Literary Networks,
Past & Present

Ezra Pound exerted a monumental influence on the development of modernism through small literary journals, “little magazines”, that existed to promote appreciation of literature and the arts. Pound was the consummate networker, a skill he used to advance the careers of others more than his own. Scholarship on Pound as a literary impresario focuses on his involvement with early 20th century publications such as The English Review, The Little Review, Poetry and others. Likewise, Pound’s influence on the careers of James Joyce, T.S. Eliot, and William Butler Yeats are well documented. The incredible extent of Pound's literary network has never been fully mapped. Likewise, all fiction and poetry produced today is sustained through a connection of writers, editors, and publishing outlets.

A framework for this initiative is the evolving nature of literary journals, especially the type known as “little magazines” that function as the places where most poetry and short stories are first published. Our starting point in this project is Shenandoah, a literary journal published since 1950 by Washington and Lee University (W&L).

Only recently has the Pound connection to W&L been rediscovered through letters between Pound and Tom Carter, the editor of volumes 2 through 4 of Shenandoah. At that time, 1951-1953, the journal was a student-run publication and Carter started his role of editor at age 19. (The previous editor was Tom Wolfe, W&L class of '51.) The Carter/Pound correspondence continued for more than a decade. The letters document that Pound continued his mentoring of emerging writers and literary publications throughout the 1950s while confined to the mental hospital. The letters from Pound reveal lucid thoughts but with the same erratic punctuation and phrasing that his correspondence always has shown. Throughout the letters Pound, in his colorful manner, advises the young editor and aspiring writer to seek out his contemporaries in an ongoing dialogue about literature and publishing.

Tom Carter and Ezra Pound had planned to start their own journal after Carter left Shenandoah (due to graduating and having to hand the editorship over to another student). Lack of funding and Carter's ongoing health problems prevented the Carter/Pound publishing endeavor. Pound’s letters to Carter have been called an instruction manual on starting a literary journal. If the two men lived today their collaboration undoubtedly would have launched an online journal. Literary journals, particularly those of the online variety, are started no longer by universities but by individuals passionate about literarture. The contemporary Little Magazines continues as the dominant sources of new writings. The Council of Literary Magazines and Publishers, which promotes independent literary publishing, has a membership today of nearly 500 literary magazines and presses. Literary publishing is not merely literary history but a vibrant and struggling part of our global culture.

As a liberal arts college W&L is especially interested in the ways that DH methodologies and faculty research agendas integrate with undergraduate teaching and student learning outcomes.

The Thomas H. Carter (’54) collection and archival manuscripts in the Shenandoah collection serve as a springboard for establishing an undergraduate Digital Humanities pedagogy in literary studies that can be applied to many literary domains, particularly marginalized areas, as well as extending to other areas of the humanities.

A DH-based research agenda on the networks within literary publishing will unveil lessons about the evolution of little magazines that impact the current generation of literary outlets that bring new voices to the public.

Literary Networks is a Digital Humanities project at Washington and Lee University. For more information about this project, contact Jeff Barry (, twitter:@jeffbarry), Associate Professor and Associate University Librarian, Washington and Lee University.