“Sure, if given the resources, a magazine like Dissent or n+1 could drive subs up with expensive direct-mail campaigns – the type of campaigns that subsidize the circulation numbers at these and almost every other “big magazine”. But I wouldn’t do this just so that we could end up more like them. Little magazines, I think, have a unique place in American culture. From The Dial on, they have centred their energies on criticism. This is, I think, their most effective medium – this slow and hard boring of holes, of slowly pushing public discourse to the Left.”

From: Optimism of intellect

“Brecht and Benjamin’s high standards derived from their view that the formal radicalism of literary modernism was an unavoidable precondition of socially effective criticism – a view that also explains the ease with which they were able to connect with the artistic avant-garde. It was important to maintain the resulting tension. Any “scientific” founding of criticism had to respect the “technical standard” of literature and make it productive, even if this clashed with the taste-based criticisms of the middle classes. The crisis in the 1920s and ’30s seemed to serve Brecht and Benjamin perfectly in their aim of confronting the “bourgeois” camp with the progressive elements inherent in their own literature, driving these beyond themselves, so to speak. Benjamin later wrote: “The journal was meant to contribute to the propaganda of dialectical materialism by applying it to questions that the bourgeois intelligentsia is forced to acknowledge as those most particularly characteristic of itself.””

From: Utopian failing: “Krise und Kritik” and “Revue Internationale”

“During the Great Depression, c.1930, Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht sat down together to discuss plans for a journal (other leading figures in the project were Herbert Ihering, Bernard von Brentano, Ernst Bloch, Siegfried Kracauer, Alfred Kurella and Georg Lukács). The literary historian Erdmut Wizisla has rescued the plans for this ambitious project from oblivion. Krise und Kritik, the magazine’s working title, makes clear that Benjamin and Brecht were setting out to broaden the concept of criticism by assigning it a crucial mediating role between aesthetic commitment and worldly engagement. The criticism in their magazine was not supposed to remain confined to literature and the theatre, but rather would embrace all areas of life. Wizisla summarized the editorial discussions as follows: “Criticism, as envisaged by the participants in the discussions, was drastic, effective and consequential, a criticism which […] [in Brecht’s words] […] would be perceived in such a way that ‘politics is its continuation by other means’.””

From: Utopian failing: “Krise und Kritik” and “Revue Internationale”

“An archaeology of the unpublished is thus posed with the task of unearthing the foundations of the established periodicals of our era. The first stratum contains the archived plans for the many journals that folded before their first issue; further below lies an almost incalculable number of ambitions that never made it as far as index cards in the archive, but were recorded at some point in footnotes, if that.”

From: Utopian failing: “Krise und Kritik” and “Revue Internationale”

“I wanted badly to call that out, as everyone else was calling out whatever hurt most, but he terrified me (one can hardly imagine the strength of Baraka’s public presence in those painfully inspired days), so I kept silent, went home, and, burning with a sense of urgency I couldn’t really account for, sat up half the night describing the entire event from the perspective of my one great insight; and discovering, as I wrote, what was to become my natural style. Using myself as a participating narrator, it was my instinct to set the story up as if writing a fiction (“The other night at the Vanguard … ”) in order to put my readers behind my eyes, have them experience the evening as I had experienced it, feel it viscerally as I had felt it (“I’ve paid my dues, LeRoi. You know I’ve paid my dues!”), then come away moved and instructed by the poignancy not of Art and Politics, but Life and Politics. Although I did not then know it, it was personal journalism that I had begun to practice.”

From: Notes of a Chronic Rereader