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The Little Magazine in the US South, 1921-1945



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Round, Siân 


This thesis examines literary magazines in the American South during the ‘Southern Renaissance’, a period of cultural flourishing in the region associated with authors such as William Faulkner. This period also saw the little magazine boom, where hundreds of cheaply printed magazines with small circulations published some of the most famous authors of the twentieth century. The thesis explores how the serial form of the periodical enabled authors and editors to express their ‘Southernness’. I argue that the discourse networks of the little magazine — its opportunities for conversations, its awareness of the process of being made, its reflexive relationship with the reader — offered a testing ground for Southern editors to see what kinds of Southern identity could coexist with both American and cosmopolitan identities. Chapter One concerns New Orleans’ The Double Dealer (1921-26) and Richmond, Virginia’s The Reviewer (1921-25), two magazines which started in response to H. L. Mencken’s famous claim in ‘The Sahara of the Bozart’ (1920) that there was no culture in the South. I argue that the editors of both magazines used their platform to determine and defend their Southernness, but at the same time used the global potentials of the magazine form to cultivate a cosmopolitan identity. My second chapter focuses on Contempo (1931-34), an avant-garde, leftist magazine based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I explore how the editors resisted the liberalism of the University of North Carolina with their controversial coverages of the Scottsboro trial and how the serial form enabled Contempo to hold multiple identities simultaneously. Chapter Three examines the most famous Southern magazine of the period, The Southern Review (1935-42). Edited by Robert Penn Warren and Cleanth Brooks, The Southern Review acted as a bridge between the Southern Agrarians’ conservative politics and the New Critics’ detached aestheticism. Tracing the importance of construction and collaboration to New Critical methodology, I argue that the magazine form functioned as a monument in the eyes of the Agrarian New Critics and that this notion of monumentality shaped their attitude to tradition and in turn the pedagogy exemplified in Warren and Brooks’s textbooks. My fourth chapter takes Lillian Smith, anti-segregationist and opponent of the Agrarians, as its focus. Smith, along with her partner Paula Snelling, edited South Today (1936-45). In this chapter, I explore how Smith and Snelling cultivated an ideal reader of Southern literature in their book reviews. I then consider the publication of Smith’s stories in the magazine and how their publication shaped the bestselling novel Strange Fruit (1944). This thesis explores how Southern magazines both contributed and responded to a nationally received Southern literature and how the potentials of the serial form enabled the writing, unwriting, and rewriting of Southern identity.





Green, Fiona


American literature, Little magazines, Periodical studies, the American South


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge