Feb 06, 2018
Milgroym: tsaytshrift far kunst un literatur.
Berlin: Rimon, 1922-1924. Digital reissue: In geveb, 2018.
This imaginary bibliographical entry encapsulates the goals of In geveb’s Milgroym Project: in a word, advocating for the continued relevance of Yiddish avant-garde journals by making them accessible to virtually anyone, free of charge, and in a format that allows these now extremely scarce printed issues to take on a new life in the digital age.
A number of scholars are wary of the impact of digital technologies on the experience of reading and writing, and, more pragmatically, on the future of literary scholarship. The way we all relate to the written word, and to knowledge in general, is being impacted in unforeseen and largely unpredictable ways.
It is arguably largely above the paygrade of Yiddishists to address the whole scope of this phenomenon, now the preserve of the booming field of “digital humanities.” Whatever the long-term outcome of these changes might be, we might as well attempt to see them as an opportunity to open up new venues for scholarship, and for the study of Yiddish texts in particular.
Using hyperlinks to navigate between an open-ended cluster of information, an increased integration of source materials across media, and the possibility to foster quick-paced dialogues between authors and readers across geographic boundaries are all defining features of the digital age.
Such highly flexible systems might allow us to display, study, and translate Yiddish avant-garde journals in novel, previously unexpected ways. Not only because digital reissues featuring complete original texts alongside a selection of translations and essays are much easier and cheaper to access and distribute than paper-based facsimile editions. But also because digital technologies might offer us a golden opportunity to rethink established scholarly categories.
There is no reason why we should perpetuate the Romantic “cult of the writer” by subscribing to the premise that a monographic study of a single author or a series of loosely connected monographic essays should still constitute the gold standard of literary scholarship. The cybernetic architecture of a web-based format should encourage us to pay closer attention to group dynamics, and to define literary phenomena as the result of the interactions and cooperation of large networks of individuals, instead of the ex-nihilo creations of an individual “genius.”
The following special issue constitutes the first step of a much larger project whose aim is to eventually offer a new digital platform for a number of essential avant-garde Yiddish journals, including Di vog, Albatros, and Khalyastre.
There are already a number of websites offering a wealth of avant-garde periodicals, from Princeton’s Blue Mountain Project to Ubuweb. But these platforms haven’t featured any Yiddish avant-garde publication as of yet.
Until recently, these journals have been virtually inaccessible: they are nowhere to be found online, and their print issues are extremely rare; typically, only a handful of libraries hold complete print runs. Through our partnership with Historical Jewish Press, our first aim is to facilitate access to these publications.
"We firmly believe that the Yiddish avant-garde’s radical aesthetic, literary, and socio-political propositions are not merely historical documents of a short-lived golden age of Yiddish culture, but are still relevant to us today."
But this is only the first glass of wine at the seder. We also believe that In geveb can offer more: in order to make these remarkable publications available to a wider audience, and more generally to breathe new life into this material, In geveb will feature selected translations, commentaries, and academic articles that engage with them in a variety of ways.
This is in line with In geveb’s mission, as a 2.0, silicon-fuelled academic journal featuring both peer-reviewed articles and a potpourri of digital miscellanies: popular essays, new translations, and teaching materials.
We are embarking on a voyage of interdisciplinary cooperation through the Yiddishist galaxy and beyond. By featuring translations and commentaries we hope to make these journals accessible to a broader audience, and to involve scholars of other disciplines (modernist studies, art history, etc.), who might not be familiar with the Yiddish language, but could nevertheless make use of this material in broader research projects, or out of intellectual curiosity.
We firmly believe that the Yiddish avant-garde’s radical aesthetic, literary, and socio-political propositions are not merely historical documents of a short-lived golden age of Yiddish culture, but are still relevant to us today.
With this first issue of the Milgroym Project, we wish to extend an open invitation to scholars of Yiddish studies, as well as other disciplines to participate in this cybernetic exchange of information.
We accept articles, translations, and commentaries relating to Milgroym and other Yiddish avant-garde journals on a rolling basis. Feel free to get in touch with suggestions, criticisms, praise, and offers of drinks.
We hope you will read, explore and engage with these avant-garde journals, beginning with Milgroym, and with our digital reissue as it unfolds.