Work War Write New

(I was initially attempting to write a paragraph for each word before realizing this would be much too lengthy, so…here’s a bit of a front-heavy response.)

The Crisis: education, work, war

The Egoist: organic, real, time, new (also a curious absence of war?)

The Little Review: new, light, write/r

One of first word that I was struck by while once more reading the June 1918 edition of The Crisis was "college", and additionally from this, "university", "teacher", "teaching", and similar words focused upon the overarching topic of education. This wasn't simply because the edition begins with almost an overabundance of advertisements for schools that one might attend, but because, after this initial introduction to the topic (which is perhaps indicative of, or else an argument for, the African American of 1918 being deeply concerned with education), the edition returns to the subject again and again throughout. From the relation of a most "astonishing occurrence" of the mistreated schoolteacher, Miss M. C. Euell (who actually relates her own experience in this narration--pretty cool) to the subtle inclusion of teacher's salaries as determined by the Board of Education in Louisville, Kentucky which notes that, while some "White teachers (boys)" can receive a salary of up to $2,000, with many variations depending upon the class being taught, "For colored teachers there is only one class — Class A , the salary for which is $1,200 maximum, $1,000 minimum" (88). Such a prevalence for discussion not only of possibilities for education but of actual schools and schoolteachers at work seems an intentional pushback against the obvious ignorance expressed by one "learned editor" (as wryly described by one covering the story for The Crisis) who declares that he considers "the white man as just a little lower than the angels, and the Negro as just a little higher than the brutes" (61). Although the response by the writer for The Crisis' is rather scathingly splendid: "To this we simply add, in paraphrase: the more we see of angels the more we like brutes" (61), it is remarkable to me that, in many instances, the writers and editors of The Crisis are often content to allow the irrational cruelty of racism speak for itself. “Look about this volume alone”, The Crisis seems to argue, “and see on every page unquestionable evidence of the ignorance permeating such rhetoric.” 

Another word I noticed throughout The Crisis was persistent the topic of work, both explicitly advocated or simply assumed as necessary and valuable. Much of the work mentioned is either political or physical in nature, such as The Horizon section, and the many entries in the Personal column which details the many new jobs or promotions given to African Americans. From the frequent discussions (or even straight up lists) concerning what has been done, what has been attempted, and what has yet to be done, I feel a firm insistence that there is much work to do, and the reader ought to add their own efforts to the mix, too. Intricately connected to this topic of “work” in 1918 is, of course, the presence of war. Although a fixation upon the soldier’s experience is certainly unsurprising for a June 1918 wartime edition, I was quite struck by some of the pieces on WWI. Take the image on page 72, for instance (I tried to insert it but was unable). Although my first exposure to The Crisis was during our course last year on the topic of WWI, upon first reading this I don’t think I quite realized just how late in the war this volume was published, and what that meant to much writing. I have since been used to thinking that by June 1918 the fervor or idealism surrounding the war would likely have faded to bitterness in the face of wartime loss and atrocity, and so was rather surprised to see this image, centered upon an African American figure who is being freed from the economic slavery by a stern, sword wielding man simply named “The War” and titled “War, the Grim Emancipator”, featured without irony. This caused me to wonder if perhaps even by this moment the American perception of the war had not yet reached the desperation experienced in Europe?

Turning to these editions of The Egoist and The Little Review, I begin with a query: there is quite a notable absence of the topic of war in this June 1918 volume of The Egoist. I’m curious why this might be so, when surely the entire world is thinking of little else? I thought at first that perhaps literary/philosophy journals preferred to keep to themselves, but then the war is present in some material of The Little Review. As for the words above, organic and real I noticed immediately, since they are repeated rather frequently in the manifesto presented at the start of volume, and both are often linked to the concept of time (since “Time is organic movement” (79). I’m not always able to follow the philosophical arguments made here in entirety, but it is clear that it is of chief concern to The Egoist that the “modern” writer attempts to systematically yet philosophically (and even poetically, with the “lion and the lamb” simile, etc, and through literature), work through the nature of human existence and, in doing so, human art.

Additionally, the term new (also often italicized!) crops up again and again in The Egoist. This reminds me, of course, of Ezra Pound’s oft-quoted idiom. Although Dr. Laird rather effectively argued in our Modernism class last year that a translation closer to his intent would be something akin to a charge to “Renovate yourself” (which has some distinct differences from an all-encompassing order to “Make it new”), I am in any case used to associating the call to novelty and the new as intrinsically linked to Modernist thought, and so it was fun to actually recognize those philosophical threads. This word is also used in The Little Review to a lesser extent but to (perhaps) greater effect when the cover asserts of the journal itself that “The philosophical articles which The Egoist publishes, by presenting the subject-matter of metaphysics in a form which admits of logical treatment […] is investing that commonest but laxest of literary forms—the novel (as written in English)—with a new destiny and a new meaning.” Wow! I jest, but there is something interesting in considering (as we’ve already been doing, I realize) how one’s impression of a work is altered depending upon the format in which one first meets said work. Even though some of the stated goals within both The Egoist and The Little Review seem a bit lofty and conceited to me, what I notice first and foremost is their earnest commitment to reading, printing and valuing newly written stories, accounts, poems, etc., that are often being told in unusual ways.