On Methodology, Relationship, and Plurality in Little Magazines

September 14th, 2020

How are we to read little magazines? Our discussed methodology is rooted in the understanding that each piece — a magazine, an issue, an entry, or even an image — stands not in isolation but within chains of connectivity: issues precede and follow one another, repeated visual elements form a magazine’s “identity over time” (James Mussell, Nineteenth-Century Print in the Digital Age, pp. 24-25), and different mediums of expression share the page. When we read, then, we think of, as discussed in today’s seminar, states of seriality, adjacency, and relationship.

In the “What is a Little Magazine?” handout, Brake and Codell claim that Bakhtin’s descriptions of literature as “dialogic” and “multi-vocal” apply, too, to magazines. And in the Editorial letter to 2017’s Modernity and The Visual, Professor Janzen writes of “multi-valent” meanings that magazine reading generates. So, not only are the authorial voices a discordant choir, but so are readers’ paths through that forest of voices. As such, we may also think of plurality while reading little magazines.

Relationship and plurality were firmly in my mind as I sifted through The Pagan Review. William Sharpe had written the whole thing, each piece under a pseudonym. Aside from the ethical question (Is Sharpe’s deception of the reader in presenting as a variety of people problematic?), how does this authorial choice fit in with our consideration of the little magazine as “multi-vocal”? Must the voices all come from different throats (or frontal lobes)? Must identity precede perspective? In other words, must you be a different person, live a different life to bring something “new” to the table? Are our “multitudes,” as in Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” enough to stake claim to plurality?

Although we will not be looking at The Pagan Review, I think these questions are still valuable to consider as we move through the semester and think about all of the parts that constitute a whole.

Alevtina Lapiy

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