Investigating the New Age

During the coming week we'll focus on how to read the "coherent and mixed genres" of an avant-garde magazine, The New Age, hosted at the Modernist Journals Project (MJP). For Monday (7/7), you'll read two articles by Sean Latham and Robert Scholes that contextualize the need within modernist studies to archive and research the magazines in which so many of the canonical works initially appeared. The general introduction to The New Age, written by Scholes and the MJP staff, highlights the practices and beliefs of editor A.R. Orage, exposing some of the literary values that characterize early British modernism. As you perform your own reading of The New Age, pay particular attention to what values are expressed by the various contributors and the various genres that appear within its pages. Do they share much in common with each other, or with Orage? Or do you perhaps detect a lot of dissonance? How do they "speak" to one another?

Remember: this week is about enhancing our close reading techniques of "mutually constitutive discourses," so absolutely everything literary and non-literary is fair game for analysis, including advertisements, reader correspondence, book reviews, and page layout (as we discussed re: Wyndham Lewis and Blast on the first day of class). 

If you have time, please use the comments beneath this post to jot down some of your observations in the magazine or to make connections to any of the scholarly readings we've looked at so far. This will help us generate some good material for discussion on Monday.

Have a great holiday!


The language in "New Age" is largely formal and refined; you get the sense that the writing here is for the purpose of promoting a set of ideals in line with the free-thinking and independent spirit of the journal's founders. It is heavy writing, targeting a literary audience with a broad spectrum of thoughts and ideas. 

For example, in an review of the musical "The Mikado" (by Gilbert and Sullivan) entitled "Pooh Bah as Censor"  the writer makes clear that he does not agree with the censorship of this particular material, which was seen by critics, in its tone and plot line, as mocking the government and peoples of Japan. Rather, "Mikado" is simply meant to entertain audiences and not to provoke a political or social agenda either way; its censorship is unnecessary and signals a sea change of darker implications to come.

What is striking in this particular piece is the fact that any censorship of the freedom of speech is seen as an attack on all freedoms. When we view this article in terms of its place in history and the encroachment on human rights that lit the fires for the "Great War", the writing here is to say the least quite prescient. These are just a few of the random thoughts I had as I scanned the pages...I'll be curious to see what everyone else felt/thought as they plumbed the archives!

--Maribel Vega

Thanks for this observation, Maribel. In which issue did you find that review?

 Hi Prof. Drouin,

The review is in Vol. 1, No. 2, Pg. 18 and the issue is dated May 9, 1907. 

Thank you,

Maribel Vega

In the General Introduction to the New Age 1907-1922 there was a statement made about Orage's policy (or lack thereof) when it came to the views on politics, literature and the arts which he inlcuded in the magazine. I found that the quote really seemed to embody the voice of New Age.

"...had no policy, either in politics or the arts, except a concern for improving the human condition and a belief that art and literature - especially in their modern forms - had a role to play in achieving this."

As I looked through variousVolumes of the magazine, I found that much of what was included had a sense of urgency to it.  There was a drive to get ideas out to the readers in order to further enlighten and elucidate.  I found this particular interesting as a large portion of subscribers were teachers.  These were people who were being culled from the middle class to become educators to the masses and they were turning to the New Age as a source to teach them about the viewpoints of the elite on politics, literature and the arts.