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Centre for Digital Humanities
November Offerings



Afternoon talk
Thursday 2-4 pm

November 4

Janice Radway (Northwestern University), “Girls, Zines, and Their Travels: Imagining Lives, Crafting Archives for a New Century”

A Zoom webinar hosted by the Centre for Digital Humanities and organized by the Book History & Print Culture Program, University of Toronto, with support from the McLuhan Centre for Culture & Technology.


Descriptive and analytic accounts of girl zines have proliferated in the years since they first seemed to explode onto the public scene during the 1990s. Most of these accounts, whether in the mainstream press or in scholarly circles, focus on girl zinesters’ engagement with feminism and trace their origins to the Riot Grrrl movement, which is itself usually explained as originating in the activities of a small number of female-fronted bands that developed in the pacific northwest. In fact, however, research in the numerous zine archives that have been organized since the late 1990s suggests that girls and young women of the period actually took up the practice of zine-making and zine circulation for a range of reasons and in somewhat different contexts. Drawing on extended research in these archives, this lecture will consider the question of what it might mean to take account simultaneously of the variability of girl zine practice and the fact that, despite such differences, significant numbers of girls and young women together gravitated to the zine form during this highly unsettled decade. What was it about the 90s in particular, and the specificities of the zine form itself, that incited young women not simply to more public forms of self-expression but to the social activity of seeking out contact with others beyond familial and local friendship circles? And why did their zines make their way into library archives in less than ten years? This lecture will argue that girls turned to zine-ing as part of a struggle to re-imagine subjectivity and sociality in ways that were more fluid, porous, and collaborative than the models recommended by older forms and institutions like the novel, the school, the bourgeois family, and even the magazine. The lecture will also venture the suggestion that “girl zines,” as a genre and an archive, were a collective product generated by a range of individuals and institutions laboring in their own distinct fields for their own purposes, yet whose contiguous work generated an identifiable and useful cultural form.

Janice Radway is the Walter Dill Scott Professor of Communication Studies and Director of the Gender & Sexuality Studies Program at Northwestern University. Radway is widely known for her scholarship on readers, reading, books, and the history of middlebrow culture. She has served as the editor of American Quarterly, the official journal of the American Studies Association, which elected her President in 1998.  She is also the author of Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy and Popular Literature, which won the Fellows Book Award as a “classic” in the field of Communication from the International Communication Association and was recently translated into Mandarin and published in Bejing. She is also the author of A Feeling for Books: The Book- of-the-Month Club, Literary Taste, and Middle Class Desire and co-editor of American Studies: An Anthology and Print in Motion: The Expansion of Publishing and Reading in the United States, 1880-1945, which is Volume IV of A History of the Book in America. Currently, Radway is working on a book about girls and zines in the 1990s and beyond.