What are “Yellow Nineties Magazines”? Associated with the avant-garde in literature and art at the turn of the twentieth century, these magazines were aesthetically experimental, culturally challenging, and sexually dissident. The Yellow Book (1894-1897), an infamous quarterly featuring sexually provocative modern stories by aesthetes and feminists, coloured the entire decade “the yellow nineties.” The little magazines that developed in The Yellow Book’s orbit were similarly progressive and adult-oriented. These included The Dial (1889-1897), edited by lovers and artistic partners Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon; The Evergreen: A Northern Seasonal (1895-1896/7), edited by William Sharp (who also published as Fiona Macleod, the reclusive leader of the Celtic revival); The Pageant (1896, 1897), edited by art critic Gleeson White and artist Charles Shannon; and The Savoy (1896), edited by Aubrey Beardsley and Arthur Symons, and founded by the former after he was fired from The Yellow Book following the arrest and conviction of Oscar Wilde in spring 1895 for the crime of loving other men. Beardsley was not criminally charged or named in the trials, but his daring designs for Wilde’s Salome (1893) associated him in the public mind with the author’s transgressions and he lost his job, a victim to sexual prejudice and fake news.
Yellow Nineties Magazines were targeted at adult readers. Collectively, these digital exhibits explore why these avant-garde magazines for a mature audience included so many fairy tales, folk tales, and fantasies. Our research findings indicate that the communities that collected around these magazines were hubs of dissidence at a transitional moment in cultural history, when mainstream assumptions were being challenged by feminist, queer, racialized, and classed individuals. Art was a way of critiquing the status quo, and “weird fiction”—that is, fantasies of various kinds—allowed creative individuals to challenge social norms in symbolic form. Works of fantasy are concerned with transformation, and these Yellow Nineties contributors wanted to transform the social opinions, social hierarchies, and social norms of their day. At a time of increasing urbanization and industrialization, the mythical past and fantastic worlds offered spaces to imagine how life might be lived otherwise. The fairy tales, folk tales, and fantasy fiction created by the diverse contributors to these magazines transferred criticism of the contemporary scene to remote locations inhabited by hybrid creatures and other-worldly figures in order to critique the restrictions of the present and envision an alternative future. In symbolic plays, ironic fairy tales, and re-framed folk legends, these writers explored and expanded what it means to be fully human—spiritually, sexually, and socially.
General Editor: Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, Ryerson University Department of English
Authors: Second-year Undergraduate Students in Advanced English Research Methods (ENG810), F2018 and W2019
Primary Sources: Material copies of the magazines are held in Ryerson University Library’s Special Collections and Archives; digital editions are available on Yellow Nineties 2.0.
Attribution: Each author’s Digital Exhibit is protected by a Creative Commons License 4.0.
To cite an exhibition, use this format:
Author’s last name, first name. “Title of exhibit.” Y90s Classroom on Yellow Nineties 2.0. Edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra. Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019.
Disclaimer: Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.
Japanese Influence in The Works of The Dial
The Full Context of the “Flying Fish,” by John Gray
Religious Folktales and Science in The Evergreen
A New Woman as a Feminist Princess in Laurence Housman’s “Blind Love”
Michael Field’s “Equal Love”: A Work of Trojan Horse Feminism
Diversity in Gender and Genre