Considerations in La Nouvelle Revue Française

In the first issue of La Nouvelle Revue Française, Jean Schlumberger provides a mission statement. Unlike Wyndham Lewis' Manifesto, Schlumberger's is much quieter, and taken from a position of a sort of intellectual responsibility. He begins by pointing out that artists are faced with two considerations: those of taste or fashion, which are continually changing, but continually renewing over the course of centuries; and the more difficult considerations essentiels, in which the artist ("dans les moments les plus décisifs de sa vie) compares their own work to the canonical pantheon of past "masters," and utilize past rubrics of artistic "genius."

Schlumberger says that the difficulty of these questions draws together artists who agree on a certain set of answers, into literary groups. The strength of these groups, however, is dependent on agreement over a body of work which they recognize to represent their artistic ideals. So when something new comes along, like free verse for example, there must be a break from the old rules in order to allow new standards for new forms of expression.

This piece echoes much of our discussion from Tuesday, exemplifying the French spirit of renewal. Unlike the British sentiment to build on past traditions, Schlumberger asks the reader of this magazine to be open to styles and methods that will at first seem unfamiliar. In true French fashion, the piece ends insisting conservation of the purity of the French language, even while new stylistic choices are being made. Thus, even the break from tradition is coupled with some sense of cultural superiority. Conversely, the British possess this same sense of tradition in the recognition of past works of art, while the English language is constantly manipulated to fit the fashion of the time-period.

British French relations in "The New Age"

In looking for an example of British-French relations before the war, I decided to look through "The New Age" to find an example.  "The New Age" is a British literary magazine, and it specifically describes at the top that it focusses on politics, literature and art.  The fact that it includes politics gave me the sense that there would be some reference to the relationship with the French.  The pre-war issue that I found is from May 16, 1907.  In browsing through the issue I found that there are references to political topics such as problems with the Irish and liberals and adult suffrage.  The section that I found a reference to the French in was not in the content produced by the magazine, but in the Correspondence section.  This is like a "Letter to the Editor" section of a paper and it gives readers an opportunity to express their views.  It may refer to what "The New Age" included in an issue; negative or positive.

The letter that I read through was called "Imperial Federation," and it was signed by M.D. Eder on page 47.  The author brings up the idea that Imperial Federation is a stage towards International Federation.  The writer questions whether this would cause a barrier that joins already existant ones.  The letter specifically states, "Why seek to gather the Canadians to ourselves sooner than the French, the Australian before the German ? (Eder, 47).  This implies that there is no rush to implement anything before other powerful countries of this time have, including France.  One of the reasons that he mentions that would make it ideal is that there is common language and literature, and that acts as a sufficient reason.  I take this to mean that because the British speak the same language as the colonists means that they should attempt to gain control.

The author goes on to give examples of why just a communiry spirit would not be a good enough reason enough on its own.  He says, "When a Frenchman is as keen as myself about the discoveries of Pastor Gregor Mendel, I have found a friend" (Eder, 47).  This implies that the general similarity in interest would make action more understandable.  It also mentions what would consist of a friendship with the French. 

The overall British-French relationship that I gathered through using context clues in this letter to "The New Age," is that British readers are looking towards the Fench actions in determining what their country should do itself.  This can be seen in the way that the writer wrote that if the French haven't done it yet, why should they?  There was also a small anecdote included that showed how a friendship with a Frenchman could be formed and how that relates to the topic of Imperial Federation.


Marat and Robespierre

 So as I think someone might have said before me, I really had no idea how to approach finding content for this blog post. It seems a bit too over-arching to make statements about pre-war French-British relations from one piece. I did, however, find an interesting piece in The New Age from an English-American author Francis Grierson. He wrote an essay on two historical figures from the French Revolution. I'm not entirely clear as to the timing or reason for the piece (placed in a British journal in 1909, about French revolutionists of the late 18th century, from an American author). It was unique, however, that I found both the style of the piece as well as the "intent" of it interesting. 

The first thing that struck me about the essay was the way it was written--in a fictional, "epic" tone that glorified two specific characters rather than their environment. There was a tone of fate and extreme levels of drama in it. Marat and Robespierre are portrayed as heroes of sorts. Oddly enough, the characters are glorified whereas the situation doesn't seem to be. I'm not sure of its significance, but I considered the need for revolution against the monarchy to not be elevated in a journal of a monarchist society. 


"Dadaism is a diagnosis of a disease of the French mind"

In approaching this assignment, I decided to concentrate on Anglo-American writers and their criticism of current modernist literature.  In my search, I was drawn to T.S. Eliot's "The Lesson of Baudelaire" from the first issue of The Tyro.  Immediately, my eyes alighted on the phrase, "Dadaism is a diagnosis of a disease of the French mind" (Eliot, The Tyro Vol 1, p. 3).  When I began reading the whole article, I expected a full denouncement of the dadaist movement, primarily because of his use of the word "disease" to describe it.  Also, I expected him to maintain that the movement has no bearing on English literature at all.  While proven wrong in my first assumption, the second was somewhat qualified by the rest of the article.  Eliot believes that dadaism cannot be directly applied to London.  However, what I wasn't expecting was Eliot's claim that French readers and writers are not only better read in French literature than English readers and writers, but better read in literature in general.  And, additionally, he notes that English writers are too conscious of themselves to seriously consider any other type of literature, a notion with which he seems to disagree, given the nature of the article.  I can only assume that he considers himself an exception to the rule (unless he places himself in a different category, since he's technically American?).

As someone who emulated Baudelaire in his own poetry, Eliot compares both modernist French Literature and English Literature as a whole to the author's work.  While he seems to believe that dadaism is a part of modernism that does not apply to English literature, he does believe it should evaluated.  However, his evaluation is qualified, contingent on whether or not it can be viewed as a "moral criticism" of French life.  He then presents what he calls "The lesson of Baudelaire," which, briefly stated, is the idea that poetry should address moral issues and wrestle with the implications of good and evil.  This, he appears to believe, is something that French authors have attempted to do for centuries, and which Baudelaire perfected.   

At the end of his article, he adds a phrase in french, "Vous, hypocrite lecteur..."  I surmised that this was probably calling the reader a hypocrite, perhaps because he anticipated an English reader or poet might believe he is being unfairly criticised.

Impressions: The Rare Book Room

I was truly looking forward to seeing Wyndham Lewis' "Manifesto-I" after having viewed the PDF on the MJP (SRY 4 the acronyms...). The pages were just as I imagined: hard-stock almost like construction paper, thick enough to absorb the ink of the block lettering. Now I can truly imagine what it would have been like to hold such a large "little magazine" in one's hand. If I had had something like that at the time in which it was released, I would have thought it some kind of monumental book, and probably would have read it as a coherent text, each section contributing to a unified whole. 

But what I didn't expect to hold in my hand was the copy of "The Little Review" from 1920 which contained the serialization of James Joyce's Ulysses. After a brief review of the section headings (not printed in the version I read), I realized that the magazine which I held in my hands contained the very part that caused the book to be banned in the U.S. and sparked the obscenity trial in which the ban was over-ruled. At that moment, I really felt what it was to hold a piece of history in my hands, and for some reason I couldn't help but read over the (subliminally) "obscene" part, just to make sure I had absorbed it. Also very interesting in this issue was the photo of a young Joyce glued to the cover, one which I had never seen, coming off the page because the adhesive had worn out. If this was a part of the original issue, this exemplifies some of the printing techniques of the time, in which the photo is literally slapped on to the page with some glue. Overall, the Rare Book Room was a great experience. 

Rare Book Library presentation.

Dr. Erwing's presentation was impressive and the effort that go along such imp. project is owesome. But, some words mentionned might slightly raise our attention to a higher level of responsability that goes beyond preserving and scanning books; such as "institution's interest, institution's direction, selective process, no develope;ent collection policy, need to grow the collection within a historical context" and finally and in particular when the process of selection is focused on what work of a precise writter, the talk turned to the "the freedom of speech", "limit" and "something is damaging".I put these words together and I see it primordial to preserve a comprehensive global story of the History -that is better explained through les petites histoires- and not part of it, a so called -choosen part- based on which the next generations will build their own History. I beleive it is imp. to go through it all -even opposites- in order to establish our knowledge with the avalanche of books and journals that "beyond action and reaction we would establish ourselves" to the rest of the manifesto in Blast  

Of course our library is one of the best, Because, it is an impossible mission for one organization single handed to acheive such Moral responsability towards future scholars and intellectuals centuries later. I have no knowledge that one National/International library preserve the whole little stories of our present history for everyone everywhere at his/her finger free. If such digital library exists, pls. post us the url.



Bibliographic coding in the first issue of "The New Age"

Bibliographic coding, according to George Borstein, is connected to Walter Benjamin's concept of  "aura." He uses it to mean distinguishing features of a work (page layout, typeface, etc) that emphasize the work's "presence in time and space." In the first issue of "The New Age," the reader is struck by its similarity in appearance to a newspaper: black sarif font on white paper, with headlines in larger, bold print. There is no cover, per se. The front page includes the title of the publication, the date, its cost, and on the upper right and left corners, placed around the title that calls itself  "an independent socialist review of politics, literature and art," we find small boxed advertisements - one for coffee, another for bread.

There is no table of contents; rather, the first two pages consist of a lengthy article addressing politics, wherein the sections are headlined with subheadings in bold capital letters (one assumes these are written by one or both of the editors, as there is no signature). On the third page, we find letters to the editor (again reminiscent of this type of section in a newspaper). Throughout this issue, scattered among the poetry, reviews, and essays, we find advertisements for lectures, books, and food.

The nature of what is advertised seems to underscore the socialist angle of the magazine - everyday food staples along with intellectual writings and lectures, the simple needs of an everyday socialist. Furthermore, the likeness of the magazine to a newspaper adds a perception of authority to what is said within its pages. The first two pages basically lay out an analysis of the current political situation in Britain, providing a framework through which the reader can then view the contents following it. The impression of authority given by its layout makes the reader less inclined to question the merits of what is being said within, and more inclined to allow the editors and authors published in "The New Age" to set the terms of the debate.

Bibliographic Coding

The Bornstein reading discusses different theories of construction in a literary context.  Not only is there a linguistic code which focusses on the words and content of the pieces, but there is also a bibliographic code.  Bibliographic code refers to how the content is presented to the reader.  Borstein describes that this could be spacing, cover design, or page layout.  It affects how the words are delivered the reader and how they are interpreted. For example, if a piece is spaced in a certain way, that affects how it is read.  The spaces can cause the reader to pause in certain places and that puts emphasis on certain words and phrases.  Page layout can also affect how literature is processed by an audience.  If it is designed in a certain way the eye may jump across the page in different patterns of visual flow charts. 

For example on page 10 in issue No. 1 of "Blast," there is a different font used down the page.  This emphasizes the words in different ways.  Having the words capitalized or bolded makes certain phrases stand out compared to others.  For example, the word automobilism is bolded and capitalized.  This draws extra attention to it and makes what follows after it comparable to a definition.


Post 1- Bibliographic Coding in BLAST

I've chosen to look at the first issue of BLAST and just by looking at the cover, I've realized how different the bibliographic coding for the journal is looking at it on the web is versus having the copy that was scanned to produce this digital copy. The front cover and the back cover are two entirely different shades of pink. The front is very faded, and it almost looks like it started out a red-brown color. Compared to the bright and shocking pink of the back cover, I would never have guessed that the two started out the same exact color. It makes me wonder what exactly happened to the front cover, and perhaps having the physical copy for bibliographic coding would lend me more of an idea. It almost looks as though something spilled on the front cover. The binding is held together by what looks like old masking tape and both covers have rips and the pages are curled under. In the sense of experiencing the wear and age of the document, I scarcely connect with it through the digital version whereas I think I'd get a strong sense of it if I had the actual physical copy in my hands. 

Delving into the text, I notice that the printing of the letters and images in the issue appears to be inexact. For example, there are spots where there are extra dots of black on the page, like on a page towards the beginning where it says MANIFESTO. and there is an image of what looks like a jousting weapon. Around the image, there are imperfections in the printing which I only noticed because I looked carefully for them and zoomed into the document from its default view on my computer. Likewise, scrolling two pages down to the page that begins BLAST First (from politeness) ENGLAND, I notice that just by looking at the letters A on the page and comparing them to one another, some of them have the triangle part on the top filled in while others are open to reveal white paper. There are also some spots in the black letters where white dots show, revealing more imperfections in the printing. This bibliographic coding is difficult to obtain and understand in the digitized versions. Had I not been looking closely, I would not have noticed it. Browsing through digitized versions is a very different experience from looking at a physical copy of something. It certainly changes the bibliographic coding as Borenstein mentioned when comparing King Lear originals to reprints. I wasn't so convinced that the experience would be very different from looking at a scanned version of BLAST and a physical copy, but now that I've examined it closer, I've come to a different conclusion. I'm sure this will be further evident after visiting the special collections to see a copy in person. 

Differences in the BLAST issues

 I couldn't help but notice the initial visual experience that exists, even in an archived copy, of the first issue of BLAST. Lewis's obsession with pure, abstract energy is evident in his own vorticist artwork, the typeface of "Manifesto--I," and the cover design itself, whose offset block-letter "BLAST" screams off the hot-pink backdrop that seems to glow from its own radiating energy. 

However, much of Lewis' energy seems lost after the excitement of the first issue, both in content and the somber subject of the War itself. In his editorial, Lewis recognizes the effect of the war on Europe, but insists that "art should be fresher for the period of restraint." And although this issue has most of the same contributors, the lack of physical content alone shows their exasperated inability to keep up with the previous issue (with the exception of Lewis, who contributes a greater portion) but also in the more traditional typeface, and especially in the cover. Gaudier-Brzeska says it best in his "Vortex": "IT WOULD BE FOLLY TO SEEK ARTISTIC EMOTIONS AMID THESE LITTLE WORKS OF OURS." The drama in Europe, as this issue's contrast to the last shows, is not playing out on the artistic stage, but on the battlefield. As a result, BLAST's second issue cannot mimic the energy of the first, but instead adapts the aura of the era.

Bibliographic Coding in BLAST

In Bornstein’s piece we learn that “the bibliographic code corresponds to the aura and, like it, points to the work’s ‘presence in time and space’”. He states that bibliographic code is found the page layout, book design, the typeface, and the boarder of the page.  Within a work’s bibliographic code a reader is able to see the “aura” of the piece.  In Wyndham Lewis’s BLAST No. 1 the bibliographic coding speaks loudly.  That is that when readers look at the magazine they can’t help but notice the bold, bright color of the cover, with the word BLAST clearing standing out.  Lewis is already drawing readers to his work before they even open the cover.

On page 59 the piece titled ENEMY OF THE STAIRS. has an interesting form of bibliographic coding.  The piece starts of in all capital letters and a little over half way down the page the text switches back regular capitalization and a smaller font.  He seems to be describing two different characters and is creating a higher level of importance for his first character by using all caps.  After reading about the first “manish” character, readers are less enthused by the “appalling gamin” character because of the way the description is laid out on the page. 

Bibliographic coding can completely transform the way that readers look at a certain work. By changing the text and capitalizing certain words readers are able to gain a sense of what the author thinks we should stress more importance on and in doing so get a greater read of the story.


Welcome to our course website! Normally I post this video as an introduction to modernism, but since our primary source just created an introductory video, I'll embed that instead. You should feel free to write a comment on this post to introduce yourself to the rest of the group.

Be sure to look through this site to see the kinds of work that students have done in the past. We'll be adding to the body of knowlege they've started to create as part of the process of highlighting and analyzing materials for the emergent field of modern periodical studies.

Welcome To the Course

It was great meeting all of you today, and thanks for taking this course. When you have a chance, please log in to the course website with the username and password that was emailed to you individually. There are two things you should do right away:

  1. Change your password to something you'll remember by clicking on the "My account" link (in the right sidebar below your name) and then on the Edit tab. Enter a new password and click on the Save button.
  2. Write a comment to this post letting me know that you were able to log in and change your password. Click on the "Add new comment" link below.

We'll cover more website basics in our computer lab meeting on Wednesday. See you tomorrow!

For Monday 7/14; Tech Workshop Requests

I just want to say that yesterday's presentations did a good job of bringing out the conflicts and contradictions in your respective aspects of The New Age. There was some good analysis as well as the exposure of some potentially fruitful points of research. For Monday, we'll hear from the two groups that still need to present and will then discuss Ardis, Morrisson and Bornstein. This will wrap up our study of The New Age and bring us into the wider world of avant-garde magazines and cultures. Our reading for Thursday 7/17 will consist solely of what you bring to the table in your readings of the other magazines at the MJP.

You'll also notice that I've changed the Descriptive Bibliography assignment to remove the presentations and place a focus on what values your magazine ascribes to the literary. This will form the background of our discussion on Thursday. Much information might be found in the MJP’s introduction to the journal you’re studying, in the Essays section, and in the Biographies area. Those interested in further research can check out the Books and Periodicals Database. I've added more practical information to the assignment page, so please do read it over again.

Also, since some of you expressed interest in technology workshops, use the comments here to (1) make requests, (2) indicate your availability, and (3) say whether you primarily use a Mac or a PC. I'll find out what facilities we can use at Brooklyn and will set something up.

Have a great weekend!