Pound/The Little Review: The Letters of Ezra Pound to Margaret Anderson : the Little Review Correspondence

Pound/The Little Review: The Letters of Ezra Pound to Margaret Anderson : the Little Review Correspondence

Pound/The Little Review: The Letters of Ezra Pound to Margaret Anderson : the Little Review Correspondence

Pound/The Little Review: The Letters of Ezra Pound to Margaret Anderson : the Little Review Correspondence

Excerpt

Little magazines have played an essential role in the development of modem literature. Even a glance at the biographies of such central figures as Joyce, Eliot, and Pound confirms this fact. What becomes clear is that, had there not been these little magazines -- periodicals in which so many of the major and minor modernist writers first broke into print and in which they continued to publish -- the direction of this literature might have taken a different turn. In fact, without these "trial-track[s] for racers" (to borrow a phrase Jane Heap coined to describe The Little Review), we can hardly imagine how or where an avant-garde in literature would exist; its antagonistic stance toward "mass" culture often made its work unwelcome in the popular media. Little magazines, therefore, became the places where the avant-garde could undermine the status quo and experiment with new forms. And so, in manifestos, proclamations, articles, and critical discussions, the avant-garde ridiculed the stale or sentimental and called for a new art for a new age. For an admittedly small number of readers, the little magazines published the fiction, poems, and plays of the new breed of experimental writer. Because unevenness of quality is an almost inherent characteristic of these magazines, some of the selections were ephemeral, hardly worth the first reading, while others later proved to be literature of enduring consequence. Underlying it all were the notions that Western culture had come to a turning point and that a renewed art could provide a coherence for a world in which the center could no longer hold. The form such a coherence would take was a matter of disagreement among the various factions of the avantgarde; little magazines provided the forums in which the issue could be argued.

Given the economics of publishing and the comforting role mass-circulation magazines usually play within society, the new and the experimental have little chance of being published in commercial magazines; and so the unfamiliar, the assaultive, is doomed to remain in manuscript until a more adventurous publishing enterprise (often one which is blithely indifferent to economics) agrees to set the type. At the turn of the century in America, the established publishing avenues were frequently, and for . . .

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