Among the resources for students of the literary and cultural history of the United States are primary documents. These documents are most often collected in university archives. Increasingly one can find digital archives. As it happens, we will be working together to build out a digital archive for Aspect magazine. As we begin this work, I want to share a few thoughts about resources and methods for students in American and cultural studies.
For students of poetry and poetics in the United States it does not get any better than The Poetry Collection at the University of Buffalo. The Buffalo collection includes first editions, broadsides, reference books, and audio files. The Collection also includes over 9,000 titles of past and current little magazines, literary journals, university reviews, newspapers and other poetry periodicals. These documents provide a finer-grained insight into the formation of literary communities and the intellectual exchanges in print networks, as the Buffalo collection explains:
Throughout the 20th century, “little magazines”—magazines usually noncommercial in nature and often committed to certain literary ideals—have been a primary organ for the dissemination of poetry and for the formation of literary communities across the aesthetic and political spectra. Consequently, they offer a rich and largely unexplored resource for researching the material and social networks in which poetry takes shape as well as the genetic evolution of individual poems.
The practice of democratic culture is alive and well, as anyone studying these materials will tell you. If you are continuing your study of poetry and democracy, for example, you might explore PennSound, an ongoing project, committed to producing new audio recordings and preserving existing audio archives. In fact, there is an audio archive of hundreds of Adrienne Rich’s Readings—available in the public domain as full readings, or by individual poems. For an overview of PennSound—including a discussion of the project’s pedagogical implications —listen to the PennSound podcast #6.
To learn a bit more about Aspect, read Doug Holder’s Essay on Essay on Aspect Magazine. To think a bit more about the little magazine as a genre, have a look at Steve Evans’s lively 2006 essay The Little Magazine A Hundred Years On: A Reader’s Report. Evans includes a list for further reading if this is a subject that interests you.
Who knew? We are both studying and practicing what we have been calling democratic culture. What is more, your work on Aspect magazine will give you first-hand experience creating an archive that will be available for use be students, teachers, and scholars.