Project Title: Toward a Global Midwestern Digital Archive of 1960s and 70s Poetry and Print Culture

Project Description:
We propose a multi-stage project that aims to produce a body of scholarship on—and a robust digital archive of—non-commercial, avant-garde print cultures by U.S. minority ethnic, North and Central American, Caribbean, and Pacific literary communities. Print journals as varied as the bilingual literary magazine El Corno Emplumado, which ran from 1962 to 1969 and published work from all over Latin and North America; the occasional magazine Umbra, which was loosely associated with the Black Arts Movement for a decade after 1963; and the Native American journal Many Smokes, which ran from 1966 to 1984, now exist only in fragmentary collections in select archives. Although the role of little magazines in the formation and evolution of literary modernism is well known, scholarship on the central role of print culture in the development of transnational and racialized ethnic literatures of the 1960s and 70s is still relatively underdeveloped. Because the non-commercial print archives of the 1960s-1980s balance restrictive copyrights with few resources for maintaining work in print, we believe this represents an especially “invisible” body of knowledge about transnational cultural interactivity in the thirty years immediately preceding the digital revolution.

We understand the Midwest as already a global crossroads for this body of knowledge, and propose through scholarship and archival work to showcase and to increase public accessibility to the rich print cultural resources available at consortium institutions. Northwestern University, for example, houses an impressive collection of print culture materials related to the Black Arts Movement, including broadsides, chapbooks, and the entire run of such publications as Umbra and The Journal of Black Poetry. The Sukov Collection at the University of Wisconsin-Madison contains over 6,000 little magazines from North America and the Caribbean. Similar archival resources exist at other consortium institutions, as well as public institutions such as the Newberry Library and Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of the Chicago Public Library. Our digital archive would make the Midwest the premier global sponsor and curator of print cultural materials from this era.

At the outset of this project, we propose to gather a diverse group of scholars for a one-day workshop at Northwestern in August 2014. We envision this group to include literary scholars, historians, art historians, and librarians and archivists. The goals of the workshop will be to meet and learn of one another’s interests and work in this area, to determine the nature and scope of the eventual digital archive, and to plan a symposium for the spring of 2015 that will highlight the important scholarship being done in this area. To prepare for the workshop, we will prepare a common set of readings for discussion, and we will ask participants to bring proposals for symposium essays and print cultural materials to digitize.

Organizers' Name: John Alba Cutler, Harris Feinsod

Organizers' Contact Information:

Organizers' Departmental and University Affiliation: English, Northwestern University