Nissa Ren Cannon (Boston University)
American on Sundays: The Paris Tribune’s Sunday magazine section
From 1919 until 1934, the Chicago Tribune published a daily newspaper for the many Americans living in and visiting Paris. In February of 1924, the Paris Tribune, as it was familiarly known, sought to establish a voice as a cultural critic by delivering a weekly “Sunday Magazine Section” along with the paper. In early advertising for their new magazine, the Tribune trumpeted “Everybody’s Reading It!” (a quote they attribute to “a prominent French-American business man and art connoisseur,” whose “modesty forbids mention of his name”), making claim to the highly specific superlatives of “the first and only magazine printed in English and devoted to literature and the arts appearing weekly on the Continent of Europe.”
Like all of the periodicals published in Paris for American audiences abroad, the Sunday Magazine Section played a role in forging an American identity in the 1920s that was inherently transnational—one that both relied on the reader’s relationship to the patria, while also invoking ties to a global network of artists. For example, the inaugural issue of this magazine featured an article by Ford Madox Ford, titled “The Younger American Writers.” With an assertion seemingly catering to the Tribune’s particular audience, Ford claimed that American writers were dominating the literary scene. He singled out Waldo Frank, Sherwood Anderson, Robert McAlmon, Ezra Pound, and James Joyce, yet was forced to clarify his inclusion of this final figure by attesting that Joyce “isn’t nationally American but then he isn’t, heaven knows, from any possible point of view, English.” This paper will consider how the little-studied Sunday Magazine section, which lasted only until November of 1924, relies on a reading public whose experience of the nation is fundamentally transnational, and how the Paris Tribune used this Sunday magazine to enhance their cultural capital among the city’s resident Anglophone artists engaged in modernist art.
Pedro Castelo (Birkbeck, University of London)
in Portuguese architectural magazines of the mid-century
Drawing upon an extensive survey of architectural periodicals produced in Portugal in the first half of the twentieth century, the paper explores the way in which the history of these periodicals is intimately related with the architectural discourses, as well as with the intellectual and artistic ideas of modernity and models of social and economical development. Focusing on the period immediately after the world wars the paper closely examines the major transformations that happened in the few architectural magazines being published at that time. By examining the visual and textual content of these periodicals the paper elaborates on the idea of modernity and its political implications, in particular the perspective of national architectural identity and the pace of modernisation during the formative years of the Portuguese dictatorship. By doing so the paper covers the way in which different journalistic formats, i.e.: news, criticism, etc., helped create certain disciplinary narratives that bound with more general social and cultural conditions, especially the transition from local/ peripheral perspectives to a global one. Also the paper explores different forms of cultural appropriation and dissemination of ideas, mostly seen in the featuring of foreign architectural projects, that correspond to similar processes of modernisation and social development happening elsewhere. These processes of both cultural assimilation and identity affirmation are deeply intertwined and are still not fully resolved, as we can see from the more recent return to discourses on nationalism and anti-globalist politics. In sum, the paper looks at the way significant shifts in the magazines’ content contributed to the different iterations of modernity, its popularisation, and the extent to which modernist forms and conceptions can be specifically reused for purposes of socio-political criticism.
Claudia Cedeño (University of Tubingen)
The ancient and the modern woman in Mexican Folkways
Despite the ephemeral nature of magazines, their visual discourses have longer-lasting permanence in their readers. These symbolic visualizations can allocate different meanings such as sexual and racial difference, or conventions of gender performance. In the attempt to incorporate women practitioners to the historical record, this presentation shows the importance of visuality in the social construction of identities as well as paying attention to gender roles. In the testimony of the pages of Mexican Folkways —a bilingual magazine with transnational circulation— the shaping of Mexican post-revolutionary identity is explored, specifically the patterns that enabled to conceive femininity.
Mexican Folkways (1925–1935) is the result of a translocal cultural alliance and thus a manifest proof of cross-cultural imagery forged by avant-garde artists and politicized intellectuals who together drew the course of Mexico’s struggle for its own identity in the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution. I focus primarily, but not exclusively, on the visual discourse to demonstrate not only a range of cultural and social differences but also how emerging ideologies, the professionalization of work —in which women were allowed to partake— and the technological advances led to new individual and collective identities. Through rich photographs, engravings, and drawings we can trace the imprint of what women were allowed to be within their constraints and opportunities in the late 20s. Additionally, we can also attest to the impact of global exchange and consumption of visual culture on shaping the female role. The visual discourse in Mexican Folkways encompasses very diverse depictions: from the new national symbol represented by indigenous people in multiple female alterities —like the Aztec mother, the Tehuantepec woman, ladies selling fruit or young female students from rural areas— to advertisement which depict modern and fashionably dressed women using state-of-the-art appliances and means of transport. In spite of the apparent paradox, this magazine’s visual discourse tries to bind as a whole ensemble the complex relations between ancient and contemporary times.
Phaedra Claeys (Ghent University)
Safeguarding Russian culture as a cultural reality or as a cultural construct?
The case of the news magazine Illustrated Russia
This paper will present some results of my PhD research on the mainstream Russian émigré news magazine Illustrated Russia (Illiustrirovannaia Rossiia, henceforth IR). IR is the ideal test case for the widely accepted idea that interwar Russian émigré culture was largely a preservationist culture, aimed at safeguarding pre-revolutionary and thus truly Russian culture and, hence, Russian identity. The Paris-based magazine, which ran from 1924 until 1939, was highly popular and had a broad scope, treating pre-revolutionary Russian, Soviet, émigré and Western topics, and both highbrow and middlebrow culture. Furthermore, it covered these topics in a wide variety of genre and media, ranging from short and longer articles, to literature, humor and many more. IR, thus, is an invaluable source of information on what the average émigré got to hear, see and read, and, hence, what may have interested him or her. As such, IR has the potential to offer insight into a question that is important for our understanding of interwar Russian émigré culture as a whole: is this culture really a preservationist culture? Does the assumption relate to high culture only (turning it into a kind of cultural myth or construct) or also to mainstream culture (making it a wide-ranging cultural reality)?
By analyzing diverging types of content in IR, I will present a nuanced image of IR‘s approach to Russian (émigré) identity. Does IR present content that can be considered as preservationist? If so, where (which genres and topics), when (how often and at which occasions) and how is this the case? Does the preservationist content target specific audiences (e.g. women, children or art adepts)? And, by extension, what can the case of IR tell us about the émigré community’s approach to (pre-reveolutionary) Russian culture in everyday life?
Konrad Dussel (University of Mannheim)
Pictures for German communists:
The newspaper supplement Der Rote Stern (The Red Star) in the Weimar Republic
Traditionally, German newspapers exclusively comprised text. However, at the beginning of the 20th century, a new type of competition emerged: magazines utilized lots of pictures, predominantly photos. The newspapers had to react, and thus the newspaper supplement was born. In the period between the wars, many different supplements were published – by the bourgeois press, but also by the left wing competition. The Social Democrats published Volk und Zeit (People and Time), the Communists Der Rote Stern (The Red Star).
Today, Der Rote Stern is nearly forgotten, despite its circulation before 1933 being considerably larger than the famous left-wing magazine Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung (Worker’s Illustrated Newspaper). In this talk, I focus on the people responsible for its publishing, the format and style of the supplement, and its main issues. Ultimately, Der Rote Stern portrayed a dualistic worldview: a decadent, belligerent capitalism rooted in oppression on the one hand, a communism aimed at liberating the people on the other. The shining example for a better future was the Soviet Union. The leadership of the Communist Party recognized the importance of pictures, particularly photos. They noticed the willingness of their supporters to believe the hardship and misery of capitalism documented by photographs. And they hoped the achievements of communism would also be more credible when supported by photographs than by mere words. The combination of both approaches made the newspaper supplement successful – certainly in the view of its creators, but probably also in the eyes of its readers.
Louise Edensor (Middlesex University, Dubai)
The Native Companion was an early twentieth century little magazine of ‘Australian Life, Literature and Art’ that would ‘give a voice to Australian genius’. It ran for only two volumes, featuring 12 issues from January to December 1907, and is largely remembered as the magazine in which Katherine Mansfield published her first short stories. Carol Mills (1999) remarks that: ‘Volume one of theNative Companion looked like a late nineteenth century literary periodical. Volume two, from August 1907, was a child of the twentieth’. This significant transformation (Gelder and Weaver, 2014) had much to do with the new editor, E. J. Brady’s nationalist politics and his fervent devotion to a definitive Australian literature that was, nevertheless, in dialogue with the modernist aesthetics of Europe. By including stories from writers like Mansfield, Brady opened up ‘connections between colonial identity and literary modernism’ helping to create a ‘local modernist aesthetic’ in the magazine (Gelder and Weaver, 2014). Eric White (2013) has argued that one of the most noticeable characteristics of the little magazines was their ability to ‘catalyse and sustain the production of avant-garde artworks and specialised discourse networks’. This places them in a unique position, enabling them to expose the dialogical relationship between transnational modernisms and national identities. As White highlights, the little magazines ‘complicate the boundaries that have traditionally divided modernist literature into canonical categories of ‘homemade’ and ‘cosmopolitan’ writing. This paper/presentation examines the short stories published in the Native Companion under Brady’s editorship to explore the interplay between his promotion of a home-grown Australian literature and that of transnational nascent modernist aesthetics.
Hanno Ehrlicher, Jörg Lehmann (Univ Tubingen)
Indigenism as nationalism: The case of Amauta
The avant-garde magazine Amauta (Lima 1926-1930) was inspired by the post-revolutionary art of Mexico. These influences fostered the project of a transnational, strongly socialist community of intellectuals and of the creation of an “Indio-American” identity, for which this magazine stands in an exemplary way. The reception of the Mexican revolution and its aesthetic programme in Amauta was facilitated by the journalist and critic Martí Casanovas, whose multiple political exile led him from Spain to Cuba and then to Mexico, and who acted as the mouthpiece of the ¡30-30! group in Amauta. As we can show by way of comparison, his contributions to Amauta are quite distinct from other texts on the Mexican revolution in terms of semantic similarity. This finding is substantiated by a close reading of Casanovas’ contributions which propagated indigenous art as being revolutionary; according to Casanovas, with the revolution the art becomes genuinely Mexican, Indian, and proletarian. The programmatic writings of Casanovas find their counterpart in the visual contributions to Amauta by the Peruvian painter and essayist José Sabogal. Sabogal broke with European academic colonialism, promoted pre-Columbian culture and aesthetics and became acquainted with Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros during a 1922 visit to Mexico. He not only created the iconic drawing for the cover of the first issues of Amauta in 1926, but also contributed more than 35 works to this cultural magazine (paintings, drawings, Incaic friezes, prints, photographs). Depictions of the indigenous population, renewal of authentic Peruvian roots and the creation of a vernacular and original popular art were the hallmarks of his artistic output. In this way, he visually gave distinction to the cultural magazine and established himself as the vanguard of the artistic indigenist and aesthetic nationalist movement of Perú. The emphasis on indigenism in Amauta forms a strong example of a native continental union and thus an imagined community turned against North American, but also European imperialism.
Michael Erdman (British Library)
Issue: class, volume: nation : Periodicals in the construction of Soviet Turkic identities
At the dawn of the 20th century, magazines and newspapers became an important vehicle for expressing Muslim Turkic identities in the Russian Empire. The 19th century saw Ismail Gasprinski’s Tercüman emerge as the widest reaching, and occasionally only, Turkic voice among Imperial-era outlets. The relaxation of censorship following the 1905 Revolution, however, radically altered this dynamic, allowing for broadsheets and journals to pop up across the Empire, from Crimea to Baku, and Orenburg to Tashkent. Far from curtailing this dynamic, the Bolshevik seizure of power in November 1917 served to strengthen the position of the periodical in Turkic publishing. The new socio-political conditions turned it into an important mechanism for the articulation of new identities, languages, territories and realities.
In this presentation, I will explore early Soviet Turkic periodicals in the British Library’s collections. Looking at publications from the years 1919-1934, I will use these items to show how the periodical press was an important means by which Soviet authorities – whether in Moscow or the regional centres – exercised their authority and shaped the debate around identity and belonging. In particular, I will show how these magazines were used to popularize the new vocabulary around class and nation; routinize the new linguistic norms propagated by the Soviet state; promote a Soviet-wide aesthetic, localized to Turkic conditions and traditions; and socialize Soviet Turkic communities as members of a broader Soviet space.
John Etty (Auckland Grammar School)
Performing ideology: Communism and modernism in Soviet graphic satire
In the early years of the USSR satirical writing and graphic satire, especially in political cartoons, comprised a significant share of the Soviet Union’s magazine publishing. Of the numerous magazines in print during the era of the New Economic Policy, Krokodil would become the most important; this paper will investigate the magazine’s contribution to the construction of a unique visual language in cartoons. Examining the performative force of Krokodil’s political cartoons, and challenging assumptions about the limitations placed upon Soviet satirists, this paper explores the magazine’s use of various performances as metaphors in cartoons which simultaneously affirmed, refracted and critiqued official political discourses. Arguing that the graphic satire in Krokodil magazine was complex, subtle and intermedial, this paper characterises the pages of the magazine as the site of readers’ and artists’ collaborative exploration and shaping of the boundaries of permissible discourse. The magazine therefore embodied the modernist communist project, and provided its readers with an interpretive tool for negotiating everyday reality and official discourses that was not always to be taken seriously.
Laura Fólica (Open University of Catalonia)
Between the local and the international: The role of literary translation in Revista Nosotros (1907-1943)
In this presentation, I will analyse the role of translation of foreign literature in the construction of a national identity, through a popular Argentinean magazine: Revista Nosotros (1907-1943).
This magazine played an active part in the debate around a national or a Hispanic integration; but the function of translated literature in this publication remains unexplored. As Even-Zohar (1978) claims, literary translation contributes to the transformation of a national literary system. Through this relevant example of periodical publication, I will study whether contact with foreign literature reinforces the national system or contributes, instead, to internationalize it.
For the analysis of the corpus, I use digital tools in order to manage a great amount of metadata. Thanks to the creation of a relational database for social network analysis based in the digital environment “Nodegoat”, I am able to collect information relating to translators, authors, translations, reviews of works in the source language, among other data. The aim is to link the selected journals and explore them through visualizations. These will me to discover constellations in which unnoticed relationships between cultural agents as well as literary works will emerge.
Jaleen Grove (Ringling College)
Magazine Digest: The visual rhetoric of a Canadian Jewish magazine before and during wartime
This paper introduces the now-obscure Magazine Digest, a Jewish-run periodical published in Toronto 1930-1949, and discusses its counterpoint relationship with Canadian national identity. First, to set up a comparison, I will summarize contemporaneous Canadian magazine publishing, highlighting the cultural nationalism collectively practiced and depicted in a visual language of 19th-century settler culture by mainstream titles (MacLean’s, Western Home Monthly, Chatelaine, etc). Next, I will describe Magazine Digest and its employment of Jewish-Canadians shut out of jobs elsewhere. Reflecting their uneasy status in Anglocentric Canada, the magazine eschewed any overtly “Canadian” or obvious Jewish identity, instead offering an ostensibly mass and non-Jewish readership an understated “thinking man’s Reader’s Digest” that carried no editorial column and acknowledged no national allegiance. This and the visual mediocrity of text-heavy cover designs, I argue, was a mask, behind which Magazine Digest provided readers with shrewdly chosen material translated from European magazines, covering general interest topics and drolleries, but also global current affairs, even breaking news of Hitler’s “death camps”. Frequent philosophical essays promoted liberal values of tolerance. Its under-the-radar visual approach changed in 1944 during the war, with the newly arrived art director, refugee Oscar Cahén (1916-1956). Cahén rebranded the magazine with cheerful cartoons and colorful covers rendered in a European modernist style—a radical departure from other Canadian periodical art. His sunny, optimistic imagery set the reader up with a receptive frame of mind for the more pointed material within. One such offering was a six-page “news picture story” (like a comic book) drawn by Cahén that plead for Canadian adoption of holocaust orphans, the most overt political message to be found in Magazine Digest. I argue Magazine Digest visually and verbally promoted transnationalism, giving readers an alternative identity to that expounded in the patriotic mainstream magazines—an identity that used the visual language of humor and modern art to express a progressive self-conception that transcended narrow, ethnocentric, retro nationalism and pointed the way to postwar international tolerance and cooperation.
Faye Hammill (University of Glasgow)
Travel as nationalist practice in Canadian magazines
Travel was a crucial theme in the aspirational consumer monthlies of the early to mid-twentieth century. Geographical mobility and upward mobility were consistently linked, not only in travel journalism and advertising but also in the broader editorial and commercial rhetoric of many magazines. In the specific context of Canada, magazines ranging from the smart Mayfair and the business-oriented Maclean’s through to the women’s titles La revue moderne and Chatelaine articulated their core values through a notion of ‘worldliness’. Images of movement and discovery were everywhere. Yet their presentation of mobility was heavily inflected by nationalist agendas.
Foreign travel features often presented destinations which would enhance white Canadians’ sense of connection with their ancestry (France, Scotland) or with the “British world” (Jamaica, Bermuda). Discourses of cosmopolitanism enabled magazines to accommodate nostalgia for the “Old World” alongside the apparently contrary construction of Canadian identity in terms of modernity.
Travel was also central to the magazines’ consumer-based nationalism. Two of Canada’s biggest businesses were railway and shipping operators – Canadian Pacific and Canadian National – and their role in national imaginaries allowed them to promote travel as a mode of investment that would profit both country and individual. Even companies that did not have any apparent connection with travel still exploited its appeal. In a 1935 advert which appeared in most of Canada’s mainstream monthlies, Canada Dry ginger ale was described as “an honored guest at all the better hotels, clubs, and restaurants. On dining cars. On ocean liners.” Consumers were assured: “you can enjoy it in virtually every port and city of the world.” The ginger ale both represents Canada abroad, and also welcomes travelling Canadians like a familiar friend. This paper examines how travel itself was mobilised through print in Canadian nationalist projects.
Michel Hockx (University of Notre Dame)
Modern Chinese magazines and moral censorship
Magazines and their editors played a crucial role in the discussion, formulation and dissemination of national values for the Republic of China, which came into being in 1911 following a successful uprising against the last imperial dynasty. Famous examples featuring in previous scholarship include the cultural debate about a national language and the political debate about China’s role in the Paris Peace Conference. The new republican government and its intellectual elites were especially active in the field of education. As state education spread and public libraries were established around the country to promote literacy, especially among women, magazines came under moral scrutiny. Attempts were made to restrict magazine content considered offensive or obscene, and consideration was given to how magazines differ from books when it comes to establishing principles and methods of censorship. This presentation briefly introduces the modern history of magazine publication in China, as well as the extensive work that has been done in recent years to digitize magazine materials and make them easily accessible. After that, the presentation will zoom in on the editorial and educational activities of the husband-and-wife team Gao Jianhua (1890? – ?) and Xu Xiaotian (1886-1946), who edited several richly illustrated literary magazines during the 1910s-1930s, and whose relatively libertine views caused them at times to clash with the arbiters of morality and good taste.
Margaret Innes (Syracuse University)
Photo-History and radical print media’s national turn
The American pictorial ecosystem expanded dramatically in the late 1930s. On the one hand, there was the explosive debut of Life magazine in 1936, followed by the release of some 13 popular pictorials onto the national market in subsequent months. Critics noted this phenomenon with ambivalence, citing the pictorial format’s tendency toward reduction, pseudo-culture, and illiteracy. On the other hand, as historian Michael Denning has argued, these years also saw the emergence of a distinct Popular Front media apparatus, which was more responsive to the growth of workers’ educational programs, the rise of the CIO, and a growing awareness of labor as a public.
The short-lived pictorial Photo-History (1937-38) emerged at the confluence of these developments. Backed by leaders of the radical political influence group New America, Photo-History was conceived as an educational primer that might bridge the gap between American labor and management to foster “the broadest kind of people’s front.” In marked contrast to the sundry news photos and features compiled by Life, each issue of Photo-History presented a single, long-form narrative illustrated with didactic layouts and charts. This paper examines Photo-History’s unique presentational format, which blurred material and economic distinctions between the periodical and the book, to assess broader ideological transformations on the American radical left in this period. It argues that Photo-History’s progressive visual program was not simply a riposte to Life and its culture-industry ilk, but rather expressed editors’ deep-rooted dissatisfaction with the American communist party’s “imported” model of proletarian internationalism and its strident agitational rhetoric. Instead, the magazine honed an idiom of visual propaganda that operated within a distinct national framework.
Josie Johnson (Brown University)
This paper traces the dissemination of photographs made in Russia by American photographer Margaret Bourke-White (1904–1971). Shortly after her high-profile hire with Fortune magazine, Bourke-White travelled to Moscow, eventually completing three round-trip journeys to the Soviet Union between 1930 and 1932. Her deep engagement with Russia coincided with a moment of increased experimentation with photographic magazines as a mass medium and improvements in Soviet-American relations. Despite her self-proclaimed ignorance of Russia, Bourke-White capitalized on these favorable conditions and created a suite of images that would be published extensively, propelling her rise to stardom as America’s most famous female photojournalist of the twentieth century.
I explain how Bourke-White’s striving for aesthetic interest and political neutrality made these photographs particularly well suited for reproduction in a broad assortment of magazines. Stylistically, her photographs bridged the American traditions of Pictorialism and commercial photography, on the one hand, and their supposed opposites of the Russian Avant-Garde and nascent Socialist Realism on the other. Editors could then crop, caption, and reposition the images to support a wide variety of interpretations as they traversed disparate ideological and aesthetic contexts. I reconstruct this process by closely analyzing key issues of American and Soviet magazines containing her work, including Fortune and USSR in Construction. The former contained advertisements for American industry, the latter displayed Stalinist experiments in form, and, for a brief moment in the early 1930s, both magazines projected visions of a shared utopian dream of industrial modernity. I conclude by outlining some of the minor scandals that plagued Bourke-White’s career as her photographs appeared in more sharply politicized magazines and the utopian vision disintegrated. By the time she joined the staff of the new Life magazine in 1936, Bourke-White’s entanglements with competing aesthetic styles, political alignments, and magazine editors had come to an end.
Richard Junger (Western Michigan University)
“The young man of to-day is not the young man of fifty years ago”:
The changing image of United States men as portrayed in cover art of popular periodicals, 1880-1920
In the decades after the United States Civil War ended in 1865, the country’s men were portrayed frequently through the veterans who had fought in and survived that great war. The immediate succeeding generations were always seen in their shadows. “Young men of to-day . . . give place to the young man of fifty years ago,” one post-bellum magazine wrote. “He is the oak.” Another periodical went further, proclaiming, “I should imagine that the best thing to do with [the young men of today] is give each one a thorough spanking and put them to bed.” Yet the model American man of the First World War, as portrayed on the covers of popular magazines such as Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s, and The Literary Digest, was proclaimed as a “kicker-up-of-dust.” “Show all men everywhere not only what good soldiers you are,” President Woodrow Wilson wrote recruits, “but also what good men you are.”
As British literary historian Samuel Hynes argued in 1990, the First World War was an imaginative as well as military and political experience. The same could be said of the forty-some years leading up to that war as depicted on the front covers of popular American magazines. This presentation traces the evolution of how masculinity was portrayed and projected in periodicals from 1880 through World War I. The thesis is that the generations of American men born in the years after the Civil War had a much more difficult time establishing themselves and their masculinity than the men of the Civil War or Second World War generations.
Chara Kolokytha (Northumbria University)
Le Génie du Nord: Sélection and the advocacy of an international ‘Nordic’ culture
The paper discusses the francophone review of art and literature Sélection published in Brussels (1920-1922) and Antwerp (1923-1933), Belgium, by André de Ridder and Paul-Gustave van Hecke. It takes as a point of departure the concept Le Génie du Nord (Genius of the North), which was the title of a 1925 book published in Antwerp by De Ridder. The book mainly consisted of essays previously published in Sélection between 1923 and 1924. De Ridder argues that France should not claim autonomy in the field of cultural production throughout the centuries since Nordic influence has always played a central role to its evolution. Although the book drew little attention from the contemporary press, it offers a novel approach to the Nordic idea through the anticipation of a new classical order that distinguished itself from Southern classicism. While German expressionism was equally renounced, the book proposed a synthetic style – similar to the one that marked the gothic period – that also found expression in the art presented in Sélection, which furnished a visual model for the invention of a new classical order stemming from the successful mingling of French rationalism with Flemish expressionism, or in different terms a ‘constructive expressionism’ that came to be regarded as a condition for a universal Nordic culture. The magazine was supportive of those French and Belgian artists who achieved a combination of the two, an eclectic dualism in Edmond Picard’s words. To illustrate the thesis of Le Génie du Nord, the book presents examples derived from art and literature, shifting in time between the present and the Middle-Ages. Taking the origins of Gothicism and the Nordische Gesellschaft as case points, the Génie du Nord concept forms an alternative discourse which intervenes in an ongoing art historical and cultural debate centred here on the identity of Sélection.
N. Zeynep Kürük-Erçetin (Boğaziçi University)
The American image in the Turkish context:
A close reading of the translated content in Resimli Hayat magazine
In the 1950s, Turkey underwent an extensive transformation as a result of global and domestic political developments. In 1945, following the end of World War II, the power balance in the world changed, and a new power struggle began between two opponents: the USA and the USSR. Despite being able to remain impartial during the war, Turkey had to choose a side in this new struggle. In Turkey, the victory of the Democrat Party (DP) on 14 May 1950 came along with a new foreign policy and a new ally in the west: the United States of America. This new ally was promoted as the new role model for modernization in every field of life by the print media. Among various periodicals published in the 1950s, Resimli Hayat (Illustrated Life) comes to the fore as a monthly magazine that played a significant role in building and promoting the American image in the Turkish context. In parallel with the dominant social policy of the DP, interesting news from Hollywood, interviews with American celebrities, popular works of American authors and advertisements of freshly imported American products were published in the magazine. Translation, therefore, occupies a remarkable space as a method of content production. Additionally, the editor in chief, Şevket Rado, appears as a crucial agent in the selection of content to be translated and the presentation of the translated material for Turkish readers of the magazine. In this regard, this paper aims to ascertain the role of the editor and the function of translation in Resimli Hayat in the process of building and promoting the American image and popular culture for the Turkish readership.
Susann Liebich (Univ of Heidelberg) and Victoria Kuttainen (James Cook Univ)
Currents of international travel:
Australian magazines and travel writing about the Asia-Pacific in the 1920s and 1930s
The period between the world wars was both ‘the golden age’ of magazine publishing and of sea travel and transport, giving shape to and fuelling the popular imagination of a globally connected world. This talk situates two Australian quality magazines of the 1920s and 1930s in the context of international currents of modernity, which included an increasing desire and opportunities for middle-class readers to travel the world along global steamship routes. The Australian magazines The Home and MAN, one addressing a largely middle- and upper-class female readership, the other targeting urban middle-class men, operated within an international marketplace, simultaneously mirroring and competing with overseas titles like Esquire and Vanity Fair for Australian readers. The publishing strategy of these Australian magazines merged a global and national outlook. They brought a slice of international modernity to Australian readers, allowing readers to take part in global consumer and aspirational cultures, while also offering content that was specific and relevant to local readerships and contributed to an emerging atmosphere of cultural nationalism. In their focus on travel and international affairs – in articles, features, advertisements, and short stories – these magazines constructed and represented a number of geographical imaginaries, transporting readers’ imagination across space. Yet, these imaginaries were specific to Australia and Australian readers. Our paper explores how these magazines succeeded in presenting international travel writing, especially about the Asia-Pacific region, as relevant to a developing national and international consciousness in Australia. One strategy these magazines employed was to present the world to their readers through the eyes of Australian celebrities and social elites, thus addressing both national sentiments and international interests. Through their pages, these magazines engaged and educated Australians about the world at large, and offered readers ways of comprehending their own position within a globalising world.
Claire Lindsay (University College London)
The magazine in post-revolutionary Mexico: Archive, store, and history
This paper, drawing on examples from a bilingual cultural magazine published in Mexico from the 1920s onwards, challenges questions of definition and classification that have long dominated periodical studies. Mexican Folkways (1925-1937) was an anthology of Mexico’s art, archeology, myths, fiestas and songs, which, consonant with contemporary ideas in anthropology, endorsed the study of indigenous cultural practices as a means of racial integration and modernization. It emerged from and responded to a particular urgency after the Revolution to explore and contribute to the consolidation of a new national consciousness. It also benefited from and weathered the vicissitudes of state funding, while enjoying contemporary reach and influence on either side of the Mexico-US border. This paper offers unique observations on this magazine’s form, its function as archive, as well as its operation as store and history. In doing so, it will illustrate how the complexity of such issues has broader methodological implications for scholars of magazines as rich and heterogeneous forms of print culture.
Jean-Louis Marin-Lamellet (Université Savoie-Mont Blanc)
Scrambling for a cooperative future:
The Arena magazine, reform discourses and the production of national identity (1889-1909)
From 1889 to 1909, Boston reformer Benjamin O. Flower edited one of the most unconventional magazines of Gilded Age and Progressive Era America: The Arena. He wanted to moralize and modernize the United States (and even the world) by promoting economic, social, political and international cooperation. Cooperation drove “civilization’s advance” irresistibly forward for Flower and magazines were both the product and the engine of progress. Civilization meant brotherhood but Flower saw the United States as uniquely equipped to lead the way.
My paper will consider political history questions from a book history perspective, thus providing new insights into how the progressive modernization project did not countervail nationalist tendencies but actually produced them—in the scramble for “progress,” the US had to learn but should teach. The Arena was radical in politics, academic in form, genteel in style and modern in aesthetics, but the kind of modernity exhibited in the neoclassical but technologically advanced White City at the World’s Columbian Exposition. I will therefore use Flower’s magazine as a case study to analyze how his ambivalent vision of cooperation-driven transatlantic social politics and the contested definitions of progress were projected in the periodical form, in other words how they were inscribed in The Arena as object, its advertising pages, editorial practices and hybrid nature (a radical publication but also an academic journal and a popular, general-interest magazine).
Melissa Miles (Monash University)
The city, race and labour in Australian design magazines of the 1930s
The photographs that fill the pages of Sydney-based illustrated design magazines The Home and Glass and Decoration tell two apparently conflicting stories of race and labour in 1930s Sydney. As key sites for the development and popularization of Australian modernism, these magazines featured the work of Australia’s leading artists, designers, writers and photographers, and captured the values and aspirations of Australia during the interwar period. While new soaring steel structures and fashionable interiors transformed homes and the built environment, these illustrated magazines helped to heroicize distinctly Anglo-Australian workers as agents of this modernity, industry and innovation. In one sense, the racial biases evident in this imagery reflect prevailing official attitudes towards labour, race and national identity. Concerns about protecting Australia’s labour market underpinned the system of exclusion known popularly as the ‘White Australia’ policy and limited Australian citizenship to Anglo-Europeans. However, by delving more deeply into the production of images for these illustrated magazines, another story becomes apparent. This paper focuses particularly on the Japanese-Australian photographer, Ichiro Kagiyama, and examines how his commercial work with these magazines positioned him as an active contributor to civil society, a worker and entrepreneur, at a time when his juridical citizenship was denied. This consideration of the work of magazine image-making, alongside published images of labour, highlights how approaches to race, labour, international relations and citizenship in these illustrated magazines were far more complex than exclusionary narratives would imply.
Elena Ogliari (University of Milan)
Negotiating modernity and tradition in Irish periodicals for juveniles (1910s-1920s)
The presentation will address aspects of the multifaceted and often very intense relationship between modernity and national identity in early-twentieth-century Ireland as it was represented and discussed in the contemporary nationalist Irish periodicals intended for juveniles. The aim is to explain why the periodicals were both so creative and so resistant to modernization through a survey of their visual and textual contents. This will highlight the various negotiations around the dichotomy of modernity vs. tradition.
The introduction will be devoted to presenting the most popular periodicals of the time (Our Boys, Fianna, Young Ireland and St. Enda’s), cherished by Irish nationalists as home-grown substitutes for the alienating British story papers. With Ireland still under British rule, these papers were concerned about the role of youths in the context of nation-building. Contributing to the definition of an appropriate postcolonial national identity, they offered to the young a vision of the future nation that predicated its legitimacy upon an appeal to the past and the appreciation of traditions. In a country undergoing deep transformations, the periodicals strove to uphold the preserves of Gaelic nationalism, such as Irish oral culture, and put forward a rural, idyllic, timeless state as an ideal Ireland. As will be shown in the core section of the presentation, the contributors emphasised the role of the underdeveloped regions in maintaining the integrity of Irish culture, language, history – all factors deemed central to the definition of the future nation.
However, the nationalists could not merely ignore the modernising and urban tendencies that were transforming Ireland: they had to come to terms with them; much attention will be paid to how the negotiations of the contradictions around tradition and modernity had very specific implications for the young. I will illustrate how the periodicals set the boundaries of culturally acceptable juvenile conduct and urged youngsters to articulate their interests within the terms of reference established by nationalist discourse.
Antonella Pelizzari (Hunter College, CUNY)
Between 1927 and 1938, at the height of Italian Fascism and stifling nationalism, the publishing impresario Angelo Rizzoli in Milan launched a new range of illustrated weeklies that thrived on a modern and transnational visual culture shaped by rotogravure. A closer look at the pages of these Italian periodicals reveals images that were repurposed from well-known periodicals such as Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung and VU. Not only were the Italian magazines drawing from international photo-agencies and cosmopolitan stories; they also shared a visual literacy with other European periodicals that used photographs towards the creation of spectacular and glamorous narratives. This was the kind of chaotic perception described by writers in Weimar Germany, that blizzard of images viewed by Siegfried Kracauer as a clutter of information. In the Italian case, the experience of these pages buttressed the readers from the onslaught of propaganda. How are we to account for this material during two decades of political oppression and nationalist rhetoric? The paper identifies a range of strategies shaped by a team of avant-garde writers and editors, such as Cesare Zavattini, working in the Rizzoli magazine factory. These consist of playful montages, ambiguous games of image recognition, anecdotal photo essays that hint to cinematic novels (precursors of what would be the postwar Italian photo-roman). I argue that this visual communication reflects an oppositional nationalism to the dictatorial message of Fascism. Its involvement with common readers embraces the idea of national-popular as defined by contemporary theorist, Antonio Gramsci, in his Prison Notebooks. Gramsci took on the example of serial novels successfully published in major Italian newspapers, observing that this form of popular literature represented a distinctive modern humanism, one that enticed readers to mirror themselves in the stories seen on the printed page. The Rizzoli periodicals followed a similar paradigm to that described by Gramsci, promoting a modern culture of distraction that defied the regime.
Vike Martina Plock (University of Exeter)
Klaus Mann’s Decision: The unfinished story of a modernist magazine
This paper analyses the history and reception of Klaus Mann’s short-lived, modernist magazine Decision: A Review of Free Culture. Published for the first time in New York in January 1941 against the backdrop of an escalating war, the magazine was designed as a forum for international literature and soon attracted contributions from many modernist writers including William Carlos Williams, Sherwood Anderson, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Muriel Rukeyser, E. M. Forster and Christopher Isherwood. But only one year later publication had to be suspended because Mann’s project lacked financial backers. In the context of wartime America the radical outlook of the journal prevented it from flourishing. Today, Decision is little more than a footnote in modernist literary history, failing to receive a single mention in the multi-volume Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines (2009-2013).
I will explore some of the reasons why Decision is no longer included in our critical narratives about literary modernism, its anomalous status as an English-speaking publication edited by a German refugee writer in wartime New York and its unapologetic antifascist stance being the most obvious ones. But I will also ask questions about the little magazine’s role in disseminating modernist work across linguistic and national boundaries at a time when popular nationalism was on the rise. Recently, Eric Bulson has argued that modernist magazines, in spite of their global reach, were “always defined within and against national borders of countries such as France, Poland, and Spain.” As I will suggest, in the case of Decision the willingness to engender dialogue across national, cultural and linguistic borders was the enabling imperative that galvanised production but it was also the reason for the magazine’s failure to establish itself in wartime America. Recuperating its unfinished story today will allow for an improved understanding of the modernist magazine’s role in trying to sustain international networks of literary exchange and circulation when nationalist preoccupations demanded otherwise. But it also serves as a reminder that the category of the national continues to structure many current debates in modernist research.
Giulia Pra Floriani (Heidelberg University)
Transmediality and the construction of a national imagery:
Portraits of Republican leaders in the Chinese popular media (1912-1913)
Photography embodies the prominence of machines and the accelerated rhythms embedded in each form of situated modernity. After the introduction into China of dry-plates, that allowed the photographer to split the processes of shooting and developing, and half-tone technique employed to print photographic images in large amount and cheaply, revolutionaries and artists employed this medium to spread their political thought through illustrated magazines.
Despite the diffusion of photographs in the Chinese popular press at the beginning of the 20th century, lithography kept being widely used in revolutionary publications to reproduce drawings. This medium could not convince the viewer of being a witness to the ongoing fact, but it allowed the author more control over the image. Inserting hand-written colophons on the images’ sides, it conformed to a tradition of news-lithography dating back to the 19th century, that graphically connected news-images with the world of Chinese paintings, entangling lithography with a perceived “traditional” and “national” gaze.
I argue that the Republican revolutionaries did not choose drawing instead of photography because of the lack of technological devices, instead, they made conscious decisions and chose photography or drawing according to the effect they wanted to obtain and the audience they meant to address. This paper engages in a comparison between photographic and lithographic news images published by revolutionaries immediately after the Republican Revolution (1911), emphasizing the differences between drawing and photography and how they were effectively used to persuade the reader to assume a definite political position. The analysis focuses on portraits of Republican leaders, which were accurately constructed and circulated in the public space to convey a precise political ideal.
Christophe Premat (Stockholm University)
Promoting youth between the two world wars: The case of the magazine Télémaque in France in 1934
The magazine Télémaque was a bi-monthly magazine that aimed to reach out to a young audience with topics such as sport, culture and education. It mixed comics, pictures and competitions for the readers. Four numbers were published in 1934 that give an accurate impression of how youth was integrated in a national narrative. Here, the word ‘youth’ is used to enhance the social construction of a transformation between childhood and parenthood (Douglas, Poletti, 2016: 9) but the paradox is that there is no real voice given to young people because of a strong ideological posture of the editors. It seems that the magazine does not include a self-representation of youth, as French youth is only described and addressed from an external point of view. The young generation is rather defined as a potential audience of readers, a form of collective persona, but there are no real testimonies of young people, just a form of investigation on cultural habits of the young generation (Sadoski, 1992). The aim of the presentation is to show how an ideological discourse on youth emerged in the thirties in these kinds of cultural magazines in France. By focusing on sports, leisure activities and culture, the discourse constructs an idealistic and nationalistic persona of how youth should be and act in France between the two World Wars. The tools of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) will be applied to the corpus (four numbers of Télémaque) to analyze the synopsis of the numbers, the disposition of pictures, comics, interviews and articles as well as recurrent topics. CDA is useful to see how youth is represented with expressions of Othering (Van Dijk, 2006) where youth is mentioned as a collective target for the magazine. The software Tropes will be used to analyze the editorials to see how the ideological conception of youth is integrated into a narrative of national identity.
Adrien Rannaud (University of Toronto)
To be or not to be modern: The paradox of modernity in French-Canadian magazines during the 1930s
As Yvan Lamonde pointed out in La modernité au Québec (2011), modernity is a key word to understand the Quebecois public field and mediatic world in the 1930s. Inspired by Lamonde’s work, my presentation will argue that French-Canadian magazines also tried to shape modernity during the thirties, by circulating new ideas on consumerism and what we call middlebrow culture, but also by criticizing social progress and renewing traditional ideologies. I will focus on La Revue moderne, which was first founded as an intellectual periodical in 1919, and became during the inter-war period a mainstream women’s magazine.
Two series of texts and images will catch my attention. First, I will study the construction of “la Maison moderne”, a project from 1936 in which the magazine tried to encourage economic recovery. Based on some other transnational examples such as London’s Ideal Home exhibitions, “la Maison moderne” offers a crucial perspective on what I call the “mediatic narratives” which circulate in a French-Canadian magazine, regarding the purchasing power of the middle-classes and the extension of the suburbs around Montreal. In that case, modernity may stand for a democratic and good-value concept on the condition that it does not affect Canadian identity. The second part of my presentation will concentrate on the “courrier du mois” column running from 1930 to 1938. This regular correspondence rubric authored by Marjolaine (pseud. Justa Leclerc) shows a very traditional and religious perspective on gender relations, contrasting with the idea of “having it all”, which was an essential part in other columns. Indeed, Marjolaine’s responses to readers’ requests for advice consisted, in several critical articles, on the risks brought by modernity. These two series show, I will argue, how La Revue moderne tried to negotiate its moderate place in the Quebecois mediatic field, and how modernity was a fundamental and paradoxical aspect of magazines’ rhetoric and imaginary.
Anne Reynes-Delobel (Aix-Marseille University)
Caliban (1947-51): A forum on the future of Europe
This presentation seeks to investigate the question of modernity and national identity in the French magazine Caliban (1947-1951). Officially launched in 1947, Caliban finds its origins in a short-lived Resistance publication called Le Français dans la clandestinité created by Pierre de Vaumécourt, Paul-Léon Pierrat and Daniel Bernstein in 1941. In 1946, the editors of Le Français obtained permission to launch a new monthly magazine whose ambition was to help the readers “better understand the world so as to serve peace” (faire comprendre le monde pour mieux servir la paix). With moral and financial support from Albert Camus and contributions from a number of influential writers and journalists (including Sartre, Vercors, d’Astier, Fumet), young editor Jean Daniel devised Caliban as both a political and literary magazine (such as Esprit, Fontaine, La Nef, Temps modernes) and a “digest” in the vein of Constellation and Reader’s Digest (whose French edition was also launched in 1947). Despite its “mainstream” cover design and competitive price, Caliban openly opposed the editorial politics of the Reader’s Digest by publishing serious articles and unabridged literary works–mostly long stories or novellas–by French and foreign writers (Moravia, DH Lawrence, Louis Bromfield, Chekhov, Lagerlof) with a view to exploring contemporary topics (such as the Marshall plan, the nuclear threat, technocracy), and fostering debate on European culture and identity. Divergent views among the magazine’s contributors on the subject of neutralism vs. federalism, socialism vs. capitalism, nationalism vs. internationalism reveal Caliban as a public forum where the ideals of peace and democracy inherited from the 1930s found new resonance but also new limitations.
Max Saunders (King’s College London)
Transhuman transnationals: The future states of J. B. S. Haldane and J. D. Bernal
The two most pioneering, most futurist and most enthusiastic contributors of predictions to the extraordinary To-Day and To-Morrow series (1923-31) were first published in magazines. J. B. S. Haldane’s Daedalus; or, Science and the Future (1923), the first volume of the book series, had initially appeared as ‘If You Were Alive in 2123 A. D.’, in the then progressive American magazine Century, 106 (August 1923), 549-66. J. D. Bernal’s The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1929) had first appeared in C.K. Ogden’s British journal Psyche, 9:4 (April 1929), 3-26.
Haldane’s book effectively launched the series, which grew to over 100 volumes, and was massively influential especially on thinking about science and society. It also influenced Aldous Huxley, whose ‘hatcheries’ in Brave New World derive from Haldane’s imagining of ‘ectogenesis’, or gestation outside the womb. Bernal’s book, comparably influential, especially in the field of science fiction, imagines space travelling ‘biospheres’, cyborgs, and a form of wireless interconnectivity that anticipates our internet. Both writers were to become leading Marxist intellectuals. Together with Bertrand Russell, whose Icarus; or, the Future of Science (1924) was a riposte to Haldane, they were reimagining the relations between science, politics, and the modern and future state.
The interest of the science has tended to obscure the importance of the politics in these texts. The paper will situate the texts in relation to the magazines; discuss their development from magazine to book versions; and argue that their political vision was central to their reimagination of technological modernity. Nowhere is this more apparent than in their conviction that the progress of science and technology puts increasing pressure on the idea of the nation state, and enables new transnational configurations.
Roozbeh Seyedi (Leiden University)
Fight for what? The forgotten “Revolutionary Spirit” of modern art in Iran
Modernist art movements in the global South commonly confronted an inherent dilemma; to reconcile the particularity of their “national” culture with an apparently universal aesthetics of modern art. Consequently, these movements often relied and contributed in construction of “cultural heritage” as a main source of inspiration while they were actively engaged with the discussions on modern art in European metropoles. In this paper, I revisit the short-lived avant-garde journal, Khorus Jangi (the Fighting Cock- 1948) as a crucial moment in the formation of “national” modern art in Iran. I explore the ways in which Khorus Jangi’s contributors appropriated the evolutionary scheme of materialist historiography of art and the configuration of politically committed artist to privilege the aesthetic autonomy of art over its socialist obligations.
It was after the abdication of Reza Shah, the founder of the autocratic and nationalist Pahlavi state (1925-1979) by allied forces, and in an unprecedented opening of Iran’s political scene that the first issues of Khorus Jangi was published. Agitated by establishment of the socialist Tudeh Party (party of the masses) and heated debates on national integrity and social and political reform, a group of avant-garde artists came together to establish the association Khorus Jangi to foster discussions on modern art in Iran. Heavily influenced by Cubism and Surrealism, their journal significantly created an aesthetic field in which the various forms of writings (stories, poems and plays) came together to reify the dilemmas of the national modern art. As I show in this paper, what enabled Khorus Jangi to prioritize the aesthetic autonomy of art over any social determinations was the very vocabulary that Marxist intellectuals have had crafted to advocate a socially committed art. I trace a genealogy of the configurations of modern artist in the imaginary sites of the literary and historical texts to argue that the already envisioned figure of militant/revolutionary artist was a necessary constitute of Khorous Jangi’s discourse. The very figure of militant/revolutionary artist became the principal register through which the “cultural heritage” can be rediscovered to create a “genuinely national modern art”.
Carey Snyder (Ohio University)
The global dialogics of The New Age
The London-based weekly The New Age, edited by A. R. Orage from 1907 to 1922, was known for promoting spirited debates on politics, literature, and the arts. Scholars have been attentive to what Ann Ardis terms the magazine’s “unusual commitment to […] Bakhtinian dialogics in the public sphere,” but less so to the role that the letters column played in facilitating these often contentious, often transnational debates. I argue that the letters column functioned as a forum for linking not only individual readers and contributors from around the world, but also wider discursive and periodical communities.
As a case study of the magazine’s global dialogics, this presentation focuses on an eleven-month debate that unfolded in New Age correspondence concerning the so-called black peril–the supposed epidemic of black men attempting to rape white women in South Africa. Critical commentators of the day regarded the peril as greatly exaggerated, what historians today would consider a “moral panic” fueled by a desire to reinforce white supremacy. The flames of the panic were stoked by the Umtali case of 1910, in which Lord Gladstone commuted the death sentence of an Umtali native convicted of attempted rape to life imprisonment, due to what he perceived as the dubious evidence of the case. His decision sparked mass protests and petitions among the white community in South Africa and a heated discussion about race and racism that reverberated throughout the empire, including in the columns of The New Age.
New Age staff writer J. M. Kennedy took up the case in his foreign affairs column, sparking responses from readers across the globe, including white settlers in Johannesburg, Crisis editor and NAACP founder W. E. B. Du Bois, Sudanese-Egyptian writer Duse Mohammed Ali, and British suffragette Emily Wilding Davison. Core contributor Beatrice Hastings, a South African living in London, played her characteristic role as provocateur, alleging that the threat to white womanhood was concocted to promote racial hysteria. My presentation will examine the gendered and racial politics of this debate and how it was shaped by its specific periodical context and by the various national and ideological contexts of its interlocutors.
Laura Truxa (EHESS, Paris)
Visual modernism and its others in VU
Presenting itself as a technological achievement through its spectacular use of photography and photomontages, as well as innovative typographic choices, the french illustrated weekly VU (1928-1940) helped produce a mainstream ideal of modernity both through its content and form. Thanks to its producers’ networks, its design drew upon central-european avant-garde movements such as Neue Typographie and upon Russian constructivism. VU’s “domestication” of modernist tropes, which will be examined, influenced many publications including LIFE. The magazine claimed in fact to be a new standard for modern printed media, and to offer an objective, unbiased access to “universal life” by “informing visually”. At first glance, its run-of-the-mill modernism, supposed to favor neutrality and universal visual communication, fits its mildly liberal, initially ill-defined editorial policy. Yet a closer look reveals that varied political stances, topics and layout styles coexisted within its pages.
Because the magazine occasionally used traditional or decorative layouts, its most modernist spreads underline what its producers, albeit overtly progressive, deemed “modern” and reveal a covert sexist, exoticist gaze. A selection of counter-examples will be discussed, such as articles about women’s rights and women’s fashion spreads which appear similarly traditional and surprisingly ornamental. Spreads with regard to non-western countries often rely on orientalist gimmicks. Most notably, foreign scripts such as Arabic or Chinese are mimicked by decorative typefaces. Such design practices imply French interwar visual culture revolved around strong social and cultural stereotypes. Besides, they hint at visual modernism’s inherent contradictions: if modernist design was merely employed to divide “modern” topics from others, and therefore to illustrate a dominant idea of modernity, how could it claim universality and transparency?
Emma West (University of Birmingham)
“The Greater Britain of Fascists”: Politics and photomontage in Action (1936-1940)
Published weekly between February 1936 and May 1940, Action was the official organ of the British Union of Fascists (BUF). With its anti-establishment take on current affairs, accessible introductions to international politics, and lighter features like its woman’s, sport and book review pages, the newspaper cultivated a populist appeal, positioning itself and the BUF on the side of the people. Under the masthead ‘For King and People’, clearly a dig at the Daily Mail’s ‘For King and Empire’, and the slogan ‘Britain First’, Action aimed to promote the nationalist, populist and Fascist cause among possible BUF sympathisers.
This paper explores the complex relationship between nationalism and internationalism in Action through specific reference to its front pages. With their reliance on photography and often photomontage, its front pages combined British tabloid reporting with European avant-garde experimentation.
Consisting of a series of photographs in the ‘picture gallery’ style of the Daily Mail or Mirror, Action’s front page took the tabloid model and adapted it into a sophisticated form of propaganda. Images were typically grouped around a theme, such as things that the £7 million spent on sanctions could better be invested in, from schools to housing. Photographs were used to give weight to the BUF’s claims and conspiracy theories, presenting them as facts. Action also made extensive use of photomontage, a technique more usually associated with the anti-Fascist European avant-garde. We could think here of John Heartfield’s covers for AIZ, including his iconic Goering: The Executioner of the Third Reich (1933). Whether the BUF were familiar with the European avant-garde is unclear, but Action nonetheless appears to recuperate this technique, utilising modernist principles to construct its nationalist vision of an ideal modernity.[Further abstracts to follow.]