On Company Time: American Modernism in the Big Magazines

Hardcover | October 4, 2016

byDonal Harris

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American novelists and poets who came of age in the early twentieth century were taught to avoid journalism "like wet sox and gin before breakfast." It dulled creativity, rewarded sensationalist content, and stole time from "serious" writing. Yet Willa Cather, W. E. B. Du Bois, Jessie Fauset, James Agee, T. S. Eliot, and Ernest Hemingway all worked in the editorial offices of groundbreaking popular magazines and helped to invent the house styles that defined McClure's, The Crisis, Time, Life, Esquire, and others. On Company Time tells the story of American modernism from inside the offices and on the pages of the most successful and stylish magazines of the twentieth century. Working across the borders of media history, the sociology of literature, print culture, and literary studies, Donal Harris draws out the profound institutional, economic, and aesthetic affiliations between modernism and American magazine culture.

Starting in the 1890s, a growing number of writers found steady paychecks and regular publishing opportunities as editors and reporters at big magazines. Often privileging innovative style over late-breaking content, these magazines prized novelists and poets for their innovation and attention to literary craft. In recounting this history, On Company Time challenges the narrative of decline that often accompanies modernism's incorporation into midcentury middlebrow culture. Its integrated account of literary and journalistic form shows American modernism evolving within as opposed to against mass print culture. Harris's work also provides an understanding of modernism that extends beyond narratives centered on little magazines and other "institutions of modernism" that served narrow audiences. And for the writers, the "double life" of working for these magazines shaped modernism's literary form and created new models of authorship.

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American novelists and poets who came of age in the early twentieth century were taught to avoid journalism "like wet sox and gin before breakfast." It dulled creativity, rewarded sensationalist content, and stole time from "serious" writing. Yet Willa Cather, W. E. B. Du Bois, Jessie Fauset, James Agee, T. S. Eliot, and Ernest Heming...

Donal Harris is an assistant professor in the Department of English at the University of Memphis. His work has appeared in PMLA, Modern Language Quarterly, Criticism: A Journal, and the Los Angeles Review of Books.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:304 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.98 inPublished:October 4, 2016Publisher:Columbia University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0231177720

ISBN - 13:9780231177726

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsIntroduction: Making Modernism Big1. Willa Cather's Promiscuous Fiction2. Printing the Color Line in The Crisis3. On the Clock: Rewriting Literary Work at Time Inc.4. Our Eliot: Mass Modernism and the American Century5. Hemingway's Disappearing StyleAfterword: Working from HomeNotesBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

Drawing our attention to a set of major institutions that have until now remained hidden in plain sight of recent cultural history, On Company Time makes an extraordinarily rich and persuasive contribution to the study of American literary modernism. It is also a work of relentlessly lively intelligence and writerly charm.