Report by Sarah Haman
After the third form of The Freewoman literary magazine emerged, the new editors of The Egoist decided to shift gears and publish a new style of literature. Originally, the magazine had been very focused on the woman’s suffrage movement and first-wave feminist literature. However, after that theme nearly resulted in the magazine’s failure, Ezra Pound led the charge of publishing work “recognizing no taboos” (Rabaté) with the intention of publishing imagist poetry that matched his aesthetic. With Pound’s new focus, Harriet Shaw Weaver (the financial backer, reader, and future editor of the magazine) took it upon herself to build the journal around A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce, one of the authors Pound recruited. Weaver would later fight to have the last bits of Ulysses published after they became censored elsewhere. While this shift seemed to prove successful early in The Egoist’s life, the magazine slowly lost momentum as they published fewer well-known authors and more political editorials, literary criticism, and foreign language poetry, mainly French and Chinese. Though a shift in focus did slow the publication’s momentum, it was the end of first World War that proved to be the nail in the coffin. People were left poor and homeless in the aftermath of the war. Many families were broken by death or displacement, entire cities were destroyed, and people were ready for something different.
The Egoist stood out due in part to its cavalcade of notable authors. Early in the magazine’s life, it was already publishing authors like James Joyce, William Carlos Williams, and Richard Aldington. The Egoist’s mission was also of note. In a time of collective war efforts and Marxism, the journal’s rather contentious sub-heading, “An Individualistic Review” (The Modernist Journal Collection), ran against the cultural grain. Unfortunately, it could not thrive financially, even with generous donations from Weaver. Though the magazine kept publishing high-quality literature, it was losing subscribers, and the journal was struggling to pay its contributors. In the later part of its life, The Egoist changed tack and began publishing more experimental work, in particular the outrageous portions of Ulysses that were censored from other literary magazines. In fact, though The Egoist could have been allowed to die after its first year, when most of its well-known authors had ceased to publish there, it was kept afloat by Weaver explicitly in order to publish Joyce in a time when nobody else was willing or permitted to do so. Weaver saw her mission through, completing the publication of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as the journal naturally faded.
Rabaté, Jean-Michel. "Joyce the Egoist." Modernism/modernity, vol. 4, no. 3, 1997, pp. 45-65. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/mod.1997.0057.
"The Egoist: An Individualistic Review." Union of Egoists, The University of Michigan, https://www.unionofegoists.com/journals/the-egoist-1914/ accessed May 2019
The Modernist Journal Collection. Brown University and the University of Tulsa, http://www.modjourn.org/render.php?view=mjp_object&id=EgoistCollection accessed May 2019.