The innovations of literary modernism occurred in the early Twentieth-Century climate of intellectual, social, and technological upheaval. In that period of fervent cultural conflict, avant-garde magazines constituted the primary publishing forum for what was new in art and thought. Their pages juxtaposed poems with graphical advertisements from local businesses or other magazines; fiction installments appeared, perhaps, between social-critical essays and artistic manifestos; reader correspondence critiqued various elements of a publication’s output. Those elements, in being editorially arranged, constitute a peculiar kind of unity that puts into conversation various genres and even conflicting ideologies in the same bound series.
Most of the works now in the modernist canon—such as H.D.’s imagist poems and James Joyce’s Ulysses—were produced by that networked and discursive magazine culture. Jason Harding reminds us that “every contribution to intellectual debate is conditioned by the means of its dissemination and reception: literary journalism is not a private speculation in a vacuum, rather an intervention in an ongoing cultural conversation, most immediately a dialogue with a shifting set of interlocking periodical structures and networks” (1).
This course will actively examine some of the periodicals, along with the works they contain, as they participate in this exciting culture of innovation. We will consider how social conditions influenced the media of dissemination among various networks of writers, arriving at a nuanced sense of how avant-garde literary cultures related to each other and to the mass print market. In that way, we will seek to arrive at an understanding of British and American literary modernism based on how its authors read and wrote, and how these networks interacted. As a corollary, Harding’s statement will serve as a premise to examine the medium of our own reading and writing as it is performed on the course website.