“Noumenon is an intercollegiate literary magazine whose birth-story is not unlike that of the Norse God Odin, conceived from a cow’s furious licking upon the salty brim of the dismal, subterranean world of Ginnungagap.”
So begins the mission statement of Noumenon, a new literary magazine that will hit campuses across the Northeast at the end of the month, including Wesleyan. As the first intercollegiate literary arts magazine in the area, it features creative writing and artwork from university students across the country. So far the magazine, founded by Wesleyan students Gabriel Rossman ’13 and David Barach ’12, has received over 300 submissions from students at over 30 schools from all over the country.
“The motivation came from a collective desire to create a place that could showcase a diverse set of voices and perspectives from settings that transcended each individual campus,” Rossman said. “The goal is to bring as many different voices and styles into one place as we can, with as many people involved as possible.”
The magazine, which has been in the works for only a few months, is the final product of an immense amount of planning and work. Rossman, Barach, and nine editors from eight schools—Vassar College, Wesleyan University, Williams College, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Brandeis University, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Bowdoin College, and Middlebury College— managed to put together 60 pages in a little more than four months.
“This is something I never would have thought that I would be a part of ever in my whole life before this semester,” Rossman said. “It was a crazy, high-paced, spontaneous effort to contact as many professors as we could at all these different schools, and initially we were hoping to get four or five represented in the first issue. We had no idea it would be received so enthusiastically.”
Rossman first came up with the idea of creating a literary magazine over winter break while having coffee with fellow editor and friend, Robin Hackett, who attends Williams College. Although the two initially began discussing creating what was originally planned to be a philosophy magazine, the idea quickly morphed into something else.
“My friend and I at Williams, who is also a philosophy major, had talked several times about how fragmented the philosophy students are here,” Hackett wrote in an email to The Argus. “Even though there are only about 50 of us on campus, there was no real sense of community or common interest outside of class. For about a week, we thought it would be a great idea to start a magazine that would be a venue specifically for ‘philosophic ideas’ that could accept submissions from students at various schools. After talking to [Rossman], however, we soon realized that the readership of a philosophy magazine would be close to nonexistent and that the material would be limited. We realized a lit-mag would be more fun to put together and would, hopefully, also be more fun to read.”
According to Rossman, the process of creating Noumenon, while trying, contributed to the character of the first issue.
“The spontaneity and lack of a clear, defined precedent for content actually made the final product a lot more eclectic and interesting,” Rossman said. “Out of the nine editors, only three of us knew each other, so the self-discovery that came through our discussion helped to make the product something really diverse, and represent all our tastes instead of a unified, dogmatic perspective.”
Barach explained that there are no restrictions on what they accept, and that, theoretically, even philosophical non-fiction could be printed. They have three sections—fiction/non-fiction, poetry, and art—each with corresponding editors.
“What’s really cool is that everybody made concessions and put in pieces that they weren’t one hundred percent behind, but that other people championed for,” Rossman said. “We don’t want to have a bureaucratic hierarchy. We have a system where everyone has specific functions, but we don’t like to think of it as a hierarchy. All the editing was done collaboratively, and not by yes or no vote. It was through discussion, which was really central to the goal of increased communication between kids in different schools.”
Barach described the complicated and time-intensive process of editing poetry for the magazine.
“We read the poetry out loud to each other,” Barach said. “First, people picked out the poems from the hundred or so submissions that they loved, so that there was a fair amount of stuff to choose from.”
Daniel Goldman ’12, one of the Wesleyan writers being published in the first issue of Noumenon, was very impressed with the effort that Rossman and Barach put into publishing the magazine.
“[Rossman] and [Barach] mentioned [Noumenon] to me over dinner one day,” Goldman said. “I thought, ‘cool idea, but there’s no way you can pull this together in one semester.’ And then they did. I know they’ve spent a lot of time and energy on this thing—they’ve been calling it ‘Consoumenon.’ Honestly though, I have no idea how they’ve actually managed to put it together logistically. I guess that means they’ve done a good job.”
Rossman said that he had no experience in this field, and was surprised and impressed by how quickly the journal managed to snowball.
“It’s going to be sixty-four pages,” he said. “But we’re all kind of just shocked with the rapid, unexpected progress and appeal that this had. We had no idea this would be received so well. We got emails from professors at schools we never got into contact with, and well-known writers trying to help us out. It’s kind of intimidating. There are high expectations, and it’s exciting.”
For Barach, the process has only gotten better with each new step.
“The best part was holding the finished product in our hands yesterday,” he said.