On (Im)personality

The materiality of periodicals is something I intend to focus more on, because terms like bibliographic or periodical codes are newish to me, even if the characteristics they refer tomjp pdf view are not.  And an interest in the artifact is part of what brought me to my current course of study– even if it is only the thrill of seeing it digitized rather than holding or smelling it.

But what is striking about my first few weeks of reading deeply in (twentieth-century, so far mostly British) periodical studies is how much the field is biographical as much or more than bibliographic.  Of course,  the Eliotic Modernism that came to be canonical espoused rather an escape from personality, and to some degree the professed approach of contemporary critics has also foregrounded the material-historical, not the social-biographical (or frequently even the literary), so this makes for a strange conundrum.  I suppose it’s obvious that, even for the publications that were not specific iterations of an artistic manifesto, the editors’ politics, finances, religion will shape what is sought and accepted for print.  But a common sense of a journal is that it has an inherent integrity or being, that it exists as it is, and its contents and the trajectory of its run are somehow determined by the identity of (“direct treatment of”) the thing itself. Even without being blind to the fingerprints or quotation marks of all those who produce the text, I am surprised to find my readings framed coolly by timelines, price comparisons, advertisement info, and then burrowing into a warren of personalities: John Middleton Murry, Katherine Mansfield, Ford Madox Ford, Dora Marsden, Harriet Monroe, Harold Monro, T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound (They Who Need Not Be Linked), A.R. Orage, Wyndham Lewis and more…plus myriad contributors, patrons, assistants, advisers.  They were introduced at parties and lectures, went to Oxford together, quarreled, broke up marriages, gave each other paid work, switched allegiances, jockeyed for leadership of, or to speak for, a new literature, new society, new woman, new financial system, new theory.

What I mean is that it’s striking how much the inspiration for, founding and funding of, work on and of, and eventual success or failure of the modernist magazines is personal, even intimate, and the research on them reflects that, giving ample space to biographical, or private, information that underlies these brave forays into the public sphere.  How will this affect the direction of my interest in specific titles, and how will it affect my reading of literary works or essays withing the covers?

Some faces:

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4 thoughts on “On (Im)personality

  1. I’m so pumped to follow your blog, Mara! I just like, moments ago) finished drafts of my PhD essays, so I am finally able to send a quick response to this: I agree completely. Personalities ran these things, and getting to know them is challenging (not always in a good way, but often). My personal favorite for a bad-way challenge is Beatrice Hastings of “The New Age.” The liberated anti-feminist. Excited to hear about the poetess.

    “It is for some such reason that all criticism should be professedly personal criticism. In the end the critic can only say ‘I like it’, or , ‘I am moved’, or something of that sort. When he has shown us himself we are able to understand him.”
    –EP, “The Serious Artist,” Egoist Nov. 1 1913.

    Ok, now to edit these durn’ things…

  2. Tyler,
    So happy to see you in this space! Great quote from The Evil Godfather. I am getting a kick out of meeting him around every blessed corner in my reading. Haven’t found Beatrice Hastings yet but am now on the lookout.

    Your comment raises something else that actually got me started on that post but I didn’t write about it– how many of the personalities are not appealing (although old Harold Monro seems like a mensch). I am also reading a lot about World War I in preparation for my new courses this summer and fall, which is taking me to continental figures a good deal…. how did I not know that Rilke was a terrible anti-Semite and kind of an asshat all around?? I didn’t know. Devastating.

    Long ago I had to grapple with EP’s bitter, ugly prejudices and TSE’s smirky comments about “old maids” (ironic– Tom Eliot himself the ultimate old maid of modernism if you know what I mean) etc. etc. So the challenges now: So many [fascists, anti-Semites, misogynists…]. I’m scapegoating Wyndham Lewis, not wanting him to get so much attention, but in part because I can’t get past Hemingway’s description of him as having the eyes of a “failed rapist” (YIKES. Have been staring at his photo thinking about that). Also: the Woody Allen mess in the news has led to so much discussion of art vs. artist. I haven’t watched Woody Allen in years but I read Pound (Bollingen Prize controversy in my head as I read Allen arguments). Is it historical distance or what I am willing to read/watch through?

    I didn’t expect to face that question so much during my immersion in periodical studies but it feels constant.

    So pleased that your exams are wrapping, Tyler. Hope you can share your wisdom here from time to time.

  3. Antisemitism and racism are two of the worms-in-the-apple of the MJP. Evolutionary racism in particular. Allen Upward in Egoist Feb 2, for example, I just had to stop reading.

    Those anti-feminist socialists over at The New Age at least have the decency to debunk the international Jewish conspiracy theory, in Aug 14 1913. I blogged about it, also mentioning a moment in yr. main woman R. West’s Egoist story “At Valladolid” where her character offhandedly remarks “We hate Jews because of their habit of evaluation…” Do we give her the free pass of “oh, that was a character not her?”

    Such a strange world! I read the serialized version of Tarr for exams: at least Lewis makes the rapist the hateful villain? Is it weird that I have to make that an “at least?” Yes. Yes it is. BTW, Tarr appeared entirely during WWI: Tarr as war novel? So do a bunch of H.D. poems. H.D. as war poet? George Bornstein does that great reading of Moore as a war poet, I’m thinking about trying the trick with Hilda.

    When I need a break from assholery, I read “The Masses” which is generally more compatible with our politics. John Reed and Robert Carlton Brown are my favorite writers over there. Brown doesn’t have a wikipedia page yet, I tried to make him one but didn’t get very far in the project. Reed has the distinction of smacking down Pound’s misreading of his poem “Sangar” (EP misconstrued it when he used it as the epigraph to “Pax Saturni.”). He’s a badass, even if it’s hard to get into “Sangar.”

  4. You SHOULD do that H.D. project. Have you read Sarah Graham’s piece from the Cambridge Companion to H.D.? I did a review of that volume for the journal Women’s Studies and hers was interesting, pairing Hymen and Trilogy as war poems. I need to go back to that Bornstein piece… have had a Dickinson, Moore, Bishop class in mind (all the Misses).

    Your comment is helpful mapping for me (something like travel warnings of where one might get hung up by accidents) because I am really not back in the MJP yet for this sabbatical, and my teaching in it has focused so heavily on Poetry anyway. I am beginning with critical work, reading a lot in periodical studies (as a discipline, and of course moreso modernist than Victorian) because I want to come back into the database with differently trained eyes.

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