Pulp Studies Symposium

Looking for something to do in October? JMU Libraries will host the first Pulp Studies Symposium the weekend of October 7, 2016. To help get the word out about the Symposium, Library staff filmed members of the JMU community reading aloud from pulp magazines. Pulp magazines are called “pulp” because they were made from wood pulp, the cheapest form of paper. This allowed them to be sold for very low prices, giving them the additional name of “dime fiction”. Pulps were sold from 1896 through approximately 1955. Their publication spanned expansive social change in the United States, as well as two world wars. Authors that later became famous in their own right such as Raymond Chandler, Isaac Asimov, H.P. Lovecraft, and even L. Ron Hubbard (founder of Scientology) were first featured in pulp magazines.

The pulp being featured in these videos is publisher Street and Smith’s most valuable property, Love Story, which ran from 1921-1947. It claimed the distinction of being the most popular pulp in its era, with a peak circulation of 600,000 readers. The stories skew towards melodrama. The narratives run amok with love triangles, scandalous affairs, star-crossed couples, and a litany of romantic confessions. They are great fun to read, and nearly every page contains a gem of overwrought passion. In addition, the cover art of the magazines reflect the changing roles of women, featuring women not only embraced by their lovers, but also taking wartime positions in factories and in the military.

JMU Special Collections recently acquired a large number of original Love Story issues that represent its entire publication run, and is thrilled to feature them to promote the Pulp Studies Symposium. In the spring semester of 2016, JMU Special Collections gathered about fifty faculty and students across the university to perform readings of short passages from various issues of Love Story. Each reader brought something different to the passage they chose. We even had a duet take on a lengthier passage, resulting in a hilarious video that embodies the dramatic spirit of these narratives.

JMU Special Collections wants to thank everyone who participated and made the event such a joy. We know that this enthusiasm will make the Pulp Studies Symposium a wonderful success, and urge all interested individuals to submit a proposal by July 1st. Keep watching our Instagram page for more videos to be published throughout the summer and fall!

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