European Avant-­Garde in Print

This is part of our feature on Poets and Power: Language of Resilience from Central and Eastern Europe


The period between the two world wars in Europe marked a moment of intensive artistic and intellectual exchange as new nations were formed, such as Czechoslovakia’s First Republic and Weimar Germany. This active learning course will examine how the Czech, German, Polish, Hungarian, and Serbo‐Croatian avant­‐garde magazines contributed to international discussions about what a new Europe should be through their innovative use of photography, international typographic conventions, and translation. Lectures and readings will move from an overview of the graphic and textual conventions of the Modernist and avant­‐garde magazines to a historical contextualization of how magazines like Disk and ReD in Prague, Pásmo in Brno, Merz in Hannover, and Ma in Vienna worked to reach audiences abroad and engage in a transnational conversation about art making and politics in post‐World War One society through both their textual and visual content. In this course, these lesser known magazines will be discussed alongside their more famous, English-‐language counterparts, such as the London­‐based The Egoist and The Little Review in New York. Finally, we will look at magazines from outside the American‐European axis as points of comparison. Visits will be made to the Books and Periodicals Collection at the Harry Ransom Center and the Blanton Museum to study material examples of print culture held on campus. Simultaneously addressing the digital, the course will also explore how reception is altered once a periodical is digitized and made viewable online.


  • Johanna Drucker. The Visible World: Experimental Typography and Modern Art, 1909-­‐ 1923. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.
  • Franco Moretti. Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary History. London: Verso,
  • Robert Scholes and Clifford Wulfman. Modernism in the Magazines: An Introduction. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010.
  • Jan Tschichold. The New Typography: A Handbook for Modern Designers. [1927 1st ] Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.


Week 1
August 25


Unit 1/ The Materiality of the Magazine: Textual and Visual Reading Strategies

Week 2 

August 30
How to Read a Modernist Magazine
Scholes and Wulfman; Modernism in the Magazines; pgs. 143-167 (skim 151-­163)

September 1
Magazines as Cultural Form

Scholes and Wulfman; Modernism in the Magazines; pgs. 26-­43, 73-­88


Week 3
September 6 New Art

Johanna Drucker; The Visible Word, pgs. 49-­89 Jan Tschichold; The New Typography, pgs. 30-­51

September 8
Early Experiments in Modernist Typography

Johanna Drucker; The Visible Word, pgs. 91-­140


Week 4
September 13
Further Experiment and Influence

Johanna Drucker; The Visible Word, pgs. 140-­168

September 15
Universal Language and New Typography

El Lissitzky; “Topography of Typography” (1923) and “Typographical Facts” (1925), on Canvas László Moholy-­‐Nagy; “The New Typography” (1923), on Canvas
Karel Teige; “Modern Typography” (1927), on Canvas Jan Tschichold; The New Typography, pgs. 7-­29


Unit 2/ Case Studies: The Central European Avant-­Garde Magazines of Interwar Europe

Week 5

September 20
Visual Communication in the Magazines

Stephen Bury: “Not to Adorn Life but to Organize It,” on Canvas G reprint, on Canvas
Jan Tschichold; The New Typography, pgs. 52-­85

September 22
Typography Photography Typo-Photo

Jan Tschichold; The New Typography, pgs. 87‐95
László Moholy-­Nagy; “Production Reproduction,” pgs. 30-31, “Typophoto,” pgs. 38-­40, “Dynamic of a Metropolis,” pgs. 122-‐137, in Painting Photography Film on Canvas


Week 6
September 27
Manifestos in the Magazines/Magazines as Manifestos

Ljubomir Micić, Ivan Goll, and Boško Tokin; “The Zenithist Manifesto” (1921), on Canvas Tristan Tzara, “Dada Manifesto” (1918), on Canvas
The Artists of Ma; “Proclamation for the Communist Republic” (1918), on Canvas Walter Gropius; “Program of the Bauhaus in Weimar” (1919), on Canvas
The Devětsil Association of Artists; “Statement” (1920), on Canvas Karel Teige, “Poetism” (1924), on Canvas

September 29
The Material Manifesto

Fritz Swanson; “Letterpressing Baxter”


Week 7
October 4
Avant-­Garde Advertisement

Johanna Drucker; The Visible Word, 193­‐222
Scholes and Wulfman; Modernism in the Magazines, pgs. 118­‐142

October 6
Advertisement as Exchange

Meghan Forbes; “Advertisement as Collaboration in the Central European Avant-­Garde Magazines”
Jan Tschichold; The New Typography, pgs. 15-­202


Week 8
October 11
Material and Form

Field Trip to the Harry Ransom Center
No Readings — research for paper proposal (as discussed in class) October 13
Magazines as Networks

Éva Forgács and Tyrus Miller; “The Avant-­‐Garde in Budapest and in Exile in Vienna,” on Canvas Nicholas Sawicki; “The View from Prague,” on Canvas
Przemysław Strożek; “Cracow and Warsaw: Becoming the Avant-­‐Garde,” on Canvas Irina Subotić; “Avant-­‐Garde Tendencies in Yugoslavia,” on Canvas
Readings will be divided amongst students, who will then prepare short presentations on what they read, to be presented in class on this day.

Plus In-­Class Discussion of Research Paper Proposals

Unit 3: Networks of Exchange/Digital Mapping

Week 9
October 18
How To Read a Modernist Magazine in the Digital Age Guest Speaker: Ian Goodale

Jeffrey Drouin; “Close-­and Distant-­Reading Modernism: Network Analysis, Text Mining, and Teaching The Little Review,” on Canvas
Scholes and Wulfman; Modernism in the Magazines; pgs. 44-­72

October 20
Text as (Digital) Image

Franco Moretti; Graphs, Maps, Trees; pgs. 1-­33
Clifford Wulfman; “The Plot of the Plot: Graphs and Visualizations”


Week 10
October 25
Mapping Networks
Time In-­Class to Work on Digital Mapping Project Readings:
Franco Moretti; Graphs, Maps, Trees; pgs. 35-­64

October 27
Genealogy of Print

Franco Moretti; Graphs, Maps, Trees; pgs. 67-­92


Unit 4: Networks Thwarted/Networks Overlooked
Week 11
November 1
Where the Women At?

Margaret Anderson; “Announcement,” on Canvas
Jayne Marek; “Making Their Ways: Women Editors of ‘Little’ Magazines,” in Women Editing Modernism
Virginia Woolf; “Women and Fiction,” on Canvas November 3
Jayne Marek; “Women Editors and Little Magazines in the Harlem Renaissance,” in Little Magazines and Modernism, From Where are the Women in Black Print Cultures?
-­Joycelyn Moody; “Obscene Questions and Righteous Hysteria”
-­Eric Gardner; “Accessing Early Black Print,” on Canvas


Week 12
November 8
Trans-­National Networks: The Americas

Caroline Goesner; “Black and Tan: Racial and Sexual Crossings in Ebony and Topaz,” in Little Magazines and Modernism
Guido A. Podestá; “An Ethnographic Reproach to the Theory of the Avant-­‐Garde: Modernity and Modernism in Latin America and the Harlem Renaissance”

November 10
Trans-­National Networks: Japan and China

Rupert Arrowsmith; “The Transcultural Roots of Modernism: Imagist Poetry, Japanese Visual Culture, and the Western Museum System,”
Gennifer Weisenfeld; “Gas Mask Parade: Japan’s Anxious Modernism”


Week 13
November 15
Book from the Sky

Stanley Abe; “No Questions, No Answers: China and A Book from the Sky” on Canvas

November 17
Beyond the Historical Avant‐Garde Magazine

Johanna Drucker; “Letterpress Language: Typography as a Medium for the Visual Representation of Language” on Canvas


Week 14
November 22
Time In-­Class to Work on Digital Mapping Project
No readings — work on mapping projects and research papers November 24
Thanksgiving; No class


Week 15
November 29
In Class Presentations

December 1
‘Zine Making Workshop & Celebration

Submit Final Research Papers


This syllabus by Meghan Forbes is part of our special feature Poets and Power: Language of Resilience from Central and Eastern Europe.
Read Literature & Central Europe: An Interview with Meghan Forbes here.


Published on March 1, 2017.


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