Why do literary magazines exist?

A Google search of this naively bold question conjures up a rabbit-hole of results:

So You Want to Start a Literary Magazine…

Why on earth would you start a literary magazine?

The Death of Fiction

What’s the point of literary magazines?

Yet this rollercoaster of prospects does not seem deter editors and writers, and is, in fact, spurring them on. Given Amherst College’s literary history, literary magazines unsurprisingly prove themselves a staple of the student publications. It is thus logical  then that they made up three out of the four earliest student publications to have come out of Amherst: the Sprite (1831-1832), the Shrine (1832-1833), and the Horae Collegianae (1837-1840). Aimed to be markers of the intellectual and creative life of the Amherst community, they featured essays, short stories, poems, and artwork by students, faculty, and others in the Pioneer Valley.

Literary magazines claim one third of the publications found in the Student Publications Collection. Among the 40+ literary magazines to populate Amherst’s 200-year history, two dominated the scene based on the support they received from the literary establishment: the Amherst Literary Magazine (also known as the Amherst Literary Monthly among other names; 1886-1973), and the Amherst Review (1958-2005). Some issues boast the works of famous alumni, or early versions of their later-famous books. For instance, the first chapter of David Foster Wallace’s first novel, “Broom of the System,” appeared under the title “Inside” in the 1985 Amherst Review.

But with Amherst students being Amherst students, smaller literary magazines cropped up over the years to address the gaps and issues not touched upon by the more “established” publications. Among these are the experimental, or “alternative,” magazines. Some sought more diversity in voice and content: Amytherst (1972-1974) was the first to publish student works in science fiction, while the Adelphian (1985-1986) offered a space for under-represented voices and featured “rough-feel” works with original ideas. Others sought to rebel against what they claimed to be the elitist literary establishment by showcasing unconventional poetry and prose.

In this handful of experimental magazines, Io was the only one to live past the guillotine of its founder’s graduation, and in its post-Amherst incarnation established itself as one of the most influential magazines of the school of New American Poetry.


LEARN MORE ABOUT IO → Of Moons and Serendipity


Navigation guide

Of Moons and Serendipity: the conception of Io, people involved, funding, fraternity link
Inside Io: overview of mission statement and corpus, examine Io-1
Eyes on Io: reception of Io through reviews and responses in the Amherst Student
Io and Amherst: relationship with Amherst, post-Amherst transformation


Project by Phuong-Nghi Pham ’18