Academic journal article International Ford Madox Ford Studies

North and South: Ford Madox Ford's American Journalism during the Great Depression

Academic journal article International Ford Madox Ford Studies

North and South: Ford Madox Ford's American Journalism during the Great Depression

Article excerpt

Journalism is the triumph of criticism. That ephemeral sheet of paper, the newspaper, is the natural enemy of the book.

Edmond and Jules de Goncourt, July 18581

Introduction

The Goncourt brothers believed that journalism was inevitably the enemy of the book, and its tone was likely to be critical, questioning the assumptions that lay behind the book with its self-contained existence. Journalism has usually been considered to be a kind of activity that was linked with a surrounding context, the day-to-day commentary on contemporary happenings. This view of journalism might be applied to many of the products of our new technologies, which offer immediate reactions to contemporary events. Robert Scholes and Clifford Wulfman have noted that Other media have replaced the magazine as the shapers of what [Ezra] Pound called "contemporary mentality"'. Pound's view of the mindset of the contemporary culture of his age was revealed through juxtaposition, removing snippets from mass-circulation periodicals and placing them with ironic or sarcastic titles in more serious journals. As Michael Coyle has argued, this method adapted from political commentaries that appeared in A. R. Orage's New Age, provided Pound with a model for his own engagements with the historical process. In dealing with Ford Madox Ford's contributions to American periodicals in the 1930s it is necessary to interpret him as both participant and critic. This can lead to a conflict between Ford's economic necessities and his commentary on contemporary mentalities, which is often expressed by implication in his concern with issues apparently removed from the present moment. By situating this journalistic activity within its wider culture, it may be possible to see Ford wrestling with the challenges of modernity. It is, therefore, to the periodical, an earlier form of constantly updated commentary, that scholars of modernism have increasingly turned their attention, locating modernism in magazines.4

Ford's role as editor of two influential magazines, the English Review (1908-10) and the transatlantic review (1924) has been well documented.5 He was throughout his career also a contributor to a large number of other periodicals, magazines and newspapers, on both sides of the Atlantic, as was often the case with the authors of the Edwardian period, such as G. K. Chesterton. In this chapter I want to focus on some aspects of his American journalism, charting his activity in American magazines and newspapers in the 1930s; a period of economic hardship for writers as for society at large.

Ford's articles in magazines tended in the 30s to be closely related to the books he was then writing; whereas his newspaper work was more a discussion of contemporary topics, and also included book reviews. Whether writing for magazines or newspapers, however, Ford's work for ephemeral periodicals is located in the contemporary context of the publication. The period was dominated politically and socially by the world economic crisis. Ford seems to have reasoned that because his sequence of novels, Parade's End, had received more favourable reviews and, crucially, better sales in the United States - before the Wall Street Crash - he could exploit this opportunity and his relative celebrity, in order to secure his financial future during turbulent years.6 However, if magazines and newspapers are more closely connected with the social and political concerns of the age, and also tend to provide the writer's provisional response to the contemporary moment, then Ford's journalism was often in this period a reaction against prevailing conditions, both explicitly and implicitly.

In the following chapter I do not attempt to account for each and every one of Ford's published contributions to American periodicals in the 1930s. However, I would like to indicate some of the variety and richness of this journalism by focusing on key articles he published at this time and their engagement with or rejection of the contemporary mentality. …

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