A literary magazine, in its original sense, is a magazine that caters to literature. However, modern literary magazines also now feature graphic art. It is an alternative outlet to the more rigid and serious scholarly journals of the academe. Thanks to the rise of the small magazine publishing companies during the 1970s, literary magazines have found their way into the general public.
The first literary magazines started to appear in the 19th century. A lot of which originated in England and Russia and a handful in the United States. The North American Review is known to be the oldest American literary magazine until it ceased publication during World War II.
The Yale Review had its first publication four years later of The North American Review. It is initially referred to as the “The Christian Spectator,” and deals with theological contents. It was Henry Walcott Farnam who changed its name into the “The Yale Review” and has broadened its contents. However, it is in 1911, when Wilbur Cross became the editor of the publication, which has totally revolutionized The Yale Review. It has then been transformed into the nation’s leading university publication. It is the oldest and one of the most respected literary magazines that is still being run today.
Two of the most distinguished literary magazines that are also still up today began in the early part of the 20th century: the Southern Review and The Times Literary Supplement. The Southern Review accepts literary works such as short stories, novel in progress, poetry and critical essays that focuses on the Southern culture and history. It specially caters to contemporary literature and is open for experimental writing.
However, it does not want to dwell on literature that relies on extremism and sensationalism. The Times Literary Supplement was originally intended to be a supplement to The Times but later on became an entirely separate publication in 1914. Literary reviews by T.S. Eliot and Virginia Wolf had appeared on their issues.
The later part of the century saw the rise of the two influential and controversial literary magazines there is: The Kenyon Review and The Partisan Review. The two publications not only have literature and criticism in its content but also politics. The Partisan Review used to be associated with the American Communist Party but broke off its ties after Stalin’s regime. Some of the significant names that appeared on its issues are Saul Bellow, George Orwell and Susan Sontag. Its final issue was on April 2003.
The rise of the small presses in the 1970s made literary magazines more prolific. Due to the establishment of the Committee of Small Magazine Editors and Publishers or COSMEP, the small magazine publishing companies has been assembled and formalized. Artists can then choose which publications suit the style of their works.
Also around this time is when AGNI was formed. AGNI is a leading literary publication in providing an outlet for talented and aspiring writers. The publication believes that its contents are aimed in creating social and cultural dialogues. Jhumpa Lahiri, Susanna Keysen and Ha Jin have been featured in the magazine before becoming well-known writers in the academic and mainstream literature. They accept works from artists coming from different countries, culture, gender and genre. The publication has been running for thirty-six years, producing at least sixty issues.
During the late 1990s, Francis Ford Coppola launched Zoetrope: All-Story. The publication dedicates itself in featuring fiction and one-act plays. It publishes works from promising, aspiring writers alongside the prominent ones like David Mamet, Salman Rushdie and Yoko Ogawa. Other than these, it also features reprints of classic works and contemporary artworks.
It is also during this time that e-zines or online literary magazines began to appear. This marked the changing face of literary magazine publishing. Some of the well-acclaimed e-zines are The Barcelona Review, Ecletica Magazine and Spike Magazine. Nevertheless, it is still a relatively young alternative to literary magazine publishing.
With the abundance of e-zines emerging, the quality of literary content and technique has yet to be evaluated before it they could fully become a valid literary output.