Special Issue

Mainstreaming the Avant-Garde: Modernism in Life Magazine (New York, 1883–1936)



This paper explores the relationship between literary modernism and mainstream culture within a little-studied American magazine, Life (New York, 1884-1936). It does so by looking at three ways in which Life presented modernism to its readers: by quoting modernist writing, and, above all, by satirizing modernist art, and by offering didactic explanations of modernist art and literature. By reconsidering some of the long-established divisions between high and low culture, and between ‘little’ and ‘bigger’ magazines, this paper contributes to a better understanding of what modernism was and meant. It also suggests that the double agenda observed in Life – both satirical and didactic – might be a way of defining middlebrow magazines.

Keywords: literary modernism, mainstream, Life, American periodicals, avant-garde, middlebrow

How to Cite: Mansanti, C. (2016) “Mainstreaming the Avant-Garde: Modernism in Life Magazine (New York, 1883–1936)”, Journal of European Periodical Studies. 1(2). doi: https://doi.org/10.21825/jeps.v1i2.2644