Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Brunner, Edward


The resurgence of modern periodical studies has expanded our understanding of “littleqrdquo; magazines and the editors behind them, but many studies continue to be restricted to the 1920s, examine male editors, and focus on well–established literary journals, rather than the subversive magazines that expanded the reign of modernism in the years from 1910 to 1950. These studies, though fascinating, privilege a select few and leave many lost to the archive. The new theory of book history and those who evaluate the book as a material object that is designed to circulate among a range of publics provide powerful and useful frameworks for recognizing the significance of what had previously been considered mere data. This study focuses on several neglected female little magazine editors who, despite various obstacles, powerfully intervened in the modernism debates throughout the 1910s through to the late 1940s by shaping successful publications to invite public appreciation of values they espoused. Unlike canonical modernist figures such as Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot who championed an elite style of modernism that was usually inaccessible to most, Lola Ridge, Gwendolyn Bennett, Caresse Crosby, and Kay Boyle encouraged diversity and fostered heterogeneity by selecting and juxtaposing material by new writers and artists who moved easily around and over the borders separating high art and mass culture, who recovered marginalized voices from history, and who appealed for social justice. Further, their traditional and non–traditional roles while they served as editors show that in many cases being an editor meant more than just choosing works and arranging them. One chapter is devoted to Lola Ridge, the American literary editor of Broom (1922-1923). Ridge was a cosmopolitan modernist who welcomed a broad audience to Broom and invited readers to champion styles of writing and artwork that contained strong social commentary with American subjects, instead of copying European models that many argued were created for art's sake. Another chapter focuses on African American poet, graphic artist and literary columnist, Gwendolyn Bennett, who held several editorial roles at Opportunity, Fire!!, and Black Opals, from the mid–1920s until the early 1930s. A heterodox modernist, Bennett skillfully discussed and placed artistic work by members of the New Negro movement next to the work by their forefathers, subsequently fostering congeniality between the two conflicting literary groups and promoting a united front during the development of the Harlem Renaissance. She also promoted co–operation between black and white artists and writers with her universally themed poetry, graphic art, and literary column. Chapter four centers on Black Sun Press book publisher, novelist, and poet, Caresse Crosby, owner and editor of Portfolio (1945-1948), who challenged artistic reception on both sides of the Atlantic by bringing glamorous modernism to her unbound journal of eclectic work. Crosby promoted co–operation between artists and writers from conflicting World War II countries through the placement and types of materials she published on the pages of her magazine. The epilogue calls for scholars to expand their view of the modernist project and recover the often “hidden” work by overlooked female little magazine editors. Like Ridge, Bennett, and Crosby before her, Kay Boyle (This Quarter 1927-1929), who can be linked to each editor (directly or indirectly), relied on her trusted network of friends as she edited This Quarter. Her editorial support for young and experienced artists who used innovative styles and her commitment to social justice parallels her colleagues' dedication to the modernist project. These women's labor, the significant literary time periods they worked in, the different genres, critical content, and styles of modernism they championed, and the social formations their journals produced expanded the base of modernism and reinvigorated American art and literature between the Wars, leaving a legacy for future artists and writers.




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