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|Title:||A History of Vanity Fair: A Modernist Journal in America|
|Keywords:||English Language and Literature;English Language and Literature|
|Abstract:||<p>Vanity Fair, published in New York by Condé Nast from 1913 to 1936, and edited by Frank Crowinshield, defies easy classification. Dedicated to the pursuit of good taste in all realms of activity, the magazine ranged freely among various levels of culture from "high" to "low."</p> <p>The period of the magazine's publication marked a shift in literary patronage in America from the genteel Four Hundred to a more explorative and stimulation-seeking audience of the newly-rich, characterized at the time as the "Smart Set." Furthermore, the horizons of aesthetic concerns were being expanded by an increase in the reading public, and by new media such as radio and film created through technological developments. This led, in addition to an expansion of cultural possibilities, to a crisis in critical standards. A magazine like Vanity Fair, aiming to be an aribiter of taste, was therefore concerned with the problem of levels of taste.</p> <p>Vanity Fair was directed at a small audience of taste-makers and was never a commercial success. Its prestige and influence were great, however, and most of the talented writers of the day were staff members or contributors. Among those who started their careers at Vanity Fair were Edmund Wilson, John Peale Bishop, Robert Benchley, and Dorothy Parker, and regular contributors included P.G. Wodehouse, George Jean Nathan, Aldous Huxley, Gilbert Seldes, H.L. Mencken, and Alexander Woollcott.</p> <p>The range of features covered those concerns, both serious and diverting, which were of interest to exponents of good taste. Among the chief concerns were literature, theatre, and painting. The magazine was noted for its visual style, including reproductions of modern art and high-quality colour photography. Humour and satire were major components, and literary parodies, satirical cartoons and sketches, and humorous articles were frequent.</p> <p>Literature was an important concern, and regular book review features appeared from 1913 to 1916, 1921 to 1923, under the editorship of Edmund Wilson and John Peale Bishop [illegible]. In addition fiction, poetry, and numerous literary articles were printed. The literary contents fall into three periods. Until 1919, the taste exhibited was essentially genteel, and all literature written in English was considered to form a single tradition. In the twenties, the orientation was modernist, and new developments in literary technique and concern were presented and discussed: in addition, American letters were seen as a distinct tradition. By the thirties, the emphasis on modernism abated, and literary concerns and judgements became more traditional.</p> <p>The magazine's significance, apart from its literary and aesthetic concerns and judgements, resides partly in its overall character. Just as modernism consisted in part of the attempt to range through various aspects of life an achieve a new synthesis, so the magazine represented the same expansion of concern and attempt at critical judgement. Unlike other journals of the time, Vanity Fair did not specialise, but regarded all aspects of taste as its domain.</p> <p>The synthesis of representation and judgement proved short-lived in magazine publishing, and by the thirties those magazines which focussed on one element, such as literature, intellectual inquiry, or humour, proved successful. Various aspects of Vanity Fair were the models for other magazines like The New Yorker, Esquire, and Life; but the synthesis of cultural levels, a peculiarly modern synthesis, did not survive the magazine's demise.</p>|
|Appears in Collections:||Open Access Dissertations and Theses|
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