On Company Time

American Modernism in the Big Magazines

Donal Harris

Columbia University Press

On Company Time

Google Preview

Pub Date: October 2016

ISBN: 9780231177726

304 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $60.00£49.95

Pub Date: October 2016

ISBN: 9780231541343

304 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $59.99£49.95

On Company Time

American Modernism in the Big Magazines

Donal Harris

Columbia University Press

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.
On Company Time alters forever an old story about literary modernism by showing that writers did not just take a paycheck from the big magazines. This rich and substantial consideration of the complex relations between major writers and mass-market publications shows how several modern styles were developed in collaboration by the magazines and the writers they employed. Donal Harris's account of this collaboration expands our notions of what American writing is and changes the history of how it came to be. Michael North, author of Novelty: A History of the New
Writing in response to both classic and recent scholarship that represents modernism as an insulated coterie endeavor, Harris convincingly and compellingly establishes that modernist authors were engaged with and appeared in mainstream magazines from the start. On Company Time enriches and expands our understanding of the dialectic between modernism and mass culture, revealing that what has frequently been seen as an antagonistic relationship was really a close collaboration that determined both the career arcs of major modernist authors and the design of mainstream magazines. Elegantly written and exhaustively researched, On Company Time is an eminent example of the new modernist studies. Loren Glass, author of Counterculture Colophon: Grove Press, the Evergreen Review, and the Incorporation of the Avant-Garde
Harris's fascinating On Company Time is the book we have been waiting for to help us think through the significance of the commercially popular 'big magazines' that dominated the print-cultural landscape of modernity. Guiding us through magazine offices and showing us print technologies, publishing strategies, and periodical styles along the way, Harris deftly traces the mutual influence of modernism and the commercial magazines. Compelling, imaginative, and entertaining, this book provides an exhilarating new view of modern print culture. Barbara Green, University of Notre Dame, coeditor of the Journal of Modern Periodical Studies
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. Mark McGurl, author of The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing
Highly recommended. Choice
On Company Time offers new perspectives on some of the twentieth century’s most important writers and their relationship with some of the period’s most storied publications. J-History
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Making Modernism Big
1. Willa Cather's Promiscuous Fiction
2. Printing the Color Line in The Crisis
3. On the Clock: Rewriting Literary Work at Time Inc.
4. Our Eliot: Mass Modernism and the American Century
5. Hemingway's Disappearing Style
Afterword: Working from Home
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Read the introduction, "Making Modernism Big":

About the Author

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.