Questions of Method
Looking at the wonderful papers here brought home to me something that I've been thinking of for a while, and that relates to the many different ways in which we, as scholars of periodicals, analyse the object of study. The rich and varied way in which many of the papers here have approached their material made me wonder what other people think of this issue. By way of explanation: at the last physical conference I attended, in Mainz, Germany, I realised - to my shame - that there was a whole body of scholars in Germany that draw (as Patrick did in his initial keynote) on the 'small archive' theory of Gustav Frank and others. Why, I wondered, has this material not appeared in the Anglophone community of periodical scholars? Lack of translation is the simple answer, but this fact raises some broader questions for me, to which I welcome responses:
1. Are there other national methodological traditions for how we study magazines? How can we seek to share fruitful methods of analysis more widely across national boundaries?
2. Could we ever conceive that a single methodological approach to modern periodicals would emerge, given the incredibly diverse nature of the material upon which we all work? And would that be at all desirable, or should we just embrace methodological pluralism?
I think that this is an excellent point and something we should all think about from now on. As a matter of fact, I’m currently writing a short afterword to a forthcoming issue of the Journal of European Periodical Studies (JEPS) I’m guest editing together with Gioula Koutsopanagou on the topic “What is popular?”, and I was already indirectly trying to answer to Andrew’s second question.
Reading the articles that started to come in in their definitive shape, I came to the following remarks:
- every research is often the outcome of an individual effort, and it grounds on sources that aren’t always comparable. Moreover, we have different intellectual styles and also different intellectual and academic traditions. I am convinced that this must not be swept away and that “methodological pluralism” has to be maintained.
- Systematization may nevertheless be needed, in order to broaden and not to narrow the scope of our research.
My afterword on “popular”, though certainly limited and incomplete, would like to be a sort of check-list (mainly as a tool for young researchers). A check-list can give the idea of the complexity of a matter, of the many readings, interpretations and theoretical approaches that have been given over time. A researcher would then follow his or her path, but would nevertheless remember that there could be different ways to analyze those same sources and therefore enrich his or her perspective on the topic.
Dear Andrew and Fabio,
I really think Andrew made an important point: searching for overall methods we should be aware not only of the individual ideosyncratic perspectives of scholars as individuals, but also of the diferent cultural and disciplinary traditions and their local logics. Being part of the intellectual field, methods depend also on the "rules of the field" to say it with Bourdieu. What I really learned within the last years cooperating with colleagues from different parts of the spanish speaking world was mainly that even if the magazines are sometimes very similar in their forms and outfits (visual culture, typography etc.), their function can be quite dissimilar depending of the concrete social circumstances of the intellectual field they are part, and that there exist multiple modernities within the mainstream of modernist globalization.
To explore this trans-national diversity, certainly we have to deal with the problem of linguistic diversity. The use of collaborative virtual environments and more systematical efforts to connect different national archives and their digitized cultural heritage via linked metadata could be, at least, one step forward.
Thank you for this discussion, central in internationalizing periodical studies. Just a few points :
– comparison is of course important, as history of sciences and birth of new sciences shows, and we have to compare more and further, not only periodicals but also methods; perhaps we do not need an overall approach, but we need to be more aware of strong points in a variety of approaches. These could be useful tools as periodicals are so diverse, and research in periodicals is seldom predictable
– language or rather languages are an issue, because we often do not share the same concepts using different words ; also periodicals' vocabulary has a history per country that can be revealing, and not everything is translatable
– access and knowledge are a third issue: depending on the language of publication, some bodies of work become easily available, others not. Publishers are reluctant to have work translated because of the cost involved. Useful experience in organising the 7th ESPRit conference in Paris (2018) showed that bilinguism is essential (practised in varied forms, for instance talk in A language, show informative slides in language B, etc.) and work along these lines would be most welcome in broadening methodology