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Prise de parole, prise de pouvoir ?

Power and Authority Issues in the Editorship of Certain Women’s Experimental Publications

Matilde Martin Gonzalez and Manuel Brito
p. 61-73


Le présent essai examine la façon dont certaines femmes éditrices américaines approchent la question du pouvoir et du genre. Quelques considérations émanant du Forum "Le Genre et l’Édition", développé dans la revue Chain, y sont évoquées et montrent comment certaines directrices de revues d’art et de poésie ont assumé le rôle important que joue ce type de publication par rapport au défi des modèles de soumission propres à la culture de masse. Leur intérêt pour la présentation d’une pensée critique et d’un activisme politique en art et littérature correspond à une perspective féministe hétérogène qui remplacerait le cadre discursif plus limité des féminismes précédents, basés sur le paradigme simpliste oppresseur/opprimée. Ce travail éditorial a fourni aux femmes des outils de pouvoir et d’influence dans la société. Des revues comme M/E/A/N/I/N/G, Digital Artifact, et Texture sont un reflet de cet exercice de pouvoir que leurs éditrices ont développé. Ces directrices sont devenues les pionnières d’un art et d’une écriture d’avant-garde qui analysent la perspective des femmes concernant des questions esthétiques et sociales, y compris des sujets tels que la visibilité des artistes, la sexualité et les divers arts, le racisme dans le domaine intellectuel, le legs du modernisme, les rapports artistes-mères, et le féminisme contemporain de l’ère numérique.

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1American journals publishing experimental poetry in the period 1970-2000, most of which were edited by men, showed a tendency to publish a larger quantity of material from men than from women. The exercise of power involved in the role of editor may be seen to be influenced by gender. Gender issues for analysis in this context might include the marginalization of women’s work and their lack of power within the editorial field. Despite these obstacles, women have managed to edit their own journals, or co-edit them jointly with men in some cases. But all along, the issue of power has remained a central concern in the world of publication : affecting what or who gets published, who establishes the editorial principles, and who provides funding. The figure of editor is by definition subtly tinged with authority, although this might not always be immediately apparent. For example, Susan Schultz, editor of Tinfish magazine in Hawaii, recalls in an interview that she "discovered that announcing one’s position as editor gave one strange powers. A couple of men in the local literary world tried to become co-editors almost immediately, something that I fortunately fended off" (Sprague). The men’s reaction to her announcement revealed the ways in which the publishing of poetry in Hawaii was considered an activity more adequately performed by men, or at least never solely by a woman. Their initial stated intention to become co-editors probably disguised their aspiration to eventually become editors, thereby taking over Schultz’s position.

2A further topic worth addressing is the relationship between editing and theoretical issues, such as the type of editor one has in mind when starting a journal and the kind of writing one intends to privilege in the publication. In this respect, we find women are conscious of their authority as editors and aware of the pertinence of gender, among other factors. In order to illustrate this idea, we will briefly comment on the Editorial Forum that Jena Osman and Juliana Spahr included in the first issue (1994) of their magazine Chain. They asked women editors whether gender was an important element and if they considered the editing task to be invested with power, or rather, an activity that might subvert power. Michel Foucault’s ontology of power comes to mind in approaching this issue, for Osman and Spahr are basically taking up his productive notion of power and the related assumption that a cluster of resistances can always emerge to work against power. In other words, power loses its negative dimension and achieves a positive ability to bring about the reorganization of social relations in completely different terms. An initial valuable reflection was the comment made by Osman and Spahr themselves, who emphasized their apprehension about editing : "I am uncomfortable with the idea of the editor as arbiter of good taste, or as the (in)visible navigator/sculptor of a final packaged product. Journals rarely seem to openly admit the presence of personal ideology behind their pages" (Osman and Spahr 129). One must first and foremost admit the personal condition ; only then might one possibly be prepared to eschew the narrow frame of individual taste in order to make room for wider possibilities. Interestingly enough, Chain itself exemplifies a lack of impartiality, evident in Osman and Spahr’s original decision to include only women writers in the journal. They admitted their personal desire to reopen a feminist debate that remained of interest to them, although it had been deemed resolved by the early 1990s, when the use of the gender category to analyze inequality replaced the more limited discursive framework of the feminisms of previous decades, based on a simplistic oppressor/oppressed paradigm. And here they were again resorting to exclusionary strategies, more typical of the feminists of the 1970s and 1980s. Osman and Spahr explained their "women only" decision in a way that actually called into question their own outlooks : "This was not an easy decision ; we are both aware of the difficulties of talking about gender as in any way other than constructed. To start a gender-centered forum is in some way reinstating problematic narratives of gender. The spectre of separatism looms large" (Osman and Spahr 130). But precisely because gender is a constructed principle that works socially, it is relevant to analyze the editing role from this perspective, as far as "Women who edit hold a particular place in an established discourse of authority. Whether they think about it or not, they must evaluate their stance in relation to that realm" (Osman and Spahr 131). Of course, one can also consciously overlook it "as a form of subversion" (Osman and Spahr 131), but the gesture of ignoring concerns such as gender, authority or power docs not in itself erase the editor’s active participation throughout the process of editing.

3An initial conclusion to be drawn from this Forum is that the majority of women editors gave an affirmative answer to the main question posed by Osman and Spahr. That is to say, they acknowledged that gender did play an important role in their editorial decisions. Exceptions to this rule arc provided by Maxine Chernoff, co-editor of New American Writing, and Rosemarie Waldrop, editor of Burning Deck Books. The former stated that "the intelligent and innovative use of language doesn’t appear to be gender-specific" (Chernoff 26), while the latter speculated that "Women’s mags and presses have been necessary and useful, but the ‘ghetto’-problems are obvious" (Waldrop 112). These women editors find gender aspects unimportant, because they engage with a poetics of experimentation that emphasizes the creative use of language and the search for newer forms. And this, they seem to suggest, is a genderless venture.

4What really concerns us, however, is the debate about the role that power plays in editorial endeavours. And several contributors coincided in observing that being an editor serves to empower women by providing them with publishing opportunities unavailable elsewhere. However, we must also acknowledge that women submit less writing than men, even when they are given the chance to do so, and are, consequently, less "aggressive" in this respect. This was at least the experience of Dodie Bellamy in co-editing Mirage # 4/Period[ical], a magazine she started with Kevin Killian in 1992. She stated that most of the submissions they received were from men and observed that "only recently has it become okay for women to be sexually aggressive—in matters of publication it’s the same" (Bellamy 9). Bellamy’s statement might seem dated now (she made it in 1994), were it not for the fact that the notion that women submit less material than men has always been a reality. E. Tracy Grinnell, editor of Aufgabe, a magazine founded in 2001, made the same statement in issue # 7 of her journal (2008). And she claimed that not only is the number of submissions she normally receives from men higher than those she receives from women, but also that men resubmit material more frequently and insistently. Hence, it does not seem sensible to focus on male power exclusively when talking about the absence of women’s texts from literary journals. What Dodie Bellamy calls "internalized censorship" (12) is as much to blame as external censorship for the lower numbers of female contributions.

5Several women seem to dislike wielding the authority implied in the role of editor and prefer to develop a collective project where power can be shared. A case in point is Heresies, a journal founded in 1977 with a collective editorial board that changes over time. As one of the editors claims, the magazine has survived because its "recognizable character results from many minds and hands always having been involved in the decision making" (Lang 67). This statement contrasts with the "bossy" attitude of others, such as Phyllis Rosenzweig, editor of Primary Writing, who confessed to having "questions about gender and power mixed" in her mind and to be "incredibly generous and malleable as long as things get done (pretty much) my way. Is that feminine or masculine ?" (Rosenzweig 98).

6Regarding the issue of whether being an editor means exercising power or subverting it, the reactions are varied. Cydney Chadwick, for example, answered in the Forum that "every time a new, uninitiated reader picks up Avec, is intrigued by the work and subscribes – that’s power, power to influence, power to expand audience for the kind of writing I publish" (Chadwick 24). The type of power Chadwick refers to is less institutional or social and more focused on the notion of literary community, one which ideally shares a poetics of public and literary consciousness. A similar response was given by Liz Fodaski, editor of Torque, who said that the impulse of her magazine was related to the "power of putting work out and the subversion of the powers of exclusion, publishing people who’ve never been published before" (Fodaski 22). In Foucauldian terms, Fodaski sees power working through a positive dialectics of productive relations, whereby new texts and new names are offered to a wider audience. From this perspective, the power of the editor lies in her/his capacity to draw attention to unknown writers.

7Other participants in the Forum expressed, however, their total lack of interest in the issue of power. For example, Rosemarie Waldrop, whose Burning Deck press specializes in experimental writing, observed that she is willing to accept her position as marginal and far away from the hub of power relations. As she put it : "I’d love to have power, but Burning Deck has such limited and uncertain means that it would be ludicrous to think in those terms. And whose power do you think we can subvert ? New York Times Book Review ? Adventurous writing can’t, by definition, be mainstream. Can’t have it both ways" (Waldrop 112). She suggests that taking up an indifferent stance may be a better strategy for resisting or subverting power, if one really means to subvert it. After all, innovative writers (and editors) understand formal experimentation, and not political vindication, as a more appropriate vehicle to bring about social progress. Thus, Waldrop’s outlook does not presuppose a lack of interest in the relationship between poetry and the social/literary context, but rather reflects her emphasis on a poetics of exploration that seeks to bring together our public and private realities through language.

8Within this context and since the 1980s, some women editors have expanded the scope of little magazines of poetry in the U.S. by delving into a mixture of art, poetry, and socio-cultural issues. Their effort has been overlooked in the histories of poetry and art to date, though their work has had a cumulative effect. Most of these magazines have been privately edited and funded, in part, with grants from either the National Endowment for the Arts or State Councils on the Arts, and with the cooperation of diverse foundations. This atmosphere shows these women’s creative energy and how they have managed precarious finances through collaborative editorship in an eminently patriarchal world. No doubt little magazines such as ME/A/N/I/N/G, Texture and Digital Artifact have been published with ties to innovative poets and artists, and troubling questions about the production and goals of art and poetry have served as both intense exercises in theory and as an historical reassessment of women’s involvement in the recent development of these fields.

9David A. Hollinger has argued that non-essentialist versions of identity have propitiated the proliferation of transdisciplinary forums designed to facilitate a discourse across the lines separating the social sciences and the humanities :

  • 1 For Hollinger, the publication of transdisciplinary journals was a focal point for presenting the d (...)

Foucault, feminism, antiracism, and Kuhn thus together fostered the exploration of identity that "problematized" (as it was often put, to the horror of those valuing "good English") a number of ideas that the previous generation rarely felt obliged to defend. The ensuing debates drew heavily on the energies of historians, anthropologists, and sociologists, among others, but this collection is about the particular history of four other disciplines : economics, English, philosophy, and political science. (Hollinger 345)1

10The journal M/E/A/N/I/N/G, published 1986-1996, can easily be understood within this intellectual context. Editors Susan Bee and Mira Schor reduced the arena of social and literary issues and clearly accounted for the interrelationship between writing and art engendered through the reciprocity of theory and practice. This proposition would not have attracted attention if it had simply confirmed old models. No, what made it noteworthy to the editors was that this hybrid model was able to focus on the legacies of modernism, visual art, world racism, sexuality and the arts, postmodernist art/theory or the visibility of women artists. Susan Bee’s policy of avoiding barriers between the masculine and feminine explains her editorial practice of accepting contributions from both women and men in this magazine :

Gender is crucial to M/E/A/N/I/N/G’s editorial practice. Mira Schor and I, as women artists and editors, have sought out and encouraged other women to be contributors. M/E/A/N/I/N/G has frequently addressed feminist art issues. However, unlike Heresies, Women Artists News, and other feminist art magazines, we have also directed ourselves to men and have published the writings of male writers. We are not interested in confining our audience to women only and want to broaden the spectrum of topics covered beyond the range of other feminist art publications. I think we’ve been able to crossover without losing our feminist focus or our male readership. (Bee 1994, 7)

  • 2 Useful in establishing the broadened boundaries of feminism was an interdisciplinary approach to ar (...)

11Coeditors Bee and Schor were familiar with a great number of art and poetry events in New York, and Bee in particular had had experience with putting together magazines such as this one before. She had been responsible for the layout in L=a=n=g=u=a=g=e magazine, working under the name of Susan Laufer. One of the simple explanations they offered for opting for co-editorship was that it was going to be too much of a workload for one editor to handle alone. Another reason is that it encouraged artistic and literary collaboration in the form of a dialogue between the editors and the texts. When they broadened the perspective, especially through forums like "Motherhood and Art" or "Creativity and Community," they gave the reader an idea of their ability to continue generating new insights into these topics through their interaction. Obviously, the debate on feminism, mainly fueled by post-structuralism, was crucial for both editors.2 Schor celebrated the sense of community with loyal subscribers by publishing the magazine as a space for ideas and especially through her recognition that M/E/A/N/I/N/G was defined "by the gender and the feminism of its editors...two women with similar backgrounds but different personalities, with loosely shared but sometimes wildly differing feminist and aesthetic viewpoints, making all the decisions quickly, without having to adhere to a party line or to wait for twenty other women to make up their minds" (Schor 1994, 101). Committed to preserving a space for women artists and writers, both Bee and Schor turned the printed magazine M/E/A/N/I/N/G into a digital online magazine in 2002. Precisely, issue #4 presented a Feminist Forum in 2007, where contributors responded to questions like : "Which women artists’ work were you particularly interested in during the 1970s ? What work were you doing ? If you have come of age since the 1970s, what works by women artists of that time or of your generation have been influential for you ? What are you doing in your own work that you feel relates to the Feminist Art Movement ?" Suffice it to say, over the years their editorship has been associated with the significant presence of women (and men) as speakers, dialoguers or lecturers, although "While we embraced feminist theory, we didn’t endorse any single point of view" (Bee 2009).

12The presence of innovative poets on the pages of this magazine highlighted the importance of gender and innovative language in order to cast experimentation and non-programmed texts in a positive light. These contributors took the lead in transgressing boundaries, scrutinizing in their essays and reviews how language broadens and re-examines diverse operations in art. Take the example of Johanna Drucker, visual artist and poet. She was a regular contributor to M/E/A/N/I/N/G, essaying on the non-linear potential of language and the power of visual material. Her ongoing discussion of the social effects of art and poetry and the artificial separation between art and thinking served to reassert her viewpoint that aesthetics (understood as a dissenting practice), poetics and social issues make up a fluid continuum that could lead to a healthier, more tolerant and open-minded society. Aligning herself with Bee and Schor in purporting to be unique and subversive, she defined herself as an intuitive and non-programmed artist and poet :

The particular form of typographic poetics which formed the center of my work from the late 1970s was dedicated to exploring the non-linear potential of print form and to the power of visual material form to proliferate meaning within a semantic field through visual structure. But it was also bound up with issues of female identity, prose traditions, and the relations between fiction as a literary form and fiction as a cultural form—tabloids, pulp novels, and genre writing.... Though all of this work from the last two decades can now, in my own critical writing, be framed in terms which locate it within traditions and contemporary frameworks of Visual poetry and aesthetic innovation, it was originally conceived without that information and with a far more intuitive and unregulated sensibility. (Drucker 1996, 56)

13Drucker’s words arc reminiscent of Hélène Cixous’s and Luce Irigaray’s focus on disruption as a feminine way of subverting patriarchal logocentric language. Simultaneously, her views also shared the concerns of the community of language poets established in New York : Abigail Child, Bruce Andrews, Charles Bernstein, Paul Zelevansky and Nick Piombino. Indeed, as seen later, some of these poets also contributed regularly to M/E/A/N/I/N/G. It is worth noting that Drucker’s robust discourse was not only a consequence of intuition. The biographical notes attached to her collaboration in M/E/A/N/I/N/G reveal her academic side : she presented her dissertation on "Experimental Typography, 19091924" at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1986. She also appeared as a Mellon Faculty Fellow in Fine Arts at Harvard University (1988), and later taught in the Art History and Archaeology Department at Columbia University (1989). The result of all this was the merging of institutionalization and free experimentation in her work—which formed the basis of her scrutiny of female identity, writing, reading, and imagining. Drucker, in presenting the problematic topic of gender and writing, considered that women were now visible, and to hinder their new artistic and social achievements was to disregard the discursive potential of women : "The symptoms which its processes display could be those of a new repression, the attempt of the old paradigm to repress the existence of the new by not naming it, not seeing it, condemn it to the familiar (feminine) place of exclusion ; or it could be a lingering symptom of the old repression" (Drucker 1988, 32).

14Drucker did meet some language poets on the West Coast in the late 1970s. In 1980, she published one of her early poetry books, Italy, in The Figures, run by Geoffrey Young, who has edited many language poets. It was a terrific time for her "socially", meaning in terms of writing and readings, and above all experimentation. However, her best-acknowledged connection is to the New York language poets mentioned above. This is curious, since some of these poets also found space in M/E/A/N/I/N/G and were inextricably tied to crossing over the separation line between visual art and poetry.

15The poet Charles Bernstein was the most recurrent male contributor to this magazine. He knew the New York art and literary scene quite well, having collaborated with Richard Tuttle on a poem/sculpture and an essay/poem on Turtle’s work, and with Susan Bee on several artists’ books. In 2002, he curated Poetry Plastique, with Jay Sanders, at the Marianne Boesky gallery. His leadership within the language poets’ tendency was associated with his push for promoting experimentalism and his mastery of French thinkers, and the analytic philosophy of Stanley Cavell and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Most of his contributions to M/E/A/N/I/N/G were centred on postmodernism and how the reification of formalist maps of modernism has replaced the traditionally dominant conventions in literature and art. Furthermore, his viewpoints expressed on the pages of M/E/A/N/I/N/G, on contemporary art criticism or on the role of artists and writers, reflected a yearning for women’s and men’s liberation and an awareness of all sorts of social and political concerns. Needless to say, the other language poets appearing in this magazine worked towards the idea of consummating the union of visual art and poetry. This is the case of Steve Benson’s Blue Book, considered by reviewer Tony Green as "a collection of texts, actually performance-events, and of overlays of texts one over another" (Green 36). Other language poets, such as Alan Davies in issue #1, Nick Piombino writing on Johanna Drucker’s verbal-visual world in issue #18, or Geoffrey Young reviewing Carroll Dunham’s exhibition Drawings 1982-1983 in issue #5, exemplify the fact that this magazine was a space for critical engagement favouring the idiosyncratic production of avant-garde poetry and art.

16Bee and Schor’s editorial power focused on practitioners of art and literature, who appreciated the enduring plurality of innovation against the master narratives of the past. M/E/A/N/I/N/G came to grips with previously undervalued female self-empowerment : first, by presenting the progressive female as an authority on art, theory, and editorship. Bee and Schor themselves exemplify this progressive approach to the role as editor. And second, by developing a project which did not succumb to either the gallery world or academia. However, avant-garde projects have historically ended up being co-opted by official power structures. Indeed, one of the curious features was that the evolving dynamic forms of the avant-garde analyzed in M/E/A/N/I/N/G were academically subsumed "at Columbia, Yale, and the University of Virginia (all places where Johanna Drucker... has held faculty positions)" (Alexander). Furthermore, Duke University Press published M/E/A/N/I/N/G : An Anthology of Artists’ Writings, Theory, and Criticism (2000), in which Bee and Schor included exciting forums derived from their experience in this art magazine, such as "On Motherhood, Art, and Apple Pie," "On Authenticity and Meaning," "Contemporary Views on Racism in the Arts," among others.

17M/E/A/N/I/N/G as a printed magazine has had a continuation in M/E/A/N/I/N/G Online, with four special issues to date : "Is Resistance Futile ?" (2002), "Collaborations" (2003), "Schor and Bee : Interviews and Articles" (2006), and "Feminist Forum" (2007). Once again, this space was created as a dialogue "between the genders as well as establishing a zone for exploring further aesthetic, political, and practical issues" (Bee 2002). With gender identity as the summarizing trope, this new magazine seeks a counterpoint to the mainstream, to be able to alter the principles exhibited in the printed M/E/A/N/I/N/G : "To some extent, the political ideas presented in M/E/A/N/I/N/G and in A.I.R. have been absorbed into the mainstream—feminism is a prime example—but only to be spit out in distorted forms, often with women attached" (Bee 2002). Without the protection of institutions or the market, what becomes attractive in Bee and Schor’s editorial efforts is their feminist consciousness against the ever-changing discrimination and imposed framework of the art world, "But then, the decision to follow a feminist path in art has never been easy. Being political and announcing your difference is not the most unproblematic way to proceed in the art world. That’s what makes maintaining an openly feminist space, with self-declared feminist artists in charge, a continuing challenge" (Bee 2002).

  • 3 Bee and Schor’s introductory essay to M/E/A/N/I/N/G Online 4 mentions these events, which are "cons (...)

18For Bee and Schor, resisting oppressive structures is a principle that remains valid whether one is routinely involved in mass-produced materials or finds more meaning in contemporary experimental fine art. In the present postmodern age, as free market values are being challenged in the world by groups and individuals with alternative interests, Bee and Schor’s feminist agenda continues to be focused on publishing substantial discussions in order to transfer knowledge, far from cultural paternalism. In other words, they have counteracted the absorption tendency of commercial and institutional presses with their insistent investment in marginal products. This means subverting, in some way, the economicist rationale behind the free market. Bcc and Schor’s feminism equals the rejection of the establishment’s logics that tries to impose a dynamics of production-consumption. They are more interested in a poetics of exploration that leaves aside universal assumptions to reveal unexpected, new perspectives about women and culture. In this context, they refer to an impressive list of events in 2006 and 2007, coordinated by the Feminist Art Project, with exhibitions and celebrations throughout the U.S.,3 to highlight the valuable experience of women as editors and curators.

19Another little magazine, texture, is approaching its 20th anniversary with its continual strength lying in its openness and the constructed discourse (texture) based on the integration of poetry and theory. Following Bee and Schor’s concept of editing as a place for hospitality and questioning conventions, Susan Smith Nash launched texture magazine in 1990. She incorporated an alternative literary politics that strengthened formal innovation intertwined with feminist theory, allied with and expressive of the power of women in avant-garde literature and society. Nash’s act of publishing envisaged female authority, fully constructing an enthusiastic community of contributors and readers. She acknowledges that feminism and a move away from old structures of discourse have definitely influenced her editorship :

Feminist theory has helped me a great deal by giving me a vocabulary of "influence-rearrangement" (I prefer this catch phrase to ones that rely on the word, "power" ; that word is too reductive...—I would like to suggest that the old structures aren’t always oppressive. We need to alter them anyway in order to provide more options for ourselves as we go through life constructing our own scripts and texts. (Nash 87-88)

20Nash also makes a strong case for the ideological position that poets develop in their own writing. And very interesting indeed are two other authentic connections with the editors of M/E/A/N/I/N/G. First, texture is described on the credit page as a journal of innovative writing, criticism, cultural studies, literature and the arts. And second, Nash’s emphasis on experimentalism again emphasizes the correspondence between these two journals, "By foregrounding both [poetry and criticism], the magazine is both a construction and its own reality ; therefore, texture constitutes a reification of a poetics of experimentation" (87). A distinct awareness of poems and essays associated with the language poetry school and post-language poetics provides a somewhat accurate category for Nash’s function of editing. The first issue of texture was composed of only four pages but, for example, texture #6 (1995) expanded to 182 pages, containing a forum on "An Apocalypse of One’s Own : A Sense of Ending in the Writer’s Own Work," poetry, prose texts, brief essays, a reader roundtable, book briefs and visual poems with more than 150 poets and critics contributing to the issue.

21The evolution of texture shows the cross-section of modernist and innovative writers, post-language poetics and other tendencies presented to stimulate further exploration. Critical discussions on Gertrude Stein, Paul Celan, William Burroughs and non-mainstream contemporary writers show a trust in an investigative, liberating editorial notion based on the writer’s self-awareness of her own writing procedures : "There are limitless possibilities embodied in this rhetorical strategy, since such a poetic stance can foreground, question, and play with the audience’s fluency in the dominant culture’s icons" (Nash 87). As might be expected, the readers of texture become involved in this constructivist view "that texts do more than represent the world, they actually recast and recreate it" (Nash 89).

22We should say that this little magazine derives from Texture Press, which began publishing a chapbook series in 1989, widely distributed in the U.S., and available at university libraries and bookstores throughout the U.S.. Female writers such as Heather Thomas, Valerie Fox, Rochelle Owens, Cydney Chadwick and many others have published their early collections of poetry with this press, freely moving from expressive to heuristic (or exploratory) levels of writing. This choice of varied acquaintances in Nash’s editorial work is in line with her diverse interests and interdisciplinary background. For example, her particular focus is on new approaches to green technology, m-learning, quality, retention, simulations, and Web 2.0/3.0. Furthermore, she is now involved in the publication of the e-magazine, Fringe Journal, aiming to present her writing, shared by means of podcasts, multi-platform podcasting for iPods and other devices.

23With the new technologies of the digital age, women editors have at their disposal the means to become self-publishers and small publishers on a scale unimaginable in the 1980s and earlier. Digital Artifact appears as a veritable "think tank" committed to the development of avant-garde writing. The use of the familiar frame based on feminism and experimentalism, characteristic of M/E/A/N/I/N/G and texture, is closely followed in Digital Artifact, which also provides a forum for literature that investigates form, subject, genre, language, culture and contemporary politics :

Digital Artifact magazine interrogates narrative in contemporary culture through fiction, criticism, experimental prose, or web-based audio-visual work. We’re specifically interested in how the internet, digital culture, global and non-Western literature, pop culture, eroticism, documentary, philosophy, politics and war are creating hybrid texts and new forms of narrative and literature. (Digital Artifact, "Mission")

24The mission in this multimedia magazine obviously underscores the open possibilities of the internet for collaboration and shared resources across national and other boundaries. In fact, the six women members of Digital Artifact’s editorial board, Ghada Abdelqader (Palestine), Neelanjana Banerjee (South Asia), Amanda Davidson (California), Renee Evans (Virginia), Ghana Morgenstern (Israel), and Kirthi Nath (South Asia) come from different countries and social backgrounds. The only male member on the Digital Artifact editorial board is David Beavers, who is connected to most of the other members through his involvement in writing his MFA dissertation. Additionally, the professional career of each member is attached to diverse interests, including writing on experiences from both a Palestinian and a U.S. point of view in English and Arabic, filmmaking, editorship of an electronic zine, curatorship, performance and education. However, there are certain cultural universals uniting the members of the editorial board, such as the prime acknowledgement of a discourse emerging from "specific elements such as web sites, chatrooms, video games, Myspace, internet porn, digital photography, web cams, blogs, internet media and cell phones, as well as broad trends such as the breakdown of national boundaries, the increased speed of communication, and the globalization of culture, capitalism, and war" (Digital Artifact, "Submissions").

25The first Digital Artifact issue was published in 2007 and included interdisciplinary artists (Sherri Lynn Word and Katina Papson), poets and performers (Camille Roy, Robin Tremblay-McGaw and Judith Jordan), writer-filmmakers (Single Beige Female and Juliana Mundim) and video artists (Jessica Lawless). In this respect, this general issue of Digital Artifact published the sort of materials which correspond to multimedia culture. However, issue #2 (2008) was a forum focused on trans-nationalism. The editors’ intention was to examine the idea of the boundary line. The works in this issue addressed fixing forms and diverse artistic practices across nations, through hybrid aesthetic tactics to show alternative communities. Their act of publishing literature and art in the context of 21st-century globalization has envisaged feminine authority, a full reconstruction of politics and drastic social reorientation. The general title for the latest issue, "We Made This for You Out of Nothing" (Digital Artifact 2009), is another instance of these editors’ peculiar imaginative approach to the creative act, which is situated far from meaning and ritual and where the ephemeral coexists with universally available materials. The balanced presence of male and female poets, fiction writers, essayists, and visual artists interacting in this issue is designed for a communal operation in contemporary art and literature, since they all come to resist superficiality and functionality. Including poetry, fiction, essay, personal reflections, e-mail conversations, videos and photographs, the contributions in this issue are intended to offer new ways to make sense out of our disturbing reality. There is, for example, Dillon de Give’s video, which is concerned with ecological issues. Sunita Prasard’s video shows a kiss where the kissers’ identity is deliberately confusing in order to make us think about gender dynamics. Or Lily Baldwin’s video, which presents a simple dinner scene where nothing apparently happens. Some of these materials would surely be regarded as useless or insignificant by a conventional sensibility, since they don’t seem to serve any practical purpose. However, they probe deeply into the complex nature of human consciousness and its relationship with the outside world. The new role of women editors has been especially important for women writers and artists, since their works are no longer assessed using male criteria such as pragmatism, commercial profit and ideological uniformity. The nature of these women’s editorial practices has served to reorganize the chronic dislocation of female creative activities, and to disrupt cultural boundaries, now replaced by collaboration, ubiquity, and aesthetic-political information in the contemporary avant-garde discourse. By banking on experimental digital artefacts, these editors have approached hybridization and non-totalizing forms as fundamental concerns for this first decade of the 21st century. In so doing, they have clearly drawn on postmodernist aesthetics and politics, but they have also developed a kind of feminism informed by poststructuralist subversion of master narratives and called into question accepted notions about art, literature and gender.

26We should add that Digital Artifact magazine is promoted by Artifact, a literary organization committed to the development of avant-garde writing. Melissa Benham and Chana Morgenstern are its founders, having first launched this organization in their living room in San Francisco’s Mission District on November 20, 2004. Among the activities they have developed, we should mention the Artifact Reading Series, which has hosted over 65 emerging and established writers, bringing together poets like Elizabeth Treadwell, Bill Luoma or Bhanu Kapil, exhibitions with painters like David Larsen, and performances by Ariel Goldberg, Christian Nagler or Matt Rober, to name just a few. Artifact has also become a press, its premier publication being doubly circulatory by Bay Area poet Sara M. Larsen.

27To conclude, the above-mentioned women’s editorial practices in New York, Norman (OK) and San Francisco have indeed inspired hope in modern readers by regularly presenting women’s creative production. These apparently marginal publications assume central importance in yet another sense. As existing forms and structures offer no hold in these times of crisis, women editors have resorted to openness, mixed formal solutions and the absorption of technology. These three magazines ensure a continuing interest in innovation in the years to come, since the articulation of the endless play of creation is a way to bolster and boost human progress, and many of their proposals favour new investigation into the struggle of women to assimilate the continuing shifts in social and communicative life.

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Bee, Susan, "Feminist Artist Statement", Brooklyn Museum, 21 September 2009. <Http://>.

Bee, Susan, "Is Resistance Futile ?", M/E/A/N/I/N/G Online, I (2002), 27 Sept., 2009. <Http://>.

Bee, Susan, Untitled, Chain, 1 (Spring-Summer 1994), 7-8.

Bee, Susan and Mira Schor. "Introduction." M/E/A/N/I/N/G Online 4 (2007). 27 Sept., 2009. <Http://>.

Bee, Susan and Mira Schor., "Ripple Effects : Painting and Language", New Observations 113, (Winter 1996), 14 September 2009. <Http://>.

Bellamy, Dodie and Andrea Juno, "Talking on Minna Street", Chain, 1 (SpringSummer 1994), 9-15.

Butler, Judith, Gender Trouble : Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, New York : Routledge, 1990.

Chadwick, Cydney, Untitled, Chain, 1 (Spring-Summer 1994), 24-25.

Chernoff, Maxine, "A Home in the Mind", Chain, 1 (Spring-Summer 1994), 26-28.

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Drucker, Johanna, "Experimental, Visual, and Concrete Poetry : A Note on Historical Context and Basic Concepts", Experimental—Visual—Concrete : Avant-Garde Poetry since the 1960s. Ed. Jackson, K. David, Eric Vos and Johanna Drucker, Amsterdam : Rodopi, 1996, 39-61.

Drucker, Johanna, "The Myth of Aesthetic Autonomy : On Allan Kaprow", M/E/A/N/I/N/G, 4 (November 1988), 27-32.

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Green Tony. A Review of Steve Benson’s Blue Book and Hal Foster’s Vision and Visuality. M/E/A/N/I/N/G, 5 (May 1989) : 35-39

Hollinger, David A, "The Disciplines and the Identity Debates, 1970-1995", Daedalus, 126.1 (Winter 1997), 333-351.

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Sprague, Jane, "Susan Schultz on Tinfish : Interviewed by Jane Sprague," How2, 2.4 (2006), September 14, 2009. <Http://>.

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1 For Hollinger, the publication of transdisciplinary journals was a focal point for presenting the distinctive impulses and innumerable forces affecting American culture in the 1970s and 1980s. Academic and not-quite-professional magazines such as Public Culture, Diaspora, October, Representations or Social Text reached out "to the most humanistic elements within political science, anthropology, sociology, history and geography" (Hollinger 334).

2 Useful in establishing the broadened boundaries of feminism was an interdisciplinary approach to art and literature as cultural products that encapsulate language values and derive into political and socio-historical debates over the nature of the female and male subject. In fact, when speaking of the treatment of feminism as self-knowledge, Judith Butler centred on the founding dilemma of this issue as a cultural construction : "What happens to the subject and to the stability of gender categories when the epistemic regime of presumptive heterosexuality is unmasked as that which produces and reifies these ostensible categories of ontology ?" (Butler viii).

3 Bee and Schor’s introductory essay to M/E/A/N/I/N/G Online 4 mentions these events, which are "constant efforts to memorialize, revitalize and continue its legacy within a new generation of women" (Bee and Schor, 2007). More than 20 exhibitions and publications were organized to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Feminist Art Project in Los Angeles, Fresno, New York and New Jersey, and curated by representative artists and critics, such as Judy Chicago, Joan Snyder, Judith K. Brodsky, Ferris Olin, Linda Nochlin, Maura Reilly, Connie Butler, and others.

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Bibliographical reference

Matilde Martin Gonzalez and Manuel Brito, Power and Authority Issues in the Editorship of Certain Women’s Experimental PublicationsCaliban, 27 | 2010, 61-73.

Electronic reference

Matilde Martin Gonzalez and Manuel Brito, Power and Authority Issues in the Editorship of Certain Women’s Experimental PublicationsCaliban [Online], 27 | 2010, Online since 13 December 2016, connection on 21 March 2023. URL:; DOI:

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About the authors

Matilde Martin Gonzalez

Universidad de La Laguna, Tenerife

Manuel Brito

Universidad de La Laguna, Tenerife

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