ARCHIVED: The Women of the Little Magazine Movement Exhibit

America-Meet Modernism

An exhibit chronicling and highlighting the Little Magazine Movement, a landmark in American letters, will preview at Sarah Lawrence College during the month of November. An expanded exhibit will be on view at the Cervantes Institute in Manhattan in late spring. Acclaimed writer Barbara Probst Solomon and her graduate writing class at Sarah Lawrence College created the exhibit, which will tour the country next year. For further information and exhibit hours please call (914) 395-2470.

The Little Magazine Movement is as significant a literary landmark as the 1913 Armory Show is to the art world. “America -- Meet Modernism! Women of the Little Magazine Movement,” is a comprehensive view of the impact little magazines, and the women writers who founded some of the most important ones, had on modernist literature in the first half of the twentieth century.

The Dial, Poetry, The Little Review, Story, Twice A Year and Sur in Buenos Aires introduced to this continent Cubism, Surrealism, Futurism, and feminist and Freudian theory. Among the poets and writers first published in these pioneering magazines were Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, Zora Neale Hurston, Carson McCullers, Mina Loy, William Faulkner, Franz Kafka, James Joyce, Kay Boyle, Sherwood Anderson, Mary Butts, Anton Chekhov, Marianne Moore, Amy Lowell, Ernest Hemingway, J.D. Salinger, John Cheever, Norman Mailer, Tennessee Williams and Virginia Woolf.

The exhibit includes a rare display of these “little” magazines, including The Dial from1842 as well as a collection of over forty photographs of the magazines' legendary editors and authors (some taken by Berenice Abbott, Man Ray, Alfred Stieglitz, and Dorothy Norman), vintage posters advertising the magazines and a detailed literary timeline of the women of the little magazine movement spanning the mid 19th to the mid 20th century. Five short films will be shown continuously during the exhibit hours. These include the rarely seen "A Propos de Nice" by the great innovative French director of the 1920s and early 30s' Jean Vigo; "Viaje a la Luna" by the Barcelona artist from an original screen play by Frederico Garcia Lorca; "Meshes in the Afternoon" (1943-59); "A Marriage: Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz" (1991) by Edwin Sherin and "Paris was a Woman" (1997), by Greta Schiller. The expanded version of this exhibit will include some Modernist art.

“To date there has been no overall evaluation of the tremendous role that women played during the Modernist period; their accomplishments remain a lost part of our literary history, an unknown part of our heritage,” said Solomon, who with her students wrote the catalogue and collected the materials. “In assembling this exhibit and time-line my students at Sarah Lawrence College and I have focused on these women editors and writers in the context of the times they lived in, rather than as gender outsiders,” she said. “Interestingly, when viewed from this perspective, their contribution to Modernism and American literature, rather than diminishing, hugely expands.”

Barbara Probst Solomon is a professor in the MFA program at Sarah Lawrence, writer, editor and filmmaker. Among her books is her classic prize-winning memoir Arriving Where We Started and the novel Smart Hearts in the City. Her essays have appeared in Harper's Magazine, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, Vogue, L'Infini, Cambio16, and The New York Review of Books. Her documentaries include the prize winning "When the War was Over." She is the El Pais American cultural correspondent and the editor of the literary journal The Reading Room. While a student in Paris in the 1950s she helped establish the historic Spanish dissident magazine Peninsula, which evolved into the legendary Paris-based Spanish publishing house Ruedo Iberico.

“The little magazine course is an excellent example of what we do best at Sarah Lawrence--provide our students with a rigorous educational experience that is at the same time innovative, even unprecedented,” said Vijay Seshadri, director of Sarah Lawrence’s graduate program in creative non-fiction. “Through this course our students not only studied literary history and wrote about it but also had a chance to touch it, and in fact, in important ways, make it.”

The museum catalogue for “America -- Meet Modernism!” will be available at the Sarah Lawrence College bookstore and at booksellers, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. For further information: contact Great Marsh Press 212-946-4522 or visit . The exhibit is sponsored by Sarah Lawrence College, Great Marsh Press and the Cervantes Institute.


Notes on America – Meet Modernism! Women of the Little Magazine Movement

Statement from the Curator:
For many years I had mulled over in my mind the possibility of making an exhibit that would recover the lost history of these extraordinary women and their legendary magazines. As a writer, as an editor of a literary magazine, and as a teacher of writing students, I felt it important for students to realize that mainstream publishing is not identical to the history of great twentieth century literature. This past year I was able to organize the exhibit. I had eight highly motivated students in the Sarah Lawrence College graduate writing course I teach who were eager to make a museum catalogue and gather materials for the exhibit. I tossed out the ball; Nicole Davis, Leslie Hoffman, Ann Fine, Pamela Johnson, Martha Mortenson, Lynn Pitts, Tamuira Reid, and Donna Zucker, working as an ensemble team, energetically returned the volley. Each student wrote an essay on one of the magazines for our 152 page museum catalogue. What they liked best about the project was the experience of making something that turned into a published work. BPS

Historical Notes:
The precursor to all the little magazines was the 1840 transcendentalist Dial, which Ralph Waldo Emerson started, choosing Margaret Fuller as its editor. In addition to her writings and translations, Fuller wrote first-hand accounts of prison and mental asylum conditions, and became the first American woman foreign newspaper correspondent, covering the 1848 Italian revolution for the American press.

No one agrees on the exact moment when Modernism arrived on these shores. Alfred Stieglitz opened Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession (later known as "291") in New York in 1905, but it was the 1913 Armory Show that created the cultural storm. Yet one year before Marcel Duchamp and Picasso were shocking the American public with their art, literary modernism had crossed the ocean and was firmly on the train to Chicago. Harriet Monroe, inspired in her visit to London by the poetry of Ezra Pound, had founded Poetry magazine. Two years later, also in Chicago, Margaret Anderson founded The Little Review; she was soon joined by Jane Heap, an artist from Kansas. In l918 they published the first installment of James Joyce's Ulysses; by 1920 obscenity charges were filed against the magazine for publishing the thirteenth episode of Ulysses. Anderson and Heap lost the court case and even were threatened with prison. The post office destroyed all the copies of the magazine. It was `burn Ulysses burn' time. In the 20s Anderson and Heap moved The Little Review to Paris; during the same period Marianne Moore became the chief editor of the reincarnated version of The Dial.

The women connected to the Little Magazine movement wanted to be at the epicenter of the literary endeavor, at the heart of Modernism. They insisted on being essential players in their time, not an easy accomplishment for women in the first half of the twentieth century. They were plucky, determined, and combined a keen sense of literary and artistic judgment with innate felicitous practical know-how. Though their emphasis was on Modernism, they were alert to social issues. Martha Foley was jailed three days in Boston for championing women's rights; Victoria Ocampo was jailed for one month for her opposition to the dictator Juan Peron, and was unable to leave Argentina until the mid 1950s. Dorothy Norman was a close friend of Indira Ghandi and helped to set up the American Emergency Food Committee to feed the hungry in India.