Magazines and/as Media:

Methodological Challenges in Periodical Studies

  • A Symposium Co-Organized by Faye Hammill, Paul Hjartarson, and Hannah McGregor
  • August 14-16 2014, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Please Note: For more information about the opening public session, Canadian Magazines: Past, Present, Future, click here. All other symposium events are limited to invited participants only.


Thursday, August 14

8pm Orientation / Meet-and-Greet

  • Rosso Pizzeria, 8738 109 St. 

Workshop participants are invited to join us for a casual get-together and orientation in preparation for the rest of the workshop.


Friday, August 15

9:00-10:00 Welcome and Breakfast

10:00-12:00 Session I:  The Politics and Aesthetics of Seriality

James Mussell (Leeds): In Our Last: the Presence of the Previous in Magazine Form

  • Abstract: My argument is that magazines are characterised by a tense relationship with their ever-expanding archive.  The newness of the current issue is predicated on its difference from its predecessor, yet that difference is understood in the context of the past issue’s continuing presence.  Newness is always tempered by repetition in magazine publication as forms from past issues are repeated in the present maintaining continuity and allowing the identity of the publication to transcend any particular incarnation.  In my paper, I use the phrase “In our last”, commonly used by magazine editors to refer to this troublesome archive, to analyse three distinct aspects of magazine form: continuity, where past issues are made present in the current issue; succession, where the present issue displaces those from the past; and “the last”, when publication ceases. 

Susan Hamilton (Alberta): Genre and/as Social Action in the Victorian Anti-Vivisection Press

  • Abstract: At the 1889 Annual Meeting of the Victoria Street Society (publisher of the Zoophilist), Frances Power Cobbe addressed fellow anti-vivisectionists, urging them to read in order to support their claim to a place in the public debate on the use of live animals in experiments. As Carolyn Miller and James Mussell remind us, “[g]enre makes things happen.” This paper explores genre and social action by examining the ways in which two advocacy periodicals—the Home Chronicler and the Zoophilist—used genre to create configurations of readers. Both periodicals display distinct approaches to the serial use of commonly available material and the creation of serial systems for producing material (e.g., establishing branch associations, soliciting fictions for junior readers, and using textual “assemblages” including testimony at Royal Commissions and stories of rescued dogs). What work do the emergent genres of anti-vivisectionist periodicals perform, and how do such genres generate an effect called “advocacy”?

Teresa Zackodnik (Alberta):  Remediating Racializing Technologies: Magazine Photography, Illustration and the 'New Negro' Woman

  • Abstract: This paper is provoked by James Mussell’s assertion that repetitive, generic forms are “sorted” by readers “from content…mark[ed] as supplementary,” and forgotten. Methodological attention to repetition as constitutive, mediating, and amnesiac has particular implications for the study of African American periodicals and Black feminisms within them: What might it mean to consider mid 19th-century slave advertisements and the generic codes of their illustrations—the enabling genre of American periodicals broadly—alongside an attention to how illustrations and photography in periodicals and magazines at the turn of the century worked politically for Black women? This paper will argue that we must reposition the “supplementary” and forgotten as constitutive, both of racialization in the American periodical’s history broadly and of politicized resistance to that racialization in African American magazines at the turn of the century specifically, in order to understand how racializing print genres, illustration, and photography might be remediated as a liberatory.

12:00-1:00 Lunch

1:00-2:30 Session II: Intermediality and Modern(ist) Media Ecologies

Kirsten J. G. MacLeod (Newcastle): Mediating Between Media – Old and New, High and Popular: The American Bibelot Boom of the 1890s

  • Abstract: The magazine revolution of the 1890s has long been associated with the rise of cheap, mass-market periodicals. This revolution also, however, witnessed the emergence of a less definable, but equally significant, form of magazine, the bibelot, which was linked to existing and emerging media. Bibelots mediated between old and new technologies, fine collectible books and ephemeral magazines, high art and advertising, and mainstream and alternative culture. At the same time, they were the forerunners of or served as gateways to the development of new media, high and low, of the twentieth century, from little magazines, pulp magazines, and journals of opinion to advertising, film, and radio. This paper situates these magazines in these contexts, considering the degree to which their generic instability has contributed to their neglect in periodical scholarship. It asks, further, whether emerging digital technologies offer possibilities for best representing and understanding the complexities of these publications.

Debra Rae Cohen (South Carolina): Listening Publics, Reading Practices: Towards an Intermedial Ergodics

  • Abstract: Kate Lacey’s recent work on the cultural politics of listenership stresses the “radical shift in the practice of public journalism required by the reintroduction of sound into public discourse.” Yet her illuminating study does not extend to the effects of that reintroduction on the formal elements of the periodical, or to the ways in which listenership and readership were mutually constitutive. This presentation builds on my previous work on the BBC’s weekly journal, the Listener, to reflect on the ways in which its overlapping logics of seriality, drawn from differing media codes, complicate the operation of what Sean Latham has identified as the ergodic quality of the periodical.

2:30-3:00 Coffee Break

3:00-4:30 Session III: Periodicals and Political Movements

Maria DiCenzo (Wilfrid Laurier): Remediating History: Periodicals and Revisionist Historiography

  • Abstract: This paper draws on feminist media history to examine the role of periodical studies in revisionist historiography. My current research on the feminist press in the interwar years in Britain challenges persistent historical narratives about the demise of a feminist movement or tendencies to characterize reform efforts in these years as conservative compared with the highly visible forms of activism typified by the pre-war suffrage campaign. These assumptions have served to obscure the active, diverse, and widespread feminist activities and issues debated in the aftermath of WWI. Women’s periodicals and magazines were instrumental in the continued mobilization of support for new and ongoing reform campaigns in national and international contexts. This paper will extrapolate from these examples to offer broader arguments about how periodicals problematize assumptions and narratives about the past. The paper will thus explore methodological and disciplinary challenges by considering the relationship between the cultural and political spheres.

Jana Smith Elford (Alberta): ”Newsletter

  • Abstract: Charting how the late-19th-century British socialist movement mobilized and disseminated its program for reform poses numerous challenges ranging from the availability of information to the implications of methodology and practice. Existing histories of the movement have tended to give broad overviews focused on central, identifiable leaders, resulting in hierarchicalization of well-known individuals, issues, and places, while the details of less-remembered figures and campaigns have been overlooked. Network visualizations have the potential to level these hierarchies, offering new modes of understanding, or simply reproduce them. I am interested in exploring how a newsletter, particularly, the Fabian News, might be conceived of as an entry point for perceiving the way social movements function. If we understand the newsletter—which contains reports of lectures, summaries of meetings, accounts of provincial and local activities—as itself a horizontal information network comprised of non-static links and nodes, we can better comprehend social movements both then and today.

4:30-6:30 Break

6:30-8:30 Group Dinner

  • Naryanni’s Indian Buffet, 10131 81 Ave.


Saturday, August 16

8:30-9:00 Breakfast

9:00-10:30 Session IV: Transatlantic and Transpacific Periodical Networks

J. Matthew Huculak (Victoria): Modernist Papers and Canadian Pulp: Transatlantic Networks of Magazine Materiality

  • Abstract: 1922, the fabled annus mirabilis of high-modernist literary production, marks the publication of Ulysses, The Waste Land, and Jacob’s Room; it also heralds the death of Britain’s most prolific and influential periodical publisher, Lord Northcliffe. Northcliffe, who owned both The Times and The Daily Mail—among many other papers—achieved unparalleled influence over the British reading public to the degree that he was appointed Britain’s first Director of Propaganda during the First World War.  Northcliffe needed paper to feed his empire, and fearing disruptions in supply from Europe, he single-handedly created a paper pulp industry in Grand Falls, Newfoundland. This presentation, based on a larger study by Huculak, examines the material networks of paper production in periodical publishing between 1908 and 1939, the year paper shortages created “The Grand Slaughter of Magazines” in London.

Victoria C. Kuttainen (James Cook): The Polymediated Pacific: Interwar Magazines as Portals into Late Colonial Modernity

  • Abstract: This paper explores the challenges of understanding historical periodicals not only as windows or port-holes into culture but also as tools that have aided in its construction.  Drawing from Madianou and Miller’s 2012 theories of polymedia and discussions of media ecology, I consider interwar mainstream magazines as portals, or search engines, through which readers participated in constructing changing visions of modernity—specifically changing visions of the Pacific during this era of cultural and technological change. Conceptualising the 1920s and 30s as a former era of “new media,” I explore how new glossy magazines vied for cultural capital alongside—but also featured—other new technologies of radio, film, literature, and advertising, thus crossing and constructing hierarchies of value. This paper will focus on how these magazines functioned as an “integrated structure” (Madianou and Miller) in which radio, theatre, film, advertising, and literature carried multichannel and remediated visions of the late colonial Pacific.

10:30-11:00 Coffee Break

11:00-12:30  Session V: Tracing the Paths of Low-Brow and Proletarian Print Culture

Will Straw (McGill): Constructing the Canadian Low-Brow Magazine: The Periodical as Media Object in the 1930s and 1940s

  • Abstract: Magazines are expressive forms, but they are also material objects. The mediality of the magazine derives from both of these characteristics: from the discourses and rhetorics inscribed on a magazine’s pages and from the magazine’s capacity, as object, to circulate, carry materials, and join spaces both social and geographical. My paper examines the movement of materials, titles and formats across the U.S. –Canadian border in the 1930s and 1940s. In this process, magazines were dis-assembled into their constitutive parts, which were then reassembled in new combinations. Canadian magazines of the late 1930s and early 1940s were in many ways composed of the detritus of a slightly earlier period of low-end U.S. magazine production. In this respect, magazines, as media, became carriers for materials (photographs, drawings, short texts) set loose by regulatory, commercial and cultural factors. 

Andrea Hasenbank (Alberta): Assembly Lines: Researching Radical Print Networks

  • Abstract: Researching the politics of class and labour in 1930s Canada as represented in the radical print of the decade, including newspapers, pamphlets, magazines, and other ephemeral and non-book material presents a challenge to the methodologies and practices of periodical studies and book history. The rare surviving texts are singular nodes in a dense intertextual network; as such, the history of any individual text can be tracked only as part of a constellation of publications. In the process of recomposing the material relationships underlying these print objects, I have taken somewhat of a hybrid approach, involving archival research, bibliography, biography, organizational history, legal analysis, database analysis, and repurposing surveillance records. I am interested in exploring how intertextual and paratextual networks as imprinted on print objects—in advertisements, series lists, subscriber notes, newsagent stamps, and more—can be used as a way of reading real-world political formations.

12:30-1:30 Lunch

1:30-3:00 Session VI: Methodological Challenges of Digital Remediation

Lorraine Janzen Kooistra (Ryerson): ”A

  • Abstract: The Evergreen, a Celtic revival magazine, is as remarkable for its short duration as for its mediation of technologies of representation past and present. Notably, the magazine indexed its decorative devices in its Table of Contents, thereby presenting itself as a prototypical database of remediated medieval ornament. The Evergreen thus invites us to consider the ways in which the periodical form might best be understood as interlocking systems of mediation. This paper investigates the methodological challenges and theoretical implications involved in building a searchable digital edition of The Evergreen, highlighting issues in the series of remediations marked by the forms of engagement: digitization/codex culture/illuminated manuscript/Celtic art.

Patrick C. Collier (Ball State): Plenitude and Scarcity in Modern Periodical Studies

  • Abstract: This presentation will examine the transformed and transforming landscape of access to periodicals from the early twentieth century and it consequences for scholarship. In 2007, Victorian Literature scholar Patrick Leary discussed the historical “economy of scarcity” which limited scholars’ access to historical periodicals in the pre-digital era. Leary envisioned the promise of an “economy of abundance” that would emerge with increased digitization, as well as the developing “off-line penumbra” of materials that have not been deemed worthy of digital preservation. This presentation will examine the consequences of these dynamics for scholarship on early twentieth-century literature, arguing that the emergence of highly selective digital periodicals databases threatens to entrench and, in essence, re-inscribe long-existing scholarly biases and literary canons. Indeed, as this presentation will show, this process is already underway.

3:00-3:30 Coffee Break

3:30-5:00 Session VII: Roundtable on Digital Futures and Periodical Studies

Speakers: Faye Hammill, Geoff Harder, Matt Huculak, Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, Weiwei Shi, John Simpson

5:00-7:00 Break

7:00-9:00 Session VIII: Canadian Magazines: Past, Present, Future