The Seven Arts: Binding Writers One Piece at a Time

Popular culture often defines the literature that we read, leaving works from other cultures and lesser known authors in the dark.

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The cover of the first issue of The Seven Arts magazine. ©The Modernist Journal Project

The Seven Arts magazine publication promoted the removal of “genteel tradition” and instead tried to “catalyze an American cultural renaissance by building a distinctively American culture for a national American audience.”  The magazine managed to pull in a young audience with its more modern and culturally distinct works.  In fact, the journal helped bring works that were not recognized on a large scale.

While the journal only lasted for approximately a year, some highly recognized authors also contributed to the magazine, including Randolph Bourne, Robert Frost, and H. L. Mencken.  Highly accredited authors and less recognized authors collaborating in a publication is a quite enriching experience that opens up opportunities for both authors new, old, experienced, and inexperienced.

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A page of The Seven Arts that shares recommended poems and stories. ©The Modernist Journal Project

A page presenting descriptions of popular poems and books is shown.  The magazine itself has mostly short stories, but the page referencing good reads speaks words about the purpose of the magazine in a better light.  Many of the poem descriptions appeal to “the new age” of readers with many direct references to the new age, to vitality, and to fresh perspectives on issues.  Many of the books described on the bottom of the page involve perspectives from different cultures and under represented groups of people, including women.  The presentation of recommended works with an overall theme keeps readers of the magazine on the same page and creates a strong community of readers and writers.

Despite the strength of the content and community of readers, the magazine may have just been made at a poor time.  The journal was published right in the middle of World War I, a time where focuses were likely elsewhere.  While a younger generation may have appreciated the voice of other cultures during such a time, the older generation was likely highly skeptical of a magazine that focused on entertaining literature and literature from even cultures that were being fought against in battle.  Vocal opposition to the war expressed in the magazine led to the publication’s demise, as a main patron of the project withdrew funding.

The Seven Arts was a influential and short-lived magazine that did not just present literature defined by popular culture, but instead managed to define popular culture by presenting the right type of literature that appealed to a progressive audience.

Works Cited

  1. “The Seven Arts Oppenheim, James (Editor) New York: The Seven Arts Publishing Co., 1916 / 1917.” Modernist Journals Project, http://www.modjourn.org/render.php?view=mjp_object&id=SevenArtsCollection.

2 thoughts on “The Seven Arts: Binding Writers One Piece at a Time”

  1. The journal is, as you point out, highly aware of its “newness.” What can you gather about how it defines that newness, that “fresh perspective,” including and beyond the reach to other cultures? In other words, where does it situate itself under the broader umbrella of “Modernism”? Also, you speculate about reasons for the magazine’s short run, but I suspect that there are sources out there that explain it… Literature was thriving during WWI, and it was also a strong period of transnational literature across the board. I wonder what you will find about why it ended, or why its run was so short! Last, I find it interesting that the magazine would refer to “popular” culture! Does it see itself as a “popular” magazine, or a literary/culture magazine on the fringes of popular culture, or some combination? I love the page of “recommendations” that you share – what a great expression of the journal’s aesthetic – you should dig up some of these works!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I like how you analyzed this small press. It is crazy that although it was only around for a year or so, how much of an impact it made and how it’s still remembered today. I also liked how you noted that all generations could like and follow this magazine, and in times of war people often need something to distract them and this was a great think. Looking forward to hearing more about your magazine.

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