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Hi Hannah, I am intrigued by the “form and function” debate your title hints at. I would love to hear more about that!
Hi Maaike, thank you for your question! With the journal I am discussing, ‘Contemporary Notes’, I focus on the ways in which the format of the Russian thick journal is an important statement for its editors, linking them to pre-revolutionary political and cultural print traditions. There is a lot of debate in reviews and between the editors about how suitable this format is to Russian culture abroad in the twentieth century. I think it is one of the most visible ways in which this journal struggles to be relevant for their immigrant audience. I also examine the ways in which the editors try and adapt the features of this thick journal tradition and worry over whether they are losing the format altogether. They choose the thick journal format because of its clear function as a cultural and political guide for pre-revolutionary readers. Each editor has a clear vision of the purpose of this format – mutual aid, political leadership, cultural preservation – but their ideas of what readers are looking for in periodicals begin to lose touch with their émigré audience. I think that the form of the thick journal and the sections within it prevents ‘Contemporary Notes’ from evolving the way other émigré publications can, through including images and photographs, news and interactive features like games or competitions, for instance. I would be very interested to discuss other ways in which the form of the journal, and the form of its features, is debated in relation to the functions they are supposed to fulfil in émigré life.
I was wondering whether the crises have something to do with the concept of ‘contemporaneity’ prominently featured in the title of the journal? Maybe one can draw a line between the problems of the journal to adapt to a dramatically changing historical situation and the and the challenges of literary contemporaneity (современность )? It could be worth to take into accout the temporal aspekts of balancing form and function.
Hi Nora! Thank you for this question. I think that the quarterly frequency of the journal’s publication is part of the problem; it is trying to be both a periodical which educates and guides its readership through thoughtful scholarship, and one which reflects its time and responds to contemporary events. On the one hand, I think that much of the content of the journal is focused on the past, on understanding the causes and effects of the Bolshevik revolution and on reminiscing about Russian culture. But, on the other hand, although the format of the journal is a revival of an eighteenth-century print tradition, this tradition had already declined in popularity before the Revolutions, and the journal’s editors cannot help but reproduce some of their contemporary perspectives and expectations of a thick journal’s role, and the practical difficulties of publishing abroad with little support. So, the ‘traditional’ thick journal they do create is actually a hybrid format, and the crises these editors face, I believe, is a reflection of this too.
© 9th ESPRit Conference 2021