Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Evolution of Mount Holyoke Literary Magazines. Part I

Many of you may be familiar with Moneta, the Mount Holyoke literary magazine. You may not know, however, that Moneta was not always the literary magazine of Mount Holyoke College. In fact Mount Holyoke has an expansive history of literary magazines, with each embodying their own take on the creative outlet.

The Mount Holyoke
Mount Holyoke Monthly
Mount Holyoke literary magazines began with what was originally known as The Mount Holyoke. This publication dates back to 1891 and continued successfully for many years. However The Mount Holyoke was very different from the literary magazines we have come to know today. Instead of a collection of only student writing, it served as a combination of newspaper, student writing, and alumnae content, making it an all-encompassing publication. By 1917 this composite form of student writing branched out into various singular publications, such as The Mount Holyoke News, Alumnae Quarterly, and, Mount Holyoke’s first stand-alone student literary magazine, Mount Holyoke Monthly. Mount Holyoke Monthly became the primary platform through which the original literary club, known as Blackstick, published student works they felt were worthy of recognition. At this point, however, Blackstick was very selective, choosing only the best and most notable works to be published. As a result, content primarily consisted of work that received awards and recognition by either faculty or writing contests. For this reason, the works in Mount Holyoke Monthly are an excellent source for reviewing what would have been considered notable student writing at the time.

The Challenge
The selectivity of Mount Holyoke Monthly’s content may have contributed to the addition of a new literary magazine, or in this case journal, on campus in 1932 called The Challenge. While still a publication of student works, this new literary magazine held a different and more specialized theme to its content. In the introduction, The Challenge states that its primary purpose is to “challenge some of the existing problems on the college campus and at the same time to present some interesting and constructive ideas” and to “promote sincere and intelligent thinking.” Many of the articles hold up to the name and challenge the thinking of the Mount Holyoke community. For instance, one article, titled "On Law and Order," challenges how the student community is "all too ready to complain... however, when an opportunity arises to reconstruct these phases of our community life, we are unwilling to assume any degree of responsibility or readiness to act." Much of the content in The Challenge is also influenced by the state of the economy as it began in the midst of the Great Depression, which was from 1929 to 1939. The editor of The Challenge remarks that the works in this journal are a reflection of a group of students who “feel an intellectual, cultural and social stagnation, as in the outside world we all feel the economic depression.” This literary journal was received with interest and criticism by faculty and students before ending in 1936.

As time went on, Mount Holyoke Monthly evolved into a new student literary magazine named Pangynaskean in 1942. Although Blackstick was still a contributor to Pangynaskean, content became less selective around this time. Therefore, independent writing became even more common and progressed towards the open and expressive form of literary magazine we know today. Like The Challenge, Pangynaskean was also influenced by WWII and therefore strived to include "the humor and lighter spirit" that students requested from the new magazine. The editor comments on the "justifiability of a purely creative effort during war-time" in the opening issue, saying that while "the arts and their outlets seem to lose their importance...it is certain that sooner or later, when it [the war] is ended, the demand for creative work and thought will be greater than ever." For this reason, The Challenge and Pangynaskean are great sources of student writing influenced by war. 

In 1948 Pangynaskean came to its end and was followed by Pan and then Tempo in 1951. Both were very similar to their predecessor, however, the need to increase student subscription, participation, and criticism lead to the new design and names. Tempo’s first edition describes its hope to make the revamped magazine “a campus wide interest” and its attempt to “counteract the feeling that the magazine is primarily published for English majors,” which shows the developing interest in making a magazine open to all kinds of content and student expression. This aim to extend student contribution continues into the 1950s when Mount Holyoke literary magazines once again take an old magazine and make it into something new. Literary magazines from the 1950s to the present will be continued in The Evolution of Mount Holyoke Literary Magazines Part II blog post next week.

Brittnee Worthy is a student Archives Assistant in Archives and Special Collections.

To explore Mount Holyoke's literary magazines in person, visit Archives and Special Collections in the basement of Dwight Hall!

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