Literatur- und Wissensgeschichte kleiner Formen

DFG-Graduiertenkolleg 2190

The Magazine and the Miscellany. Expansion and Compression in the Periodical Press

The Magazine and the Miscellany. Expansion and Compression in the Periodical Press

Workshop of the Research Training Group The Literary and Epistemic History of Small Forms

July 19–20, 2021

Organized by Stephan Brändle, Lara Helder, Ethel Matala de Mazza, Clare Pettitt, Helga Schwalm and Alexander Soytek

A loanword from Arabic, “magazine” in the 18th century still primarily denoted “A place where goods are kept in store; a storehouse for goods or merchandise; a warehouse or depot” (OED), similarly in German, “Ort, wo ein Vorrath an Waaren, Lebens=Mitteln oder Kriegs=Munition verwahret wird” (Zedlers Univeral-Lexikon, 1739). Only gradually did the term with its spatial connotation of a place of storage come to be used for periodicals. The first such periodical was the English Gentleman’s Magazine, founded in London in 1731. With its broad range of articles, it was directed towards a nonspecific readership and offered something interesting or worth reading for every reader.

In the following decades, such magazines came to represent a specific type of journalism: to a greater extent than the daily papers, its hallmark was variety and openness as well as an unruly mixture of heterogeneous components (Franzel 2018). At the same time, its publishers strove to set themselves apart from the growing competition by a recognizable method of blending topics. “Miscellaneity became generic, but generic miscellaneity took different forms and formats” (Turner 2020). Its important structuring element is periodicity itself: Subjecting the magazines to a continuous rhythm, the regularity of the serial was used for the administration and aesthetic organization of the diversity of topics (Stockinger 2018, Pettitt 2020); at the same time, the subsequent binding of individual issues into volume format was already intended.

Taking off with cases taken from the 18th and 19th centuries, our workshop seeks to explore the associated forms and practices of compression as they were employed by magazines for the purposes of the expansion of their capacities, of presenting as much miscellaneous content as possible within their limited space. We welcome contributions (20–25 minutes) that address scientific and literary periodicals as well as popular magazines and especially dwell on the following aspects.

[1] Reduction of Distance. With titles such as Revue des deux mondes or later Über Land und Meer (Across Land and Sea), the programmatic agenda of such magazines comes to the fore: they sought to offer a global scale for their choice of items worth knowing about. This corresponds to a style of collecting copied from the cabinets of curiosities and wonder-rooms. Other German-language magazines in the 18th century choose the title of “Museum” (Franzel 2019), and they aim at the exotic, remote and foreign as novelties (Graevenitz 1993). Compilation, the co-presence of the remote in the narrowest space of one single issue, might be seen as a mirror image of the proximity generated by the new infrastructures of world traffic. On the other hand, it might also highlight that entire worlds lie between regions and milieus that in actual fact sit close together. We therefore seek to examine compression as an effect of juxtaposition enforced by the limited space of a magazine issue. We want to investigate to what extent miscellaneous pieces on a page contextualize each other and exhibit consequences of social, technological and political transformations.

[2] Aesthetic Economies of Compression. The seriality of publication requires a specific editorial management of attention. Whether a reader will remain loyal to a magazine depends less on the particular radiance of particular contributions than on the appeal of the mélange. At the same time, this affects the visual diversity of the page space. Heterogeneity needs to be presented in such a way that it can be enjoyed in its variety, as most readers will not actually read items but merely browse through the magazine. “Miscellaneity requires one to select, anthologize, extract, and sample, but in the service of breadth and multiplicity rather than singularity” (Turner 2020). Thus, what needs to be examined are the practices of internal formatting of the magazines: branding via formats and uniformity of layout, the establishment of recurring sections through use of typography and arabesque ornaments, the interaction between text and illustration, the use of images, maps, and diagrams to produce an overview through the reduction of scale, the effects of condensation but also the limitation of visual supplements to a single wood engraving in popular magazines (Pettitt 2020).

[3] Kleine Formen. Small Forms. With regard to literature, magazines have significantly contributed to the rise of a type of prose that reached its first readership in the form of continuous instalments. This holds true in particular for the 19thcentury novella in Germany. However, despite the commercial alliance with the medium of the magazine, the book form remained crucial to authors. From the outset, the initial publication in a periodical was planned as an advance publication, guaranteeing that the novella form could model itself on “established genre repertoires” (Graevenitz 1993). Novels, in turn, which entrusted themselves more willingly to the affordances of the serial format, risked the loss of cohesion and undue proliferation in the face of the immanent interminability of the series. This result certainly might be called “narrative grand form” but not “grand narrative” (Niehaus 2018).

In contrast, the serial format allowed small forms to exhibit their unconventional nature. This might explain the great significance of the “little magazine” (Bulson 2017) especially for the avantgardes, which cultivated such small forms in order to satisfy the ‘Zeitgeist’ with brevity. Hence, the workshop will also explore small genres promoted by such magazines and the concise writing styles they cultivated in order to condensate modernity and mobility iconically.

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