved into the world of music. His concern and attention to overtone was inclusive in his delicate musical practice. (An overtone is a rung tone that is audible as a result of the virbrations produced from a chord that is played; however the overtone is not actually struck on the instrument.) In 1911, amidst the most unusual of Debussy's experimental phase, towards the end of his life, Rollo H. Meyers, published an essay, "The Art of Claude Debussy" in Rythym. It is quite obvious that Meyers' held Debussy in high regard as a misunderstood genius conveying his radical "hip new beat" to the old conservative musical ear. Debussy's work in the field today has claimed its place in it's genre, along with the works of his progressive thinking contemporaries such as Maurice Ravel and Cesar Franck. His career marks the turn of the century and rite to the Impressionist, Modern music throne. Composers such as Britten and Vaughn- Williams in Britain were next to follow, and a great deal of what is know of American music by composers like Barber, Menotti, and Copland fall under this field; however, none of these said composers truly made their statement until after World War I. In the Germanic world? Contemporary music did not hit Germany or Vienna until even later! France led this race for certain.

In skimming these documents, it is more than apparent that French appears quite often as a device. Often the title or an epigraph can be found in French, while the rest of the piece is in English. It seems as though France, or the French language held an enigmatic claim to the bohemian tendencies of the Modernist movement. Le Petit Journal des Refusees carries it in its title, as do many poems and works in the archives. "Abstrosophy" is a short poem that discusses present struggle in its progressive state towards becoming reward; what seems negative now, will be held positive forthcoming, (much like the rebuke of Debussy's compositions). The first half of the poem is somewhat illegible, if it is even part of the poem. It seems to be set to music, but the staff it is written on is artistically curvy, and askew, which seems relevant to the ideas expressed about Debussy's musical style, although one would never attempt to read music off such a staff, so it must be meant as an artistic statement about music. Written in 1896, years before the article on Debussy's later work, the poem seems to foreshadow the Modernist movement that is coming. The word abstrosophy is not in the dictionary, nor is it a French word. I am plagued with curiosity: what does abstrosophy mean?

Three Items from Two Decades


"Portrait de Nos Contemperains," a drawing published in 1896, in Le Petite Journal des Refusees, stands in stark contrast with two other items from the year 1911: an advertisement for Sapolio household cleaner from The Century Magazine, and a poem titled "The Year That's Awa.'" The first shows hints of nonsensical humor, and absurd artwork which was the precursor to Dadaism and Surrealism. The second two examples show much more conventional thoughts just as Modernism was coming into existence--the advertisement gives a sense of women's cultural roles at the time of publication, and the poem shows sentiments that are still alive and well today, but using language that is outdated.

The portrait from 1896, drawn by the editor of the magazine, James Marrion, is fractured by a crucifix shaped object which could also be seen as a window pane, with each square showing one fourth of a man's figure. The result is a pieced together portrait of apparently an anonymous person, and it is surrounded by skeletons which appear to embrace one another vaguely. One skeleton has a long tail, but appears human otherwise. The advertisement for soap is certainly dated when it says that one can not keep house without both a "bright woman" and Sapolio. The statement that the soap will be the "willing servant of bright women everywhere" could suggest the more modern idea of women's empowerment, but is still an old-fashioned idea. The poem published in the first month of the new year in 1911 is surrounded by a few ornamental drawing details, and uses language that might be that of the casual male of the time and place, London, in which it was published. The word soldier is spelled "sodger." The speaker pays honor to the women loved in the past year, and the overall tone is one of a drinking song, or poem in this case, with the line, "Here's to the year that's awa'/ We will drink it in song and in sma'..."

The "Little" Journal that Could: Burgess's Le Petit Journal des Refusees

Interesting note: As part of our research, Miriam emailed Robert Scholes to ask a few questions about Le Petit Journal de Refusees. He in turn directed us to Brad Evans, an associate professor at Rutgers who specializes in nineteenth and early twentieth-century American literature.  We wanted to share his response with all of you since it confirms many of the suppositions we made in our discussion of the journal last week. Email exchange between Cecilia and Brad Evans