The Little Become Big?: Ambit and London's Little Magazines, 1959-1999

Vowles, Christopher George. 2006. The Little Become Big?: Ambit and London's Little Magazines, 1959-1999. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

In The Little Magazines: A Study of Six Editors (1976), Ian Hamilton described the little magazine as a medium 'which exists, indeed thrives, outside the usual business structure of magazine production and distribution; it is independent, amateur and idealistic' (pp. 7-8). Although this definition applies to many titles of the Thirties, Forties and Fifties, it fails to register radical improvements in magazine design, distribution and book-keeping prompted by the mimeo revolution in the Sixties, Arts Council (ACGB) rationalisation in the Seventies and Eighties, and electronic publishing in the Nineties.

This thesis offers a literary-historical account of Ambit's evolution from a scruffy, mimeo-produced pamphlet to a glossy, ACGB-sponsored quarterly. It provides a decade-by-decade analysis of Ambit's principal formal and thematic concerns, relating them to the work of key contributors in poetry, prose fiction and the visual arts, and detailing the emergence of a distinctive Ambit identity. At the same time, Ambit is also treated as a chronologue of the formal development of the contemporary little magazine, registering the complex economic, cultural and technological stimuli that affected the medium between 1959 and 1999. Both approaches are designed to test Hamilton's reading of little magazine history against a. detailed study of a major literary-arts quarterly of the post-1960 period, and identify ways in which contemporary publications like Ambit (1959- ), Agenda (1959- ), New Departures (1959- ) and Stand (1952- ) have departed from Hamilton's highly romanticised conception of 'littleness'. The thesis concludes by suggesting that Ambit and its contemporaries have sacrificed independence, amateurism and idealism for the entrepreneurial pragmatism that has sustained their commitment to the 'non-commercial' publication of 'artistic work from unknown or relatively unknown writers' that Frederick J. Hoffman et al in The Little Magazine: A History and a Bibliography (1946) (p. 2) saw as the little magazine's raison d'être.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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Magazine, publication, London, Ambit, independent;



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Date Deposited:

11 Jun 2020 12:31

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 12:39


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