Dear Claire, your talk has raised so many important ideas and questions that cut across a lot of the other papers. I am still thinking them through. Mexican Folkways, as you present it, seems to tap into so many of our interests, especially in relation to method and categorisation. One thing that caught my attention is what you said about how 'its very infrequency may have reduced its hold on readers', and also how it became increasingly unpunctual, going down to bimonthly and then every three months and then becoming erratic. Is there any possibility that this may actually have increased its hold on readers, by giving it a certain rarity value or increasing the sense of anticipation as readers waited for a new issue? Or is this a narrative that we impose retrospectively, thinking about for instance titles like BLAST and the way that issues of magazines which didn't adhere to a regular publishing schedule ended up being very valuable in the collectors' marketplace? Perhaps your research has revealed whether Mexican Folkways really did lose readers as it became less frequent, and/or become less frequent because it had lost readers? There are lots of other things I'd like to know more about, but this is just one for starters. Thank you so much.
I really enjoyed your presentation, especially the methodological issues that you raise. Punctuality is a great example. As you mention, the date of publication of a particular magazine issue is often different from the actual date of distribution. I often come across cases where, retrospectively, a certain magazine issue is supposed to have commented on a particular historical situation, even though I know (from checking editors' diaries, for instance) that the issue in question had not yet been distributed at that time, regardless of the date that is on the cover!
In the project on Chinese women's magazines that I was involved in, we addressed some of these methodological issues, especially the different ways of reading magazines and using the materials contained in there for research. We talk about "horizontal, vertical, integrated, and situated" readings. The first (horizontal) simply close-reads a magazine issue from cover to cover as if it were a book; the second (vertical) reads specific sections of a magazine in order over time; the third integrates readings of magazine material with readings of directly related print culture material (for instance, books by the same publisher); the fourth situates magazines into a wider range of historical and archival material. See here for the Introduction to the project volume, in which these methods are outlined: https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/women-and-the-periodical-press-in-chinas-long-twentieth-century/womens-journals-as-multigeneric-artefacts/1215DAEC93873D4CBD82AA99AEC719E3/core-reader#
Thanks very much for your question (and sincere apologies for my own rather unpunctual reply).
Did the magazine's increased lack of frequency actually strengthen its hold on readers in creating a greater sense of anticipation for it? This is a great question and entirely possible, I think. On one level, of course, it's just really hard to know whether this would have been the case, without any concrete data on readership for the title being available, or without any available 'evidence' from readers, in, say, the form a letter's page (as Folkways didn't publish a regular letters page - there was one in the first issue but after that it wasn't repeated). I think the magazine would certainly have had a certain cache in particular circles in and outside Mexico at the time (not least among the very transnational cultural and intellectual elite and on account of the roster of contributors to it). So, yes, it would have had a 'consolidated'/'faithful' readership in that respect (who would look out for the next issue), though its own interrupted and ultimately curtailed lifespan was largely a result of its funding problems and changing political circumstances at the Department of Education (and I suspect, too, in the mix the commitments of and relationships between contributors and editor). In the broader context of periodicals, Folkways didn't do too badly in terms of its publication life, it has to be said, when compared with many of Mexico's other little magazines or cultural reviews, many of which only lastly for 2-3 years, though of course more commercial titles of the day in Spanish like Revista de revistas, which carried a lot of advertising, ran for decades. I know from looking at other transnational magazines, like Mexico. This Month (1955-1971) where that kind of data and material is available, that readers responded in different ways to interruptions in publication - by either holding firm to the magazine or by canceling subscriptions. And, indeed, the value of Folkways in the collector's marketplace now is another question - I'm not sure how much an issue would go for - but it's definitely the 'go-to' title for scholars and writers on this vibrant period of national reconstruction in Mexico, so I suspect it's likely to command a high value. But thank you again for this question, it's really made me think more about that question of how magazines retain a 'hold' their readers, which as you point out is not only an aesthetic/thematic question but one that has to do with the material context, and which might actually be counterintuitive.
Many thanks for this (and once again sincere apologies for my unpunctual reply).
So useful to know about this model you developed in the project on Chinese women's magazines (thanks for the link) - I really like the 'horizontal, vertical, integrated, and situated" descriptors for these approaches to reading. Faye Hammill and Michelle Smith discuss a germane approach to magazines, I recall, in their Magazines, Travel and Middlebrow Culture: Canadian Periodicals in English and French 1925-1960, where they talk about the different quality and value of reading cover to cover or sampling and so on. As a 'lone' scholar working on Folkways and other magazines to date, I recognise all those forms of reading as the kind of inroads I've taken to magazines at different stages of the research, some with more success than others (depending on, say, whether the same sections appeared over time in any one magazine [vertical], or whether pertinent archival material is (still) available [situated], not just the magazine issues themselves). But as a model I think it's very comprehensive and useful. I wonder too increasingly whether a collaborative team-based approach might be more successful/fruitful in tackling these approaches (as different 'work packages') together/at once? Thanks again.
@clairelindsay I think a team-based approach has a lot of advantages. In the project on women's magazines that I was a part of, it we really helpful to sit around the table and talk about the specific magazines we were focusing on. We also had IT people take part in the discussions, since they were helping us develop the online database that was part of the project. We also had graduate students reading through the journals and tagging every item of their content, including images, adverts, etc. It's all very labour-intensive but definitely worthwhile.