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Graduate Center English Doctoral Program

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Tour with the curator of “1890s American Little Magazines” exhibition at the Grolier Club, 3/28

  • As part of his course on Modernist Periodical Culture, Prof. Adam McKible has arranged a tour of this exhibition with curator Kirsten MacLeod. He would also like to invite students from the GC English doctoral program to come along. The tour will take place on March 28th, prior to the 5pm panel discussion listed below. Interested students may email him at

    American Little Magazines of the 1890s: A Revolution in Print
    The long smouldering passion of revolt at conservatism in English art and literature had lately resulted in a bilious explosion, the Yellow Book. . . . The seed fell, as British seed usually does, on America; it grew, and began to flourish. . . . In America, the impetus had begun; its growth was now independent of its origin. Strangely fashioned periodicals, preaching fantastic doctrines, uttering weird thoughts, began to appear like mushrooms after a shower. Percival Pollard (1869-1911)

    The 1890s witnessed the birth of the little magazine, a form associated with emerging modern art movements and alternative social and cultural trends. While the movement originated in Europe with magazines such as the Yellow Book, Le Chat Noir, and Jugend, it flourished, as Pollard notes, particularly in America. Here, in just a few short years, hundreds of “freak magazines,” dinkeys,” “ephemerals,” or “fadazines,” as they were variously called, emerged all over the country. Though they have tended to be overshadowed by their European counterparts and by their Modernist successors, these magazines were a prolific and culturally important print phenomenon – a fad that exerted its influence on old and young, in town and country, and on professional and amateur writers, artists, and pundits across the nation.
    The exhibition American Little Magazines of the 1890s: A Revolution in Print, on view at The Grolier Club from February 20 to April 27, 2013, is the first to focus on these publications, which were central to the development of radical, progressive, avant-garde, and even popular and populist literary, artistic, social and cultural movements of the early twentieth century. Featuring over 160 items, including magazines, books, posters, manuscript material and decorative objects, the exhibition places these magazines in their context. It demonstrates their links to the Arts and Crafts movement, Decadence, Symbolism, and Art Nouveau; developments in book design and the graphic arts; the international poster revolution; Progressive-era cultural movements such as the rise of Utopian communities, Free Thought, Tolstoyan Socialism, and Anarchism. These publications served as a vehicle of protest for the expression of alternative and radical artistic, social, and political ideals.
    Curator Dr. Kirsten MacLeod, a Lecturer in English Literature at Newcastle University (UK), has selected material from the libraries at Columbia University, Princeton University, the University of Delaware, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Delaware Art Museum, the Grolier Club and from various private collections.
    The items on view represent the crème-de-la-crème of little magazines – aesthetically beautiful and culturally important productions such as Bradley His Book, the Lark, the Chap-Book, the Bibelot, M’lle New York, the Philistine and the Echo, magazines whose aesthetic appearance would influence developments in graphic arts and magazine and book design in the twentieth century. Other features include work by artists such as Aubrey Beardsley, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, John Sloan, and Will Bradley; masterpieces of aesthetic book production that influenced little magazine design including those of the Kelmscott Press, the Mosher Press, and the Roycrofters; sections on notable figures who contributed to these magazines such as authors Stephen Crane, Kate Chopin, and Booth Tarkington, graphic designers Bruce Rogers and W. A. Dwiggins, and famed civil libertarian Clarence Darrow, among others. The exhibition is noteworthy not only for its visual appeal but also for the story it tells about American literary, artistic, and social life in the decade before and after the turn of the 20th century.
    The following events are planned in conjunction with the exhibition:

    March 13th, 5-7 PM: a talk on Thomas Mosher by Mosher expert Philip R. Bishop, followed by a collector’s forum featuring the following lenders of material to the exhibition: Philip R. Bishop, Mark Samuels Lasner, Jean-François Vilain, and David Lowden.

    March 28th, 5-7 PM: Presentations on these magazines by Brad Evans (Rutgers University), David Weir (Cooper Union), Johanna Drucker (UCLA) and the exhibition curator, Kirsten MacLeod (Newcastle University).

    For more information contact Megan Smith at the Grolier Club ( or Kirsten MacLeod at

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