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Place, platform, and value: periodicals and the Pacific in late colonial modernity.

I Contexts and concepts

Recently, modernist and early twentieth-century scholarship has opened up to two new currents: one is the study of the middlebrow and popular cultures (broadening the scope of artifacts to be considered) and the second is the study of non-metropolitan modernisms (broadening the range of places or local traditions to be included). Opening up the field of modernist studies to this material has stimulated discussions about the construction and contestation of cultural value and has drawn some new attention to the role of geography. Somewhat different discussions of the construction and contestation of cultural value have been central to postcolonial studies. Yet this field, too, has broadened its methods and scope beyond theoretically driven analyses of a small coterie of literary texts to encompass a wider range of cultural material. In work that considers the relation of texts to other artifacts and to cultural and commercial domains broadly inflected by colonialism, there is renewed attention to the archive and to the role of history. (1) The interwar representation of the Pacific is positioned to engage both sets of newly expanded scholarship because it is a site where colonialism collides with rapid modernization, providing rich ways to consider historical dimensions of colonization in connection with overlooked geographies of modernity.

Pacific cultural production and colonial modernity

Yet even as the region has become a vibrant area for research in history, cultural geography, and oceanic studies, much of which has focused on modernity, the Pacific of the interwar period has yet to capture the attention of literary and print culture studies. (2) Perhaps this neglect arises from the fact that engagement with the Pacific region in this era does not register in one national print archive but across several. Nor is it found in large volume in literary work but is, rather, scattered across ethnography, missionary tracts, travelogues, photography, tourist advertising, commercial art, and various grades of commercial or popular fiction. Of further and particular significance to English studies, the Anglophone "caretakers of the Pacific Rim" were mainly based in regions distant from the metropolitan centres of book production during the modern period. (3) In contrast, the region was on Hollywood's doorstep and became the backdrop of hundreds of productions cranked out during film's nascent years, which influenced the cultural imaginary of the region. (4) As a consequence of the collision of modernity with colonialism present in cultural engagements with the Pacific during this era, its material traces, both in film and in print, are often perceived as lacking in good taste. Generally historians and literary scholars dismiss this material as being beyond the pale, tainted by its association with the racial stereotypes it circulated and outside parameters of high cultural value. Yet, we argue that it is partly because of the way this material has emerged within a massifying and internationalizing media field, and been variably considered within or outside the bounds of good taste, that questions of cultural value are so interesting to ask of print culture's engagement with the late colonial Pacific.

In his study of the well-known Australian photographer and filmmaker Frank Hurley in the context of the rapidly evolving early-twentieth-century mass media and entertainment industry, Robert Dixon suggests that the Pacific was considered one of the last frontiers and as such was explored and commercially exploited by new media of the early twentieth century. Dixon draws on Alison Griffith's work on cinema as a mediator of cultural difference in the first half of the twentieth century when film, during its emergence, was an unstable platform in which travelogue, ethnography, and commercial entertainment were entangled. We take up Dixon's interest in the interrelationship between emergent media and "colonial modernity" borrowing his term to rectify the "occlusion of colonialism" (Prosthetic Gods 12) in histories of modernity and to signal the complicated intersection of a rapidly internationalizing and modernizing mass media landscape with modernity's others.

In some studies, this internationalization and modernization is perceived as equivalent to Americanization and commercialization and the Pacific is imagined as a region in which these factors affect Anglophone engagements with its spaces and cultures in shared or uniform ways. For instance, in Hollywood's South Seas and the Pacific War: Searching for Dorothy Lamour, Sean Brawley and Chris Dixon argue that the Australian and American soldiers who arrived in the Pacific Theatre in the Second World War were equally primed by Hollywood fantasies of the South Seas. Erica Esau, too, has argued that in the interwar period a shared, largely American commercial aesthetic of everyday visual culture emerged between California and Australia and across the Pacific more broadly ("Labels" 54, Images). These studies raise questions about how proximity to or distance from both Hollywood and the South Seas (or other areas of the Pacific) inflected commercial culture on both sides of the Pacific and shaped the understanding of cultural consumers in distinct or shared ways.


As David Carter has observed, for scholars of cultural history, "[i]n a context in which book publication was seriously under-developed ... periodical publication becomes a major focus" (xii). While Carter is referring to Australia in the 1920s and 1930s, the same observation of underdeveloped book production can be made of the West Coast of North America. For this reason alone, magazines published on the Pacific Rim provide unique insights into what was shared or distinct in the Anglophone cultural imaginary of the Pacific in late colonial modernity. Perhaps more importantly, however, for the same reason that material that engaged with the late colonial Pacific may once have been overlooked because of its diversity, heterogeneity, and variable cultural value, we argue that magazines are most useful. Magazines feature a cross-section of cultural artifacts from their time, including film and literature and other material collocated with this, which cuts across a range of genres and cultural fields, from nonfiction features to fashion notes, advertising, and political editorials. In magazines' hosting of this material, it is possible to see attitudes toward media hierarchies and cultural value under negotiation.

For the purposes of this conceptual article, which is part of a larger project that considers the geographical imaginaries of various interwar periodicals, with a focus on the Pacific, we draw on two mainstream magazines published on the edge of the Pacific Rim--one in the U.S. and one in Australia--as illustrations of how the negotiation of cultural value and media hierarchy intersects with this space. Both magazines explicitly worked from an agenda to engage their readers in travel and leisure, with advertisements for liner routes and hotels and general interest items including short stories, book reviews, film and theatre references, social gossip, fashion, and feature articles. Some, but certainly not all of this material, showcased Pacific content. Both magazines were initially conceived as lavishly produced organs of transport companies, intended to promote travel and settlement. In both cases the magazines were able to overcome the considerable odds placed against new periodicals published outside major metropolitan centres and distributed amongst a relatively small non-metropolitan population by leveraging the capital of their founding firms to become bona fide cultural institutions of their own.

The first of these is the organ of the Australian shipping company Burns, Philp and Company, the now little-known periodical The BP Magazine (1928 to 1942), which was a major publication during the interwar years. As Frank Greenop, a former editor and pioneering historian of Australian magazines, has pointed out, The BP Magazine was one of only four mainstream periodicals from a total of seventeen new titles launched in the 1920s to survive the Depression in Australia (234-35). The second is the publication that would become a beloved West Coast institution in the U.S., Sunset (1898-). This magazine was originally produced by the Southern Pacific Railroad Company (1898 to 1914) to promote tourism and western migration to midwestern and eastern readers until it was rebranded as a "Western" magazine for western readers in 1928.

As mid-range, glossy culture and travel magazines, The BP Magazine and Sunset were embedded in a network of new technologies, mobilities, and media, and they celebrated the modern in commodities, fashion, style, and leisure. In the 1920s, both magazines were reluctant to claim their status as sources of mere entertainment and, despite their commitment to promoting travel, marketed themselves as general magazines for readers and consumers of distinction. As Kuttainen has discussed elsewhere, The BP Magazine tied taste to auratic values of art and literature. Similarly, as Kevin Starr has explained, in the early years of the twentieth century Sunset aspired to become "the Atlantic Monthly of the Pacific Coast" (36) through courting the prestige of established and emerging writers such as John Steinbeck, Jack London, Upton Sinclair, Kathleen Norris, and Sinclair Lewis. These magazines directly represented the Pacific region in a variety of texts and images, and they also discussed and evaluated Pacific-themed books and films. These periodicals provide some insight into the way differently mediated visions of the Pacific region that were featured within their pages were subject to the vicissitudes of cultural value and hierarchies of taste. Considering periodical publications from the west coast of the U.S. alongside magazines produced on the east coast of Australia enables a trans-Pacific perspective on attitudes toward film and print media and permits a tentative analysis of differences and similarities between Australian and American visions.


Our interest is in the varying ways that different genres and media reviewed in the pages of these magazines engaged with the so-called "frontier" Pacific region during an era in which emerging media platforms were themselves in flux. We maintain that it is possible to perceive differences in the way that diverse forms of media content represented the Pacific and reflected changing scales of cultural values and hierarchies in relation to place, genre, and platform, even within the same issue of the magazine and certainly across time. In addition, magazines variably positioned toward different national readerships differed in the ways they showcased and participated in constructing these changing relations to place and media platform. In conceptualizing the way these magazines constructed and reflected changing relations to these two variables--place and media--we turn to contemporary new media theory. In so doing, we follow Ann Ardis and Patrick Collier's conceptualization of modernity as an historical era of emergent media, and in our focus on magazines as host platforms that interlinked other media we take our cue from Sean Latham's quest "to defamiliarize modern magazines by thinking about them as new media technologies" (1). Latham identifies connections "to other texts that lie outside the object itself: an affordance similar to a hyperlink that invites the reader to construct connections to this and other issues of the magazine" (2). We draw on this notion of seeing historical magazines as offering links to outside material but expand from this point to consider links not only to other texts but also to other media and subjects. In so doing, we also align our work with the scholarship of Debra Rae Cohen in thinking through the modern magazine in terms of its intermedial nature. (5)

Because of its potential to expand studies of magazines beyond print media to other forms of media within their pages, and because of its considerations of the roles of geographic distance and proximity, affectivity and media value, we are particularly attracted to contemporary polymedia theory. Mirca Madianou and Daniel Miller introduce the concept of polymedia as a way to understand the use of, and relationship to, multiple platforms of media in interpersonal communication. Here we tentatively explore transposing these ideas from interpersonal communication to periodical studies. Rather than merely considering the functional "environment of affordances" (170) of different media platforms, Madianou and Miller highlight the affective associations between users and these platforms, placing an emphasis on the relationships users develop through and with different media forms (171). Madianou and Miller also explain that different media platforms go through phases of early uptake and stabilization as well as user saturation and that consequently these affective associations change over time, as do their associated social and cultural values. Certainly there are parallels here between the way early responders to new or evolving media technologies such as film, radio, glossy and quality magazines, and mass-market, commodified book publication understood these platforms as undergoing cultural variability and transformation during phases of early uptake. Madianou and Miller's notions of the association between affect and emerging media platforms might be seen to complement Pierre Bourdieu's ideas about taste, distinction, and literary and cultural value, which have already been applied to the analysis of periodicals (Smith 10).

Similar to the way Bourdieu points to the role of constant revision and re-evaluation in the building and maintenance of hierarchies of taste, Madianou and Miller discuss the way "polymedia becomes implicated in wider social transformations" (171). As they explain, "terms such as 'multichannel' or 'multi-platform' ... are based on an idea of hierarchy within media" (172); often the notion of hierarchy assumes that the status of a platform is stable and does not take account of the way "different platforms and applications" (such as magazines) "continuously intersect with other media" (172) in constantly shifting and "cross-cutting patterns of engagement" (172). These cross-cutting patterns, according to Madianou and Miller, are determined by users and depend on users' "social, emotional or moral" associations with given media platforms (173). (In the case of periodicals, these dynamics are determined by readers as media consumers, as well as editors, magazine writers, and reviewers as consumers of other media.) Madianou and Miller draw extensively on Nancy K. Baym's Personal Connections in the Digital Age to show that hierarchies, preferences, and rankings of media platforms depend on many different factors, "including the degree to which we see media as more or less authentic" and the prevalence of a "sense of community, identity, gender [and] ... veracity" (Madianou and Miller 173). "Familiarity" and "formality of the relationship" (173) are also noted by Madianou and Miller (citing Broadbent) as factors playing a role in personal media choices and associations with media platforms.

In the context of periodical scholarship, we posit that such a theory is valuable for studies that are concerned mostly with the way a particular subject is changeably represented, conveyed, and understood within a magazine, particularly when multiple, competing media forms--such as books and films--are present within the host platform of the magazine and where questions of proximity or distance are at stake. For our considerations, we are attentive to readers, writers, and editors' associations with a region (whether the Pacific basin in general or Hollywood or the South Seas specifically). In addition, we are alert to their perception of their familiarity with a locale, their estimation of a given media platform's representation of its veracity, their level of formality or intimacy with a geography or medium, and their associations with media platforms. All of these factors come into play when thinking about mediated representations of place. As we emphasize magazines as porous forms (that take on other media, providing imaginary access to places), as well as dialogic (including features from various genres, reviews of other media, and advertisements that speak to each other across the pages of the magazine), we are especially interested in them as hosts of other media forms. As Madianou and Miller explain, polymedia refers to the way media "functions as an 'integrated structure' within which each individual medium is defined in relational terms in the context of all other media" (170). We focus here on film and literature, but radio, theatre, dance, photography, advertising, and other media forms were also featured in these magazines. We posit that this conceptual framework is useful for periodical studies because it offers ways to consider magazines and their relationship to other media forms, as well as ways, for our purposes here, to understand the changing landscape of the Pacific in these magazines. Applying a polymedia perspective to historical magazines thus allows us to extend our perspective beyond the common purview of print culture studies, which tends to focus exclusively on the relations of producers or consumers to print. (6) Further, since the Pacific region opened up to increased mobility during a period of massifying and rapidly changing media, we argue that it is possible to conceptualize the region as intensively subject to the vicissitudes of changing cultural values and evolving, multiplying media and cultural forms. To illustrate these points and gauge the relative value of this cultural material, our article focuses first on the distinct ways these magazines engaged with the Pacific region and second on the book and film chat within them.

II Case studies

The Pacific of The BP Magazine and Sunset

Generally, the Pacific presented in The BP Magazine matched the routes of Burns Philp's ships and affiliates which it promoted: New Guinea featured most prominently, as did the Great Barrier Reef, coastal Queensland, and remote coastal New South Wales. The Solomons featured next in prominence, and the New Hebrides, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Manila appeared as settings of quality genre fiction including detective stories, romances, and adventure stories, as did other ports of call on the shipping map such as Port Vila, Papeete, and other regional harbour cities. The magazine's fiction often presented these destinations as alluring, glamorous, and even cosmopolitan, although these stories were also replete with colonial stereotypes of dangerous natives, Orientalist caricatures of double-dealing, profit-seeking Chinese traders, or warnings about wayward pearlers. The Pacific of The BP Magazines cultural imaginary was generally the Pacific on Australia's doorstep, a position consolidated through Australia's sub-imperial relationship with Papua New Guinea in this period. (7) As this newly conceived pleasure periphery expanded through the mid-1930s to reach the mid-Pacific, Hawaii also began to more frequently feature in travel advertisements, fiction, and non-fiction features.

Sunset was also an important promoter of regional and West-Coast-themed fiction, and, as the magazine connected its mission to establish the literary prestige of the west to the prestige of travel westward and beyond, it continued throughout the years to promote foreign as well as local travel. The West Coast of the magazine's fiction, articles, and advertisements extended up to the Pacific Northwest of Ashland, Tacoma, and the Puget Sound, into British Columbia, beyond into Alaska, southward into Mexico, and sometimes into Panama and South America, its proximal neighbours along the Pacific Rim. Occasionally in the 1920s, the magazine's geographical coverage ranged into the "Far West" across the Pacific to Hawaii or even more occasionally to the remote South Seas of Fiji, for instance. More often than its rare featuring of the South Sea Islands, Sunset's cross-Pacific gaze focused on New Zealand or Australia, which still appeared infrequently. As Melvin Lane, the scion of the Lane publishing dynasty (which presided over the magazine from 1928 until it was acquired by Time Warner in 1990), observed: "Sunset travel articles ... always featured Asian and Pacific travel opportunities" (28). Nevertheless, the connection of the Pacific to North Asia more generally describes the magazine's far westward gaze across the Pacific Ocean.

While Sunset included advertisements for travel to the Asia-Pacific in the 1920s, the non-fiction section more regularly engaged with these locales in terms of the postwar "Yellow Peril" Huge waves of immigration of Japanese and Chinese labourers through Hawaii into California and elsewhere in the west became regular topics of articles, such as the October 1920 article "Drastic Action Needed to Stop the Yellow Flood": "Already the number of fecund Japanese women in California is too large, and in Hawaii they are multiplying so rapidly that within a decade a heavy stream of star-spangled yellow immigrants will flow from the island territory to the mainland" (45.4: 17). Commentaries and editorials suggested that the Far West of the Pacific was a source of anxiety, and political advertisements such as the following prominent, full-page spread in November 1920 fueled and reflected anxieties about a soon-to-come dominance of Japanese people if immigration was not kept in check: "Save our State from Oriental Aggression. Keep California White" (45.5: 79). On the other hand, fiction and book reviews often had the effect of ameliorating this abrasively xenophobic content, as we discuss below, and the advertisements and outlooks on film also showcased different attitudes toward the region between the wars. Even in the xenophobic discussion of the "Yellow Peril," however, Sunset's outlook across the northern Pacific and its references to trade with and immigration from Asia signaled what Madianou and Miller call the "sense of community, identity, ... veracity" (173) as well as familiarity that make Asia and Asians suitable subjects for book reviews for the "bookish," inquiring, self-educating mind.

Practices and personalities

The geographical ambit of both magazines was not just determined by the commercial ambitions of their mother companies, travel regions they promoted, larger geo-political concerns, or simple "familiarity." While our general point is that attention needs to be paid to what Ann Ardis has signaled as "the unique affordances and deep cultural anxieties raised by the rapid expansion and transformation of print media during this period" (1) in relation to other media forms, we also acknowledge the need for what Ardis calls, after William Uricchio, the "mundane specificity of historical practices of print media" (quoted in Ardis 1). Among these mundane specificities, the personalities and decisions of the magazine editors also matter.

The BP Magazine was managed by one editor across its publication span. As Frank Greenop has explained: "Its editor, Dora Payter, showed skill not only in popularising its interest on a wide appeal, but in producing it artistically and neatly, and she established in spite of the fact that she was bound to a primary interest in carrying the torch to travel, a magazine of excellent standard and popularity" (248). "[C]arrying the torch to travel" into regions Burns, Philp, and Company and its shipping affiliates had newly conceived as the pleasure periphery of Australia was the magazine's mandate, and Payter consistently carried it out. Many of these places included regions across the Pacific that had only recently been associated with "blackbirding" racialized labour. This was the practice of kidnapping South Sea Islanders to work on Queensland sugar plantations, which (despite Burns Philp's fervent denial of its association with this coercive activity) had given the BP of Burns, Philp, and Company the notorious nickname of "Bloody Pirates" (Stephen 13; see also Douglas). Payter managed to gentrify the image of the firm and the region by tying the magazine to literary journalism and to the prestige of art and literature, as Kuttainen has discussed elsewhere (92). Stories set in the South Pacific and Melanesia appeared in the pages of the magazine as an attempt to transform readers' perceptions of the region. Yet, changes in the literary domain in Australia meant this practice was no longer sustainable for the magazine by the late 1930s, when books and quality fiction became increasingly associated with Australia and with national literature (Kuttainen 97-98). Because of the magazine's single editor over these two decades, these changes can be convincingly interpreted in relation to the changing media values of South Sea fiction, to growing familiarity with the region, and to broader changes in book culture and film culture, as we will discuss momentarily, rather than as a result of changing editorial regimes.

In contrast, two distinctly different editorial stamps were imprinted on Sunset during the 1920s and 1930s. During this phase the magazine also shifted its focus away from regional, Pacific Rim-themed fiction. Its ownership change makes any interpretation of the magazine's Pacific content through the lens of polymedia theory more complex than in the case of The BP Magazine with its consistent editorial influence and policy. During the interwar years, which are the focus of this article, Sunset was first characterized by an editor-ownership phase (1914 to 1928), during which a group of editors led by Charles K. Field purchased the magazine from the previous owner, Southern Pacific Railway, and sought to make of "the entire Far West--California especially--... a tabula rasa upon which might be projected and achieved a society based upon values of education, taste, beauty, and restraint" (Starr 37). This aim is in marked contrast to the era that followed, the Lane Empire, led by patriarch Laurence W. Lane. Lane was advertising director of the Des Moines-based Meredith Publications and owner of the widely read Better Homes and Gardens. He cut Sunset down from 100 pages to a much sleeker publication of thirty to fifty pages, reoriented the largest portion of the magazine to home and outdoor life, and all but abandoned the magazine's association with literary culture. Under Lane's new editorial purview, historian Kevin Starr observed, "Sunset would no longer resemble Harper's and the Atlantic as a writer-driven literary review" (45).

Certainly personalities and editorial decisions affected the magazine's content, but these decisions also reflected and responded to broader cultural changes and market forces. The fact that the mid 1920s were perhaps the most literary phase of Sunset can be explained as much by editorial agenda and regime as by the prestige of book talk and literature in this era. In the 1930s the magazine retained only a limited focus on books, reviewing non-fiction travel and historical literature, which also suggests that a broader cultural quest, beyond the magazine, to turn the West Coast into a place that could sustain its own tasteful book culture may have been abandoned. In addition, changes in the reading public, in their confidence as both discerning middle-class readers and consumers, and as second-generation movie-goers, lent different levels of value to film and literature into the 1930s and beyond. These and other changes played out across the media culture and regional engagement in these magazines.

Relationship to books and film as media

In general, as Richard Ohmann has argued about American periodicals of the period twenty years earlier, culture and leisure magazines "[u]nderstood that the kind of 'class standing' they nourished through instruction in fashion, home design, and entertaining ... needed a counterpoint in literary culture" (28). In the 1920s and 1930s, changes in literary culture affected this direct relationship between literature, class, and leisure. Some of these changes are suggested in the book talk and book reviews in these magazines. In general magazine culture across the 1930s, unnamed book reviews disappeared and professional reviewers replaced "Book Corner" or "Book Shelf" book chat in which the reviewer's perspective was meant to align with that of the general reader rather than offer expertise. This occurred alongside the intensification of the "battle of the brows" in which new kinds of cultural prestige were consolidated, often alongside the guidance of nationally recognized figures and organs of distribution, such as the Book-of-the-Month-Club in the U.S. (see, for instance, Radway). In this milieu, regional attempts to establish literary prestige tied to place may have lost traction. Certainly Sunset appeared by 1928 to be unable to legitimately continue to attempt to fulfill its brief to link emerging West Coast- or Pacific-themed literature with cultural cachet. As films set in the South Pacific became increasingly formulaic, The BP Magazine stopped profiling them, and Sunset, which rarely featured film, became more openly hostile to Hollywood. Cultural shifts in relation to book and film culture not only registered in the pages of these magazines but also affected the way they profiled media that took up a relationship to the Pacific region. Here we consider how these magazines' remediation of Pacific content was affected not only by their proximity to or distance from Hollywood and the South Seas but also by their relationships to book and film culture.

Throughout the literary phase of Sunset in the early 1920s, the magazine focused on fiction and middlebrow travel books, mostly featuring an Asia-Pacific setting, which lent an affable and open-minded cast to the magazine's otherwise xenophobic tone in the 1920s. Fiction and travel writing offered the reader of Sunset conciliatory views of the Chinese, cementing this region within the readers' zone of familiarity but also reinforcing its cultural distance, as these books were prized for both the education and the exoticism they offered. As Joseph Henry Jackson, author of Sunset's feature "The Book Corner," writes:
   We have one failing which, perhaps, our readers may have noticed.
   We can not, it seems, help ferreting out travel books. Our nose
   seems to be trained to the business ... We have even been known, so
   a fellow-editor swears, to stand at point while the office boy
   signs the expressman's receipt for a bookish-appearing bundle.

      This month it was Harry Franck that caused our travel-sensitive
   nostrils to tingle. "Wandering in Northern China" (Century), is
   exactly what the title represents it to be.. He is making a
   two-year stay in China, so his publishers tell us. That means, we
   hope, that there is more of this kind of rich, first-hand stuff in

      A slightly different angle on the Chinese is afforded by E. T.
   Williams, University of California professor in his book, "China:
   Yesterday and Today" (Crowell). This is not strictly travel
   writing. The author spent many years in China on government
   service, and his work comes closer to the text-book type than
   anything else. Don't think, however, that the book is necessarily
   dry just because it approximates the function of a text. The author
   enjoys his subject. Through his life among the Chinese ... [h]e is
   able to look at the Celestial and to tell us about him without the
   bias which grows out of prejudice either pro or anti. (52.1: 54)

Here, books about Asia appear to be promoted by Jackson because of their ability to overcome prejudice through educational content and offering immersive experience. However, in its relationship across the Pacific to Asia, the magazine tends to privilege content set here and avoid profiling books set in the South Pacific or publishing South Pacific-themed fiction. A further example of Sunset's emphasis on the northern Asia-Pacific is the inclusion of short fiction by the Australian writer Dale Collins: "The Face of the Buddha" (in May 1923), "The Road to Paradise" (in February 1924), "Batoen, Servant of Allah" (in June 1924). Given Collins's extensive use of South Pacific locales in much of his oeuvre, it is perhaps significant that his first contributions to Sunset feature northern, East Asian settings, and that the magazine published his South Pacific fiction only after Collins became a known name to their readers when the magazine's coverage began to venture farther across the ocean. (8)

This geographical profiling suggests that the South Pacific region was considered, at least in the early 1920s, far less familiar to Americans than the north Pacific. Perhaps, too, it suggests that Californian readers were more used to associating the region with Hollywood film than with print, even in quality genre fiction. It seems that American familiarity with the South Pacific found varying expression in different media forms, depending on their associated cultural value. While the magazine often advertised glamorous luxury products invoked by advertising copy using the terms "refinement" or "distinction" Sunset described Hollywood as a den of hucksters. In one of many such examples of this low esteem of Hollywood, in April 1924, in an article assessing the roots of the population problem in Los Angeles and the related issue of unaffordable real estate, a "film cutter" is portrayed as the culprit behind a real estate scam; the implication being that such behaviour is unsurprising for an employee of such an unscrupulous industry (Walter Woehlike, "How Long, Los Angeles?" 52.4: 100). There is a related sense in Sunset that the industry that purveyed lowbrow Hollywood fantasies was also lowly, particularly in contrast to books. In Jackson's review of book publications with local Pacific-coast content, he highlighted his preference for entertainment that he perceived as realistic in its capacity to capture a region with which he, and presumably his readers, were familiar:
   Are you a San Franciscan or an Angeleno? Or, if you do not live in
   either of these cities, which way do your sympathies lean?

      Here's why we want to know. Mark Lee Luther has written as
   sprightly a story as we have read in a long, long time
   and-whisper!--he has written about Los Angeles, the Los Angeles of
   the year, the day, the minute. He calls it, aptly "The Boosters,"
   and it is published by the Bobbs-Merrill Company.

      Before we go any further let us make it plain that there's nothing
   about the movies in the book. It's not a Hollywood hurrah. Mr.
   Luther has taken the Los Angeles of fact, the city as it is,
   without trimmings (which it doesn't need) and written himself a
   cracking good novel about it. (52.5: 91)

In reviewing the cultural representation of Los Angeles, proximity to Hollywood appears to be a factor, as Madianou and Miller suggest, in gauging Hollywood's inauthenticity, its "hurrah." In the same column, Jackson suggests that, among all the ills of the world that a typical businessman might complain of as he is "sitting next to you on his morning commute" (52.3: 51), Hollywood would be among them. Although film is apparently beneath the consideration of Sunset and the type of reader it addressed, Jackson praises books that are engaging to the "lay reader" and that are "simple, powerful, utterly convincing" and explore subjects "dear to the innermost hearts of all of us" (51). These include books within the realistic geographical as well as cultural reach of a Sunset reader and potential traveler. That Hollywood's portrayal of the Pacific region is completely ignored by the magazine, during the period when South Pacific-focused films were being turned out at high volume, is remarkable given the magazine's mandate to cover the Pacific region. Despite having Hollywood on its doorstep, the magazine barely deigns to comment on Hollywood productions. Interestingly, considering Madianou and Miller's observation that gender is a factor in valuing media forms, the magazine's only positive references to Hollywood are found in its fashion columns. In a regular 1936 feature called "Headquarters Hollywood" the region and its film starlets are featured as sources of glamour. Even so, productions set in the Pacific are never mentioned.

In contrast to Sunset's aversion to discussing and reviewing film, The BP Magazine regularly featured film notes, particularly when a film boasts a regional Pacific connection. Throughout the 1920s the magazine refers to films as "screen plays," associating film with the higher literary value of drama. Similarly the magazine took film and its industry seriously, regularly commenting on and reviewing films until, with no editorial announcement or explanation, it dropped this practice entirely in the mid-1930s. Of particular value to The BP Magazine in the late 1920s were films that were set in the South Pacific, such as the film adaptation of Frederick O'Brien's White Shadows in the South Seas ("When Romance and Realism Meet: Picture Making in the South Seas" 1.1: 16-17) or Trobriana ("The World of Make-Believe: Film Magic" 2: 73, 75, 81). Discussion of these films included the challenges and rewards of filmmaking on location in the tropics and the potential for the emerging film industry in Australia. Here the magazine seems to value the familiarity of the South Pacific, a geography it imagines as within Australia's zone of influence. The prospect for Australia to become a new frontier for Hollywood investors expanding across the Pacific was promoted as an exciting opportunity for Australians, in the days before the expensive infrastructure needed for talkies was to make filming on location next to impossible. In December 1931 the magazine noted with excitement the visit of an American film executive:
   Mr. Sam Berger executive representative of Loew's Incorporated and
   Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, is visiting Australia and has some interesting
   comments to make on our part of the world ... "There is just the
   same atmosphere of activity, big crowds, smart shops and
   up-to-the-minute theatres I left in New York ... I have heard much
   about the healthy optimistic outlook of the average Australian, and
   it is the biggest thing I have seen here yet. Yes, even including
   your wonderful bridge which was the first glimpse I caught of
   Australia from the sea" ("Looking Forward ... 1980!" 3.1: 45)

In this note, the distant and exotic American film industry seems to be drawn nearer, and the executive, who is positioned as the symbol of American glamour and progress, validates Australia's modernity. The contrast could not be starker between this Australian magazine's high valuation of the film executive and the American magazine's disgust for the lowly film industry set. By 1931, the magazine wrote with even more excitement that Australian filmmakers were being contracted by Hollywood studios to expand their work into Australia's South Pacific neighbourhood. The filmmaking couple "Mr. and Mrs. Chauvel," The BP Magazine reported, was presently "somewhere near Papeete [Tahiti] to obtain local colour" for their current film project ("Popular Novel Filmed With an All Star Cast" 4.3: 30). Here the emphasis on the South Pacific remained strong, and Hollywood's association with South Pacific film was rated as a prospect for the expansion of the modernizing industry rather than a source of embarrassment, as it was in Sunset magazine.

In another contrast, in terms of the two magazines' relationships to Pacific geographies, north Asian settings remained relatively absent. Where Asian material entered the Australian magazine in the film review section, it was discussed only in its connection to Australia or the tropics, such as the review of The Ship from Shanghai, the film adaptation of Australian author Dale Collins's bestselling novel Ordeal, or the film East of Borneo, filmed within the reach of Australia's pleasure periphery ("Screen News" 4.2: 29). However, by the mid-1930s, The BP Magazine no longer reviewed films set in the region, suggesting, perhaps, the effects of film's stabilization or saturation as a medium or changing social or moral associations between consumers and the film platform.

In addition to discussing new film productions, The BP Magazine ran a regular book review feature from 1929 to 1933, which was first titled "The Bookshelf--A Few Reviews" before being rebranded as "Books and Reviews." This section was almost exclusively written by Anita Campbell, and a significant number of the books reviewed featured Pacific settings or cultural content. In one interesting review, featuring the tropical Asian Pacific increasingly coming within Australia's geographical orbit, Dale Collins's latest novel Idolaters (1929), set in the Malay Archipelago, makes an appearance. Campbell comments that the novel is "as mystic, unreal and terrifying as anything yet woven from the mind of this vivid writer" before concluding her review with the admission: "But we all know that Dale Collins is synonymous with originality" (2.4: 68). In a later issue, a full page of the book reviews section is given over to a review of Magical Malaya by Ambrose Pratt, accompanied by a large black and white photograph of the author (3.3: 54). In this instance, Campbell's commentary draws attention to the book's romantic and exotic locales, whilst also reassuring the reader of the author's authority to speak on such subjects because of his status in the literary community:
   A travel book in a setting as romantic as the Kingdom of Siam,
   Federated Malay States, and the Straits Settlement, by one who has
   deservedly won a name among our foremost litterateurs, cannot but
   be interesting. The pageantry, colour and seductiveness of the East
   are alluringly revealed by Mr. Pratt and the lyrical quality of his
   writing clothes every subject with an added charm. His polish and
   verve, allied to an unerring feeling for words, are, alas, all too
   rare in Australian writers. (54)

Campbell's own status as a literary critic and thus her critical authority--given that her role was to allow magazine readers to better navigate the overabundance of novels both foreign and domestic available in Australia--was reinforced to readers through her willingness to denigrate established, internationally-renowned authors, especially when they failed, in her view, to accurately represent Pacific content in their novels. J. B. Priestley received short shrift from Campbell, who opened her review of his Faraway (1932) with the pronouncement that "J. B. Priestley's latest book has its setting for the main part in the South Seas and under the wizardry of his pen the 'Isles of Romance' lose much of their glamour" Continuing in this vein, Campbell bemoans that Priestley "has surprisingly little to say for the South Sea Islands. Their vaunted beauty escapes and eludes him" (4.4: 62). Campbell establishes herself in tone as an ally of the general reader but in prestige as an authority on the genuineness (or not) of fictional portrayals of the South Pacific region she considers her backyard.

By the fourth volume of The BP Magazine, book chat had extended far beyond the book review pages to feature in the magazine's editorial front matter as well as in the new regular column "All the Arts" contributed by the anonymous insider "Callboy" For example, the "News and Notes at Home and Abroad" feature from September 1934 showcased the "outstanding merit" of F. E. Baume's forthcoming novel Burnt Sugar, praising the author's "courage to picture life of to-day and to do away with all extravagance ... Mr. Baume is more than only a story-teller, he is the psychologist of human beings and conditions, really a very rare specimen among Australian novelists" (6.1: 22). Increasingly, book talk in The BP Magazine featured reports on national authors' associations and other material that demonstrated vigorous activity around the building up of national letters. While the authenticity of Baume's North Queensland setting was lauded here, a brief profile on the same page, focusing on Dale Collins's recent holiday back to his "native land" drew attention to Collins's observations that "one thing which particularly has impressed him on this visit is that while twelve years ago only a few Australians made the trip to New Guinea and other Pacific Islands, to-day nearly everyone at some time or another travels to these interesting places" (22). Although such comments might appear fleeting, they nevertheless draw attention to the emerging awareness in Australia of her Pacific neighbours and how they were increasingly becoming accessible and knowable (both physically and imaginatively) to Australian readers long before the advent of the Second World War. To a certain extent, the increased traffic to the Pacific islands nearby seems to imply the region had become less attractive for its potential as an exotic and romantic setting in literature, even as reviews in The BP Magazine tended to prize, perhaps paradoxically, the realistic quality of exotic travel writing. Even so, a clear turn toward Australian literature, rather than books set in the South Seas, is signaled by the mid-1930s.


Just as readers and, by extension, the book and film reviewers in these magazines evolved in their taste for certain kinds of books and films during the era of emergent new media in the early twentieth century, each of these magazines showcases variable relations to the Pacific region and the media that portrayed it. While the Pacific region may have been regarded as a "last frontier" for the American West--and for Australians as they negotiated a gradual reorientation of their geography from England to America--the media platforms and genres that featured the Pacific during the interwar years were also, to varying extents, frontier technologies that rose or fell in their stock of cultural value. We maintain that periodicals are particularly valuable as intermedial technologies that featured within their pages reviews and endorsements of consumer products, which extended to some extent to literary content and films that were all in a state of flux in the intensively modernizing period of the 1920s and 1930s. In mainstream culture and leisure magazines, especially in the 1920s and into the early 1930s, reviewers often positioned themselves as allies of their readers, as mutual navigators of a sea of new cultural material and consumer products. In so doing, they exemplify what Madianou and Miller discuss in terms of established media and their relationship to emergent media platforms during periods of early uptake prior to stabilization or saturation. We have also attempted to show that the relationship of magazines to the Pacific and to other media that featured the Pacific was extremely unstable during this period. Both of the magazines we have discussed demonstrated and participated in constructing different levels of formality, familiarity, anxiety, and pleasure in mediated places and media platforms. The degree to which a media form that filtered the Pacific was regarded as more or less authentic appeared to contribute to its social and cultural value in the eyes of magazine editors, writers, readers, and media consumers. Similarly, the degree of familiarity readers and editors felt with a particular region of the Pacific, or with Hollywood, appears to have affected the way they valued mediated images, stories, books, and films associated with these places. Although we would argue that the readers of these Pacific Rim magazines grew in familiarity and confidence with the Pacific region across the interwar period, we also hope to have evidenced their decidedly different conceptualizations of the Pacific. While mainstream culture and leisure magazines might therefore be viewed as windows into the rare and somewhat forgotten archive of late colonial modernity in the Pacific, they can also be seen as indexes of regionally and temporally distinct and continually evolving relationships to place and media value.

Victoria Kuttainen

James Cook University

Susann Liebich

University of Heidelberg

Sarah Galletly

James Cook University

Victoria Kuttainen, is the Colin and Margaret Scholar of Comparative Literature at James Cook University, Australia. After commencing a doctorate at the University of Alberta, Canada, she moved to Australia to complete it and was a member of the Postcolonial Research Group at the University of Queensland. Her book Unsettling Stories: Settler Postcolonialism and the Short Story Composite was published by Cambridge Scholars Press in 2010. For the last five years she has focused on interwar print culture in Canada and Australia, and her current collaborative research looks to the representation of the space between them, reflecting on representations of the Pacific in late colonial modernity.

Susann Liebich is a postdoctoral fellow at the Advanced Centre for Transcultural Studies, Heidelberg University, where she is part of a research group investigating the cultural histories of sea travel in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Specifically, she works on the histories of reading and writing at sea. Her research interests lie at the intersections of imperial and maritime history with print culture studies and book history.

Sarah Galletly is the Margaret and Colin Roderick Postdoctoral Research Fellow at James Cook University, Australia. Her doctorate, completed at the University of Strathclyde, focused on representations of women's work in turn-of-the-twentieth-century Canadian fiction. Her current research explores the early twentieth-century mass-market periodical cultures of Canada and Australia, with a particular focus on the short fiction career of L. M. Montgomery. She is currently collaborating with Drs Kuttainen and Liebich on a project titled "The Transported Imagination: Australian Interwar Magazines and the Geographical Imaginaries of Late Colonial Modernity" (www.

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(1) The charge that postcolonial literary studies was a politically and aesthetically driven theoretical field rather than scholarship based in empiricism and history was a major criticism in the early 2000s. A discussion of these problems, and proposed methods of solution, can be found in the introduction to Robert Dixon's Prosthetic Gods: Travel, Representation, and Colonial Governance. Since then, a turn toward transnationalism and empiricism has demonstrated the way postcolonialism in its present form tends to require grounded historical work.

(2) In oceanic studies, see Jerry H. Bentley, Renate Bridenthal, and Karen Wigen, eds., Seascapes: Maritime Histories, Littoral Cultures, and Transoceanic Exchanges; in history, Ian Tyrell has made a persistent plea for historical attention to the Pacific since 2007 which has been answered by Frances Steel's more recent ARC-funded project on shipboard histories across the Pacific; in art history, Erica Esau's Images of the Pacific Rim: Australia and California 1850-1935 investigates the transference of California architecture and design to Australia and points to the importance of Pacific crossings; in cultural studies, Prue Ahrens and Chris Dixon's "Traversing the Pacific: Modernity on the Move from Coast to Coast" demonstrates that the space of the Pacific was always more imagined than real, although they implore that it is under-examined as a significant cultural space. In literature, Nicholas Birns's "Upon the Airy Ocean: Australia, the Russian Pacific, and the Transnational Imaginary" comes close to our focus on the geographical imaginary of the Pacific region, although it considers only literary representation and concentrates on the relations between Australia and Russia prior to 1914. Dixon's Prosthetic Gods remains foundational. Our work expands upon this yet proposes a trans-Pacific, comparative approach to periodical print cultures.

(3) We borrow "caretakers of the Pacific Rim" from Erika Esau, who uses the phrase throughout her comparative work on California and the east coast of Australia, Images of the Pacific Rim: Australia and California, 1850-1935.

(4) For an extensive catalogue of films set in the Pacific during the interwar years and beyond, see the website of the South Seas Cinema Society,

(5) As early as 1990, Margaret Beetham, in her seminal article "Towards a Theory of the Periodical as a Publishing Genre" pointed to the magazine's relationship to other media forms as part of its "open" characteristics: "[The periodical] always points beyond itself--to other numbers of the same periodical, to other words and texts which give it meaning, to other periodicals, books or entertainments. (It is no accident that it is in the periodical that book reviews and television and radio programme notices appear.)" (26). Yet this point has not been followed up to any substantial degree, and it is of particular relevance, we argue, for the modern, early twentieth century periodical during which many of these media forms proliferated.

(6) See, for instance, Faye Hammill's "The New Yorker, the Middlebrow, and the Periodical Marketplace in 1925" Hammill usefully explores the magazine in the broader context of print ecology in New York. While print ecology is a useful context, media ecology is a broader concept with which Madianou and Miller tentatively associate their work. We find this perspective allows us to conceive of print media within a broader field of media forms.

(7) From 1884 British New Guinea was placed under official Australian control, the region being renamed Papua in 1905 following the Papua Act. By 1921 German New Guinea had also been made Australia's responsibility under a League of Nations mandate (Douglas 28).

(8) The first three of Collins's stories featured in Sunset are set in Malaya, with references to Chinese and Moslem characters. "The Face of the Buddha" (50.5: 5-7, 105) is followed by advertisements for the Los Angeles Steamship Company "Honolulu Direct from Los Angeles" (110) and hotels in the "Hawaiian Islands" operated by the "Territorial Hotel Company" (108). "The Road to Paradise" (52.2: 5-8, 62) appears in a volume that profiles Dale Collins as an Australian writer of note ("Across the Editor's Desk" 52). Significantly, "Batoen, Servant of Allah" (52.6: 5-7, 79) appears in a volume that promotes Collins's new fiction appearing soon, as "South Sea Glamor": "Dale Collins has written a new series of stories of the South Pacific for Sunset. They have romance and adventure every, one" (52.6: 92). This suggests an increasing awareness of (and willingness to feature) locations far across the South Pacific in this American magazine.
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Author:Kuttainen, Victoria; Liebich, Susann; Galletly, Sarah
Publication:English Studies in Canada
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Mar 1, 2015
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