Women Editing Modernism: "Little" Magazines & Literary History

Article excerpt

Women Editing Modernism: "Little" Magazines & Literary History. Jayne E. Marek. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1995. 252 pp. $34.95 hbk. $14.95 pbk.

The subjects of this engagingly written and thoroughly researched book are seven women who edited some of the most influential "little magazines" - among them, the Little Review, Poetry, and The Dial - that first published the writing of T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, Carl Sandburg,Gertrude Stein, and other avantgarde artists and intellectuals during the 1910s and 1920s. In her careful documentation of the foresight and innovation the editors brought to their work, Jayne Marek, an assistant professor of English at Franklin College, offers evidence for a feminist reconsideration of these literary and arts journals, and perhaps of Modernism itself.

While primarily a literary history, the book should be of interest to scholars in media history as well, since these periodicals functioned as alternative media to mainstream magazines increasingly driven by commercial concerns. Furthermore, Marek has made an important contribution to a neglected aspect of media scholarship: the history of editing. Drawing on business correspondence, she reconstructs the professional lives of her subjects in a way that highlights the collaborative nature of editing, as well as the production and correspondence tasks, the diplomatic negotiations with contributors, and the funding solicitations that are crucial but invisible aspects of publishing.

Marek notes that such duties were dismissed by little-magazine contributors such as Ezra Pound and Richard Aldington as "women's work" that was beneath them. Yet these very details enable the author to make a convincing case that the little-magazine editors were more than just midwives to literature and art: they served as the "gatekeepers" who determined which writers and works would define Modernism, and they actively shaped the content of their magazines.

The editors we meet include Harriet Monroe and Alice Corbin Henderson at Poetry, beginning in 1912; Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap at the Little Review, 1914-1929; "H. D." (Hilda Doolittle) during her three years, 1914-1917, as literary editor of the British magazine The Egoist; "Bryher" (Winifred Ellermann) at her European cinema-arts magazine Close Up, 1927-1933; and Marianne Moore at The Dial, 1925-1929. …