Little Magazine Collection


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We are so into this short video by Elizabeth Cornell, which documents her research at the Little Magazine Collection here at UW-Madison Libraries in the summer of 2009, and shows the truly wide reverberations of the little magazines across those bedfellows of art, literature, and science. 

Her research, "The Einstein Phenomenon and 1920s Little Magazines," focused on the role of 1920s American authors in bringing Einstein’s theory of relativity to a wider audience— which brought her to look at mainstream periodicals as well as little magazines.

Cornell says in the video: “Little magazines were an index of current events, as well as cheerleaders for the strange and unexpected, including Einstein’s then-radical-sounding ideas about the universe.”

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How can you not root for a magazine whose motto was “Making no compromise with the public taste”? In 1914, bored with her job at the Chicago Evening Post, Margaret Anderson founded The Little Review, a publication which she intended to be as outré as possible, featuring then-unknown writers and artists alongside editorials defending feminism, birth control, homosexuality, and Emma Goldman. Two years later, Anderson met Jane Heap, an influential member of the Arts and Crafts Movement, whom she promptly fell in love, moved in, and lived openly with. Heap was given the job of co-editor, to which she brought her enthusiasm for modern art, although she herself preferred to stay out of the spotlight, signing her pieces under pseudonyms or as ‘jh’.

By 1918, when The Little Review began serializing Ulysses, it was known as the foremost literary magazine in America, and credited with having almost singlehandedly introduced modernism to the States. Then, in 1921, the U.S. Postal Service began seizing and burning editions, claiming that Ulysses contained obscene material, which, in turn, led to an obscenity trial, a fine, and more stringent levels of censorship. Anderson and Heap broke up three years later, and control of the magazine passing over to Heap, who turned its focus more towards the Surrealist, Cubist, and Dadaist movements, until, eventually, ceasing publication in 1929.

Thanks to some poor intern at either Brown or the University of Tulsa, you can flip through copies of The Little Review here, which I guarantee would be a perfect use of your time (highlights include: casual submissions from the now-legendary authors; outraged letters from the public.) 

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Road Trip to #AWP15

We are celebrating today because the Association of Writers & Writing Programs announced their accepted proposals for the 2015 conference. We can’t wait to road trip to Minneapolis next April 8-11, where we will present a panel on “Preserving Literary History: Archiving Milwaukee’s Woodland Pattern,” with Susan Barribeau, Lisa Hollenbach, Anne Kingsbury and Karl Gartung, moderated by Oliver Bendorf.

We are also excited to see that AWP accepted a panel on ”The Little Magazine in America: Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” There also seem to be a handful of panels focusing on the visual side of literary journals (known around here as little magazines) which is something that interests us a great deal. 

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What’s Little About Little Magazines? Part Three: To the Little Magazines

This post is the third in a series brought to you by Susan Barribeau and Oliver Bendorf. Catch up on Part One and Part Two here.

This summer (and always), we are after the question of what’s “little” about a little magazine. In the newest installment, Field Agent Susan Barribeau goes straight to the source with some hard-hitting questions. Will they provide clarification? Read on to find out…


Susan Barribeau: Why are you so “little”?
Little Magazines: Hey. Some of us are (Waterways, KART, Durable Goods). Some of us aren’t (Stone Canoe, Threepenny Review, Meanjin, Zoetrope, Gigantic…).

SB: Would you prefer to be called “literary magazines”?
LM: No!!! Well…some of us probably would. They know who they are. That seems so confining though and frankly some of us go to a lot of trouble to be anti-literary.

SB: Have you gotten more visually oriented in recent years?
LM: Yes. We’ve always liked collaborating with visual artists. People can hardly read anymore and the competition for eyeballs gets tougher each year. So sure.

SB: What little mag would Shakespeare get published in?
LM: He would have had his own or maybe more than one so he could publish himself and his pals. Like we do. But otherwise we think he would most likely be in the Alaska Quarterly.

SB: So…I have to bring this up…I suppose that everyone asks this question and you are perhaps tired of it but here goes: what about the proliferation of “online only” little or literary magazines?
LM: Old wine in new bottles. Or rather new wine in virtual bottles.

SB: Oh come on now. Some have great content and strong writing and a compelling visual stylistics. Look at DIAGRAM for instance.
LM: Okay okay. Love DIAGRAM! Some will thrive. Others may not. Just like us. We run our course.

SB: Well you gotta admit that online does provide a platform that enables publication without the expense and complexities of print, not to mention an enviable ease and scale of distribution.
LM: We don’t really care where good writing appears. We just like it to appear.


SB: That’s the spirit. So how can I include “born-digital” little mags in a formal collection like this one?
LM: Hey don’t ask us. In 50 years we will still be sitting right here on our shelves. We can’t imagine where online little mags will “be” in 50 years. The “cloud”? The Wayback Machine? It’s like collecting moonbeams.

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