Editorial: The Remote, The Virtual, and The Now

A.E., “A Million Years Hence,” The Green Sheaf, vol. 2 (1903)

HE periodical, as Margaret Beetham reminds us, is “all about time.” Reading little magazines today requires navigating the now of the fin-de-siècle and the now of our own cultural moment. Inevitably, the remoteness of then haunts analysis in the present. This year, time became an omnipresent problem. As a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, serial engagement with Y90s little magazines became both remote and virtual, making our study of the periodical form “all about time” in unexpectedly experiential ways. We saw and spoke to holograph representations of ourselves, mediated in pixels or (if we kept our cameras off) represented by white lettering on a black name tag . Because only remediated magazines were accessible to us, we turned virtual pages in digital editions, studying formats whose relative size, texture, and weight were difficult to grasp. We examined images that were digital representations of photomechanical or wood-engraved reproductions of other media. We read primary materials and secondary sources alike in digital formats, an experience that flattened historical, cultural, and idiosyncratic differences. We were remote in every sense.

NDIVIDUALLY and collectively, as we worked with mediated objects and persons in virtual spaces, we realized the timeliness of our work. Commentary itself, we saw, is a form of mediation. The counter-cultural expressions of little magazines were represented in reviews of the mainstream press, which  critiqued, but also disseminated, their avant-garde ideas. As we worked with image and text in turn-of-the-century print objects, we became more and more aware of these relationships in our own digital mediascape. And we began to discern the hidden algorithms of editorship—selection and arrangement, form and content—and the invisible scripts of coding. These are the ongoing challenges of time and space presented  in the texts and images of little magazines then and now, whether in print or digital culture.

OW editorial decisions about form and content are negotiated when the editor is also the author/designer is the problem taken up in Volume 3 (F2020) of Modernity and the Visual: An Online Magazine. Students used the format of the digital page to engage self-reflexively with the little magazine as a publishing genre in multiple ways. In the following pages, there are letters to the editor, essays, impressions, stories, and cards—all illustrated by images from The Dial, The Evergreen, The Green Sheaf, The Pageant, The Savoy and The Yellow Book. Each page instantiates and interrogates modernity’s sense that experience and impressions, as Walter Pater famously concluded, “are in perpetual flight; that each of them is limited by time, and that as time is infinitely divisible, each of them is infinitely divisible also…”.

Three black birds in flight, each carrying a leaf in its beak
Helen Hay. Sympathy, Synergy, Synthesis. The Evergreen: A Northern Seasonal (1897-1897)

–Lorraine Janzen Kooistra