Based on our readings of Vorticism this week, and how much we are able to glean from the artwork of magazines, I wanted to put that together to analyze and dissect my thoughts on the art movement this week. The cover is black and white, which emphasizes the boldness of the art. The Vorticist artists in Blast seem to be at war with everyone, much like the World War at the time. Instead of bombs and guns, though, they are in a war of art and ideas. They also seem to be obsessed with mixing art and politics. The blood of the war, much like ink, has seeped into the pages of their second magazine. War is chaos, and part of the image is buildings that are thrown into disarray, as if some will come out of the ground and some will grow under the soldier’s feet. The chaos is also lobbed with a “Blast” as the Vorticists fight with literature to make their movement dominant in the public sphere. The black and white is in lines so harsh and sharp they make me think of barbed wire that will cut a person if they touch it with bare hands. Words can hurt people too, if thrown carelessly or used as a weapon in politics for gaining power and crushing enemies. The Vorticists wanted to be on top even if it meant pushing other art movements underneath themselves, possibly to destroy them, but most definitely to demean them to uplift themselves. The men in the picture are almost unrecognizable as humans, with angular and flat features. Their eyes are as black as the death they saw and dealt out. The guns almost melt into their arms, and they become extensions of the human body. The Vorticists use the pen in the same way to fight for their ideals which become extensions of themselves. The battle of wills and conflict raged on in more ways than just the trenches.
“Indissoluble Matrimony” by Rebecca West, contained within the first edition of Blast June 1914, presents a woman with qualities both fiercely feminine and fiercely fierce. Her husband, on the other hand, presents with qualities some might call feminine. In this representation, West subverts traditional marital roles and plays out an image of the modern woman. One who might, given the opportunity, do such things as speak at a socialist gathering. Mrs. Silverton is presented as a sexual creature, with poor table-setting skills, who is smart with money and a strong swimmer. In every category, she is described with hyperbolic-level adjectives: a woman who mourns “savage[ly]”, who eats her bread with “crushing honey”, and is “over-sexed” (101; 99; 102 (Ironically—or not ironically—savagery is also listed in Blast I’s Manifesto: “The artist of the modern movement is a savage” ).
Mr. Silverton, on the other hand, is a disappointed eater (though does not appear intent on helping with meal prep), jealous, and weak. In his jealousy, he describes himself as feeling “torture[d]” by Evadne and feeling as though he could break down in “hysterical sobs” (103). This sort of hysteria is often attributed to overreactive women, not men. The tables feel intentionally turned here, with the woman in the relationship having the emotional control. Silverton also does not have control over his wife’s body: “Bodies like his do not kill bodies like hers” which he describes as being “lusty” (117). Brains like his also don’t kill brains like hers, however, as in his attempt to gas poison the two of them, he realizes that Evadne has turned off the main line to prevent leaks, a “thrifty habit” of hers (117). The scene ends with a recognition that he will always be hers, whether he likes it or not, and describes how she “caressed him with warm arms” as the final line of the piece (117). This protective act also communicates a sort of masculine energy, as she demonstrates a sort of possession. Evadne is sharper witted, stronger built, and more emotionally stable than her husband. In this piece, West presents an image of the vivacious modern woman and what men will be reduced down to (one who might “sneeze exhaustingly…from physical distress” after a fight and swim) if they do not rise to the occasion and recognize, support, the woman they have, not the table maid they think they want. This piece, published just one month before the start of World War I, feels before its time. Though it is well within the date range for the suffragette movement, it precedes the social advancement women would experience during the first world war.
After reading Keene’s piece and looking at the June 1918 issue of “The Crisis,” I was interested in large separation between the official information and information that “The Crisis” is putting forward alongside it. The “Editorial” section of this edition of “The Crisis” especially shows how the editors were doing their best to help with the war effort, but they were also showing their criticisms about the lack of information that was either being presented by the official propaganda, or the lack of information that African Americans had in general. “Our First Great Tragedy of the War” on page 60 draws attention to this separation – the government asking for the help of those they had beaten down and had not given the same education that had been give to white Americans. J. B. Watson even starts his editorial section with, “I have seen thousands of Negro men received into the provisional army of the United States who cannot read or write” (p. 60). In starting his section in this way Watson starts a conversation regarding the lack of information that was given to African Americans, and this continues through his entire letter as he talks about the lack of geographical knowledge, the lack of knowledge on what the war was about, and even a certain expectation of how long the war would take. All of this is then placed in direct relation with Watson’s ending statement, “We are glad they have been called. All honor to these black men that ‘they are making a fine showing,’ as reads the report from every camp,” (p. 60). Even with the lack of information that was given during the recruitment process, the African American community were still glad to have been called on – they were still glad that they were able to do this for this for their country. However, there was also a sense that while they were honored to have been called on and that they were able to represent their country in such a way, they were still well aware of what they were lacking as citizens. The education that Watson discusses, Jim Crow laws still being active, and the over-all feeling that they were limited as citizens were all talking points within “The Crisis.”
In Jennifer Keene's "Images of Racial Pride: African American Propaganda Posters in the First World War," Keene writes about the efforts to appeal war propaganda to black Americans. It is interesting, then, to consider the reaction of The Crisis to such efforts, when the February 1913 issue of The Crisis states, "Our record for clean advertising is history. No exaggerated statements or impossible propositions are permitted in our columns" (198). Of course, the publishers of The Crisis are referring to advertisements--but what are some forms of propaganda if not advertisements? More on this, The Crisis itself seems to define its response to war fairly neatly in the October 1914 issue: "Then the Lord of Hosts moved out of the temple and looked down upon the earth. As they have sowed So shall they reap. Let it go on, He said" (297). In short, The Crisis pre-US entry into World War I seems to indicate a lack of interest--or rather, as Daniel mentions in his blog post, the perception of the war as justice.
How then does The Crisis so radically change its views?
As discussed in class, the war promised opportunity for black advancement. Keene writes, "Many saw the war as a chance to advance the civil rights agenda. Here was an opportunity to prove their metal in battle and demosntrate both the key role they played in the economy and their willingness to sacrifice and die to ensure their nation's security" (207). The Crisis matches this view in later years, such as in their June 1918 issue. The cover of the "Soldiers Number" seems to have several layers to its intention. The first and most obvious layer is in prominently displaying a black man in a soldier's uniform. There can be no doubt that The Crisis is situating its viewership right in the midst of this American crisis. The man is a soldier, and his sacrfices are the same as his white countrymen. There is also the red, white, and blue colors--another symbol of claiming full citizenship as Americans.
In this view of equality, then, it might be argued that The Crisis does not view its own endorsement of the war as "impossible propositions." That would, in itself, be an anti-thesis to The Crisis--even as the seeming endorsement of war might not.
Humans are visual. Written content can go far, but written content paired with intentional image selection can go so much further. The Crisis leverages this idea to the same end with different means in their October 1914 issue and June 1918 issues. The thesis, if you will, of the October 1914 issue is: Don’t fight somebody else’s war when there’s war enough at home. To emphasize this point, the issue shows dozens of images of children (such as the cover image). These images are emphasized further with language like, “cry, little children, cry and cry loud and soon, for until you and the Mothers speak, the men of the world bend stupid and crazed beneath the burden of hate and death. Behold, this old and awful world is but one slaughter-pen, one tale of innocent blood and senseless hate and strife” (290). There is a direct call to avoid war and fight on the homefront for racial justice. The June 1918 issue has the same heart to it, with its thesis being: Fight the war at home by proving yourself in the war abroad. Rather than images of children, it features images of strong, upright soldiers (as demonstrated by the cover image). Language such as, “Out of this war will rise… 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). The heart of the argument is the same as the one in 1914: achieve racial equality, but the means by which to achieve that has shifted from abstinence of foreign battle to engagement. It is worth noting that, though the cover images of these two issues have wildly different content (one a sweet, somber little girl making direct eye contact and one a broad-shouldered, iron-backed soldier), they have a similar color scheme. Both of these covers, unlike the covers of other issues of The Crisis are red. When discussing war, it is not a far stretch to associate the color red with the color blood. What this communicates is the idea that bloodshed is inevitable, whether the war is at home or abroad. However, the images tied with the color scheme seems to simultaneously suggest that while there is blood, there is purpose.
The readings for this week had a common thread of the overarching effect of the war on the media and the lives of its citizens. The readings for this week pointed out the corollary that exists between the media and the community. Writers like Dora Marsden, Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield, and Ezra Pound to name a few; all call out the doublespeak of the coverage of the war that has led to an age of confusion and misinformation. The job of writers during this time is comparable to the soldiers on the front lines, without truth, there is no just cause, but rather a cause that has no rationale, and therefore it has no backing, no common cause to mobilize behind. The English specifically, is the focus of this firestorm of confusion and misinformation. In the Views and Comments section in the September 15, 1914 issue of The Egoist, Dora Marsden draws explicit attention to the false narrative that is being spewed to the English population by Lord Roseberry.
“Why we English fight: Lord Roseberry: “To maintain the sanctity of international law in Europe.” The international law presumably “should be” immutable and eternal: that, at least, is what the noble Lord means to fob off on the encouragingly wooly minds of his hearers” (344).
Marsden’s words speak to the rhetoric of the war that is withholding the truth from its citizens. The reality of the horror of the war is hidden from citizens under the guise of “a great and holy cause” (The Egoist September 15, 1914 pg. 343). Upon reading this issue, I was reminded of last Thursday’s class discussion of the illusion of hypnotism of the masses that is a symptom of the Modernist world. The misinformation of the cause of the great war that is being spread such as the example of Lord Roseberry that I quote above is an example of that illusion of hypnotism. The citizens of England specifically are being brainwashed by the false news they receive. They have been tricked into believing that the war they are fighting is for a moral cause and they should have no qualms about sending their children off to combat. Again, pointing to Dora Marsden’s piece, Views and Comments in the September 15, 1914 issue of The Egoist, “Law remains such an excellent conjuring property with the crowd: “Mumbo jumbo, Law and Mesopotamia” can always be relied upon to work all the tricks, and cloak all the spoof” (344). Within the literal combat of the war, there is another war that is being waged of misinformation and false narratives. Perhaps women and children suffer the most from this misinformation. In the piece, A Sound of Bleating by Josephine Wright this victimization is emphasized. This article struck me because it is one of the only articles in this issue that talks explicitly about the negative effect of war on women and children. There are many articles written by women that speak about the negative effects of the war, but never specifically pertaining to women and children. An excerpt that stood out to me:
“The Suffragists of the United States call upon the women of the world to rise in protest against this unspeakable wrong and to show war-crazed men that between the contending armies there stand thousands of women and children who are the innocent victims of men’s unbridled ambitions; that under the lives, the hopes, the happiness of countless women whose rights have been ignored, whose homes have been blighted, and whose honor will be sacrificed...
This is not a national issue; it involves all humanity” (The Egoist pg. 358).
This article coincided with the cover and content of the October 1914 Children’s issue of The Crisis. The pages of that issue are filled with children, children who are alone, who have lost their parents to the horrors of war. These 2 magazines, The Egoist (September 15, 1914) and the Children’s issue of The Crisis (October 1914) prove that the involuntary loss of innocence along with the pervasive spreading of misinformation and false narratives are both symptoms of war that affect more than the soldiers on the front lines.
Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach (1846) characterizes the young Hegelian idealists as basically bratty youngsters whose overeducation permitted their total dismissal of the actual material conditions of Germany. “The boasting of these philosophical commentators,” writes Marx, “only mirrors the wretchedness of the real conditions of Germany” (29). Hegel, and, later, Stirner and Feuerbach fail to get free of God and the state, because God and the state are not ideas. They are material conditions which arise out of specific improvements in the modes of material production of a given economy. The state emerges not out of God, but out of the competition of global market, which emerges out of new modes of material production. German philosophy can only treat ideas, and if the philosophy is bad, as Stirner’s was, then the “wretched material conditions of Germany are too blame. Who then can blame Stirner for, in his doctrine of Egoism, flipping wretchedness into virtue?
In Marsden’s magazine The Egoist, Marsden picks up the fight of ideas. That issue 1.18 of The Egoist begins with an essay on anarchism—a fantasy which can only ever exist in ideas alone—isn’t surprising. The success of the manifesto often depends on the brazenness of its ideas, not the pragmatism of its claims. That Marsden is writing about Egoism and Anarchism in the middle of the First World War is, however, surprising. On the surface, Egoism is built to destabilize nationhood and to challenge the The First World War as a crisis of nation as idea. Nations, to Marsden, are only ideas. But one can think them away. Revolution, Marx taunts, “is supposed to have taken place in the realm of pure thought” (30). The First World War was resoundingly not an idea. It killed several key modernist artists. Ideas did not kill them. The First World War proves Marx right. “Men must be in a position to live in order to ‘make history,’” he writes (49). The modernists who survived left behind, in large part, the idealism of the manifesto, as it appears in the little magazines, in order to become properly political. Joyce, for example, leaves the eternally thinking Stephen Dedalus to embrace the Jewish Leopold Bloom who is built to navigate the actual material conditions of prejudice, suicide, and marriage because of his dogged pragmatism. It is in this way the coterie of idealists that formed the corpus of literary modernism grew up.
Something I kept looking for when I first started studying "The Children's" issue of Crisis was an explanation for the baby photos. That didn't readily appear, but it didn't take too long to see the pattern once I started paying attention to the order of the content itself.
This issue starts off normally, but there is a noticeable amount of content dedicated to fathers, mothers, and the protection and advancement of children. Pages 275-276 for example feature two small stories about two notably charitable people known for their contributions to child protection and advancement. The "Lynching" article in the "Opinions" portion on pages 279-281 includes a story about a Black man enacting justice on a 17-year-old white boy for raping his 12-year-old niece: "If the boy had been arrested and tried in any white man's court it is not conceivable that he would have been sent to pay the penalty for his crime and his death should be looked upon as a blessing to the community which he lived" (281). "Mothers in Council" on page 285 is a story about a group of philanthropic and altruistic Black women centering their efforts around kindergartens, orphanages, and nurseries. By now, these articles have created a kind of domestic safe place for children, offering protection, education, justice, and nurturing.
"Of the Children of Peace" on page 289 starts out promising enough with the story-time framework of the first paragraph, but it transforms into something grotesque and uncomfortable. Coupled with real-life photos of babies, toddlers, and children, these harsh depictions where children are stripped from their protectors grasp to be "strangled and crushed and maimed and murdered" contrast greatly the previous stories (289-290). I wonder if this, along with the terrifying wartime backdrop both in the story and in real life, amounts to an effect the exact opposite of what Keene's article explains. While the propaganda mentioned in Keene's article sought to reconcile the government and black communities in the interest of war efforts, this issue relies less on propaganda--less on the war for that matter--and more on the importance of protecting children and what happens to them when their fathers/guardians/providers are sent off to fight and die in a war, leaving their families behind to ration cornmeal, skip meals, and work 6 days a week in the name of patriotism.
In ordering this issue the way that it was, the impact of “Of the Children of Peace” is made all the more spine-chilling with the presence of baby photos and the previously established ‘safe space’ that was ultimately compromised.
Amidst the photos of black children that populate this issue, there is content that clearly articulates (at multiple points) revenge fantasies. While most didn’t actually happen (are just that, “fantasies”), the first instance of this genre is in the “Crime” section of the “Along the Color Line” column (273)—the same story appears in the opinion section as well (280-1). The opinion section sees this event as “one variation on this grim theme” of people not being tried/convicted for lynching murders. The irony here is that a black man killed the white man who (allegedly) raped a 12yo girl while accompanied with the sheriff. The author points out that the jury considered this as “justifiable homicide,” ending with the idea that justice wouldn’t have been achieved through the court system—i.e. the white man would have been acquitted or not been “sent to pay for the penalty for his crime.”
This current event joins a slew of other instances of revenge fantasies. The “Letter Box” houses a scenario in which a Samson-like figure with “a modern machine gun” confronts the “Knighthood of Dixie” (probably a KKK affiliate) (301). The NAACP advertisement (291) and the “Of the Children of Peace” editorial seem to envision a world in which children, the next generation, overthrow the yoke of racial injustice/prejudice. This is not a violent revenge fantasy, but still something that will “explode the ‘might makes right’ tradition” and end “organized murder of men”—both national war efforts and racial violence epitomized by state-sanctioned lynching. And, in “Goodwilla” and “Our Baby Pictures” children are discussed in terms of war: “soldiers” and “units” designed to “reach the maximum efficiency and service.” Their cause? A potential world in which the black community achieves the most reasonable, yet perhaps the ultimate, revenge: to end racial injustice and achieve equality.
The last instance of a revenge fantasy can be seen in the “War” article (296). A child prays to the “Lord of Hosts” asking to “Give me back my father!” The Lord decides to answer the “prayers of the mothers and the children” by ending war and giving back the ability to connect to the earth. The seraphim, the messenger, answers that certain people are thanking the “Lord of Battle” for his actions that “revenged” them. Ethiopia is rejoicing; “joy lights [the] face” of the middle easterner; and Haitians (?) “weep” for the fallen yet “rise and give praise that the string is broken and the feet are still in the house of their enemy.” Hearing this news, the Lord of Hosts pulls back into inaction, leaving the prayers of mothers and children unanswered, reasoning that “As they have sown/ So shall they reap./ Let it go on.” In this vision of war, the irony is that justice means letting war continue. This idea, made more concrete in the next article, is that colonization started a competition for foreign lands which was fueled/funded by slavery and the slave trade which led to the accumulation of wealth over which the European powers are fighting (299-300). These are the seeds that sowed WWI, according to the author. This issue of the The Crisis, then, is advocating for war—at the very least understanding the death and destruction it has wrought as deserved, perhaps as an ultimate justice for the world.
Mon. Feb 2nd 1914
This magazine is properly named, but maybe a little too on the nose. In man, machines, and progress, the author mentions several interesting points about progress and machines. He’s frustrated that clinging to names means having an identity that is hard to dispel. This can give a person or technology immunity from being questioned. He’s more for the individualist/collectivist depending upon his mood or paragraph. He equates physical labor as a bad thing, and that only the lower class engages in it. I can understand why he would be against abusive conditions at work or long hours, but not hard work itself.
He questions how to escape this class. He argues that people should not be tools of technology but use it for their own ends. This sounds nice, not having practical application is the necessity for this to happen. Technology then was in its infancy, and not so easy for the average person to use. He makes the assertion that some people are always born as tools, which is kind of hard to swallow, it is a very pessimistic view. There were many more abusive working conditions at this time, and it would have been a good place to mention it and voice to place for a change. I do appreciate it when he mentions alternatives, but he does not suggest any himself. On page 4B he insults the lower classes and says they can’t create a system to free themselves and would not appreciate it even if they had one, which is contradictory to what he was talking about before. He seems to have a very low opinion of people in poverty. It’s always easy to point out a problem, but it’s not so easy to come up with solutions. In a lot of these articles, I pick up an arrogance and a snideness that bothers me sometimes. These people are highly intelligent but can be incredibly harsh.