Literary magazine

"Little magazine" redirects here. For the Indian languages movement, see Little magazine movement.

A literary magazine is a periodical devoted to literature in a broad sense. Literary magazines usually publish short stories, poetry and essays along with literary criticism, book reviews, biographical profiles of authors, interviews and letters. Literary magazines are often called literary journals, or little magazines, terms intended to contrast these with larger, commercial magazines.[1]

Little magazines, often called "small magazines", are literary magazines that publish experimental literature and non-conformist writings of relatively unknown writers. They are usually noncommercial in their outlook. They are often very irregular in their publication. The earliest significant examples are the transcendentalist publication The Dial (1840–44), edited by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller in Boston, and The Savoy (1896), edited by Arthur Symons in London, which had a revolt against the Victorian Materialism as its agenda. Little magazines played a significant role for the poets who shaped the avant-garde movements like Modernism and Post-modernism across the world in the twentieth century.


Nouvelles de la république des lettres is regarded as the first literary magazine; it was established by Pierre Bayle in France in 1684.[2] The literary magazines became common in the early part of the 19th century, mirroring an overall rise in the number of books, magazines and scholarly journals being published at that time. In Great Britain, critics Francis Jeffrey, Henry Brougham and Sydney Smith founded the Edinburgh Review in 1802. Other British reviews of this period included the Westminster Review (1824), The Spectator (1828) and Athenaeum (1828). In the United States, early journals included the Philadelphia Literary Magazine (1803–08), the Monthly Anthology (1803–11), which became the North American Review, the Yale Review (founded in 1819), The Knickerbocker (1833-1865), Dial (1840–44) and the New Orleans-based De Bow's Review (1846–80). Several prominent literary magazines were published in Charleston, South Carolina, including The Southern Review from 182832 and Russell's Magazine from 185760).[3]

The North American Review is the oldest American literary magazine, but publication was suspended during World War II whereas the Yale Review was not, making the Yale journal the oldest literary magazine in continuous publication. Begun in 1889, Poet Lore is considered the oldest journal dedicated to poetry.[4] By the end of the century, literary magazines had become an important feature of intellectual life in many parts of the world.

Among the literary magazines that began in the early part of the 20th century is Poetry magazine founded in 1912, which published T. S. Eliot's first poem, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Other important early-20th century literary magazines include The Times Literary Supplement (1902), Southwest Review (1915), Virginia Quarterly Review (1925), Southern Review (1935) and New Letters (1935). The Sewanee Review, although founded in 1892, achieved prominence largely thanks to Allen Tate, who became editor in 1944.[5]

Two of the most influential—and radically different—journals of the last-half of the 20th century were The Kenyon Review (KR) and the Partisan Review. The Kenyon Review, edited by John Crowe Ransom, espoused the so-called New Criticism. Its platform was avowedly unpolitical. Although Ransom came from the South and published authors from that region, KR also published many New York-based and international authors. The Partisan Review was first associated with the American Communist Party and the John Reed Club, however, it soon broke ranks with the party. Nevertheless, politics remained central to its character, while it also published significant literature and criticism.

The middle-20th century saw a boom in the number of literary magazines, which corresponded with the rise of the small press. Among the important journals which began in this period were Nimbus: A Magazine of Literature, the Arts, and New Ideas, which began publication in 1951 in England, the Paris Review, which was founded in 1953, The Massachusetts Review and Poetry Northwest, which were founded in 1959, X Magazine, which ran from 1959–62, and the Denver Quarterly, which began in 1965. The 1970s saw another surge in the number of literary magazines, with a number of distinguished journals getting their start during this decade, including Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art, Ploughshares, The Iowa Review, Granta, Agni, The Missouri Review, and New England Review. Other highly regarded print magazines of recent years include The Threepenny Review, The Georgia Review, Ascent, Shenandoah, The Greensboro Review, ZYZZYVA, Glimmer Train, Tin House, the Canadian magazine Brick, the Australian magazine HEAT, and Zoetrope: All-Story. Some short fiction writers, such as Steve Almond, Jacob M. Appel and Stephen Dixon have built national reputations in the United States primarily through publication in literary magazines.

The Committee of Small Magazine Editors and Presses (COSMEP) was founded by Hugh Fox in the mid-1970s. It was an attempt to organize the energy of the small presses. Len Fulton, editor and founder of Dustbook Publishing, assembled and published the first real list of these small magazines and their editors in the mid-1970s. This made it possible for poets to pick and choose the publications most amenable to their work and the vitality of these independent publishers was recognized by the larger community, including the National Endowment for the Arts, which created a committee to distribute support money for this burgeoning group of publishers called the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines (CCLM). This organisation evolved into the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP).

Many prestigious awards exist for works published in literary magazines including the Pushcart Prize and the O. Henry Awards. Literary magazines also provide many of the pieces in The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Essays annual volumes.

Online literary magazines

Around 1996, online literary magazines began to appear. At first, some writers and readers dismissed online literary magazines as not equal in quality or prestige to their print counterparts, while others said that these were not properly magazines and were instead ezines. Since then, though, many writers and readers have accepted online literary magazines as another step in the evolution of the independent literary journals. Among the better known online literary magazines are The Masters Review, Evergreen Review, World Literature Today, New World Writing, The Applicant, Lantern Journal, Drunken Boat, Blackbird, Painted Bride Quarterly, 3:AM Magazine, Muumuu House, One Throne Magazine, elimae, Juked, 20x20 magazine, The Barcelona Review, Eclectica Magazine, ĕm, Failbetter, B O D Y, Guernica Magazine, Identity Theory, Literary Mama, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Monkeybicycle, PANK, Moonshot, Narrative Magazine, Sensitive Skin Magazine, Spike Magazine, StorySouth, The Washington Pastime, and Word Riot, Parabaas (in Bengali) but there are higher quality smaller markets like Literarily, Unlikely Stories, La Petite Zine, Fringe, The Four Quarters Magazine, Cha and literally thousands of online literary publications so it is difficult to judge the quality and overall impact of this relatively new publishing medium.[6] Since new online literary magazines are emerging every month, Duotrope uses a sorting system to keep track of new literary magazines.

See also


  1. Cowley, Malcolm, The Little Magazines Growing Up; The Little Magazines September 14, 1947, Sunday
  2. Travis Kurowski (Fall 2008). "Some Notes on the History of the Literary Magazine". Mississippi Review. 36 (3). JSTOR 20132855.  via JSTOR (subscription required)
  3. Documenting the American South: Articles from Encyclopedia of Southern Culture: Antebellum Era
  5. History
  6. "Technology, Genres, and Value Change:the Case of Literary Magazines" by S. Pauling and M. Nilan. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 57(7):662-672 doi10.1022/asi.20345

Further reading

External links

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