One-time periodicals, unrealized manifestos: Little magazines and the ethos of failure

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Abstract

The oxymoronic idea of a “one-time periodical” highlights the common gap between intention and performance in independent publishing platforms. This chapter explores the unique position of such extremely short-lived endeavors, while offering a conceptual framework for the role of supposed “failures” both in the cultural field and in the archive. The chapter suggests that little magazine makers often embrace a rhetoric of marginality and present themselves in advance as ephemeral failures. This performance of marginality, particularly dominant in the case of complex cultural identities, enables makers to foster “failure” as a guiding ethos rather than treating it as an unwanted and unexpected result. The ethos of failure paradoxically portrays them as pioneering and noninstitutional and allows them to escape normative procedures of production and distribution. While demonstrating the various rhetorical devices that construct such an ethos of failure, I emphasize that researchers should beware of duplicating this rhetoric by treating these platforms as negligible, and rather insist on documenting and scrutinizing their roles in the cultural ecology as ephemeral creative spaces. While the study relies on various historical and contemporary examples, my focus is the uncharted case of Hebrew little magazines. The central example is Kiltartan from 1964, a rare avant-garde publication and a self-proclaimed “one-time periodical.” Marginal in terms of both language and cultural identity, this case study exemplifies how platforms embrace and foster failure as ethos, while in fact functioning as valuable shelters for emerging writers and artists as well as being a temporary stage for controversial experiments. In this context, the chapter concludes with a conceptual differentiation between the terms “periodical” and “magazine,” which are often used synonymously. While the term “periodical” highlights a sense of time, a “magazine,” as I demonstrate, etymologically implies a sense of space and metaphorically represents a cultural space for contributors and ideas. While a temporal, “periodical” concept of publishing platforms constantly confronts them with the lurking danger of failure (creating nonperiodical periodicals), I advocate a spatial or “magazine” concept that suspends traditional dichotomies of success and failure and highlights the role of magazines as temporary cultural shelters. While avoiding the constitution of rigid conceptual boundaries, this line of thought fosters a more attentive use in the terminology of the field of periodical studies and opens a dialogue about its limitations and possibilities.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Perspectives on Publishing Platforms
Subtitle of host publicationImage, Object, Text
EditorsMeghan Meghan
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherRoutledge
Chapter3
Number of pages21
Edition1st.
ISBN (Electronic)9780429491511
ISBN (Print)9781138589667, 9780367662837
StatePublished - 2019

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