As students, we are programmed to provide critical responses to what we read, watch, and even create in our coursework. As a result, personal reactions to these works, particularly those related to the arts and humanities, are sometimes subsumed by the emphasis on a guiding question or a need to employ a particular analytical framework.
At the beginning of this semester, Linne Halpern ’18 and Sage Marshall ’19 launched Reverberations Magazine, an online platform for young people, who may or may not have experience in an arts-based field of study, to react to works without focusing on formal criticism. Both English majors (Halpern is also an American Studies major), they wanted to provide an outlet that was independent of their coursework to share their individual connections to the works they encounter both inside and outside the classroom.
“[In coming up with Reverberations,] I thought a lot about how there is a dearth of publications where people can review things, especially young people, and have a platform to review things in such a way that incorporated themselves and their positions in life rather than basically judging art in a harsh, critical light,” said Marshall. “I’m more interested in the way art can interact with people.”
Reverberations accepts reviews that fall into one of their two categories: Reviews, which reflect on current works, and Essays, which are more open ended and can discuss a piece from any time period in a variety of formats. Poetry, visual art, and any other nontraditional types of personal review fall into the category of essays. Additionally, Reverberations is working on a “Dialogues” section to publish interviews with artists and reviewers.
The personal nature of reviews published in Reverberations means that one doesn’t need to have a background in any particular subject or experience writing through a formal critical lens. The magazine provides an opportunity to universalize what can often be seen as an elite subject matter.
“I think that first, we’re trying to expand what the definition of art can be and second, [we want to] expand the definition of what a writer can be, in a sense,” Halpern said. “It’s important to us that we’re not just trying to attract English majors who have been studying a certain way or film majors who are trained in critical film analysis or whatever it may be. I think we really want to be as inclusive as possible, and that means anybody who sees or hears or watches anything that connects with them in any way can write about it and their experience—”
Marshall cut in to make an important clarification.
“—In an interesting way,” he added.
“Yeah, totally,” she said. “Because anyone can see something and connect with it, I think, through writing.”
Marshall and Halpern have long engaged with artwork outside of their formal courses of study.
Marshall grew up surrounded by performance, a world in which engaging with art was less a concerted effort than a fact of life.
“My mom was a professional ballerina and my dad worked for the American Ballet Theater, so as a little kid I was exposed to a lot of ballet, and I actually didn’t know a ton about ballet, and I basically learned by watching it,” he said. “And still I have these reactions to certain ballets without knowing a lot about the history of the art form or the different positions or choreography, etcetera, etcetera. But being in that world where art is valued so heavily…inspired me to take an interest in many other different types of art forms and also inspired me to write about my responses to art.”
Hailing from Colorado, Marshall also finds refuge in nature, enjoying hiking, skiing, and mountain biking, among other outdoor activities. He also contributes to Mountain Magazine and writes for the Official Guide to Telluride, his hometown.
Halpern, who’s markedly less outdoorsy, also has a diverse set of interests and experiences that developed her passion for writing. She is currently serving as president of the University’s only sorority, Rho Epsilon Pi, contributes to online publications including Coveteur and Manrepeller, and draws.
“I do a lot of drawing,” she said. “I’m in a comics class right now that’s taking up a large portion of my time, but in a great way. I’m from Ohio, I do not love the outdoors like Sage does, but I have a lot of Midwest pride.”
Initially interested in entering the world of fashion design, over time Halpern has instead found a way to marry her various talents and interests into her pursuit of a career in fashion journalism.
“For a while, I was going to go to art school and pursue fashion design as a career, and then had this epiphany that I really wanted to write about creative things instead of producing them, which is sort of what led me to the English major, so it’s been cool to be able to meld those two passions back together,” she said. “And I think Reverb gives you the freedom to bring in things that you’re passionate about in other areas of your life which has been really cool.”
She recalled one of her favorite pieces that she wrote for the publication, an essay titled “Beauty and Boredom” on the film “L’Avventura” by Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni, in which she discusses the role of fashion in the expression of desire and in the various characters’ inauthentic presentations of themselves.
Marshall, taking on the role of interviewer for a moment—the co-founders have such a natural camaraderie, the conversation flows so freely that, at times, I was merely a third party to an everyday interaction between friends and colleagues—asked Halpern to name another one of her pieces that she would like to highlight.
“I wrote a piece about Bruce Springsteen’s memoir that was really important to me,” Halpern responded. “I’m an overly nostalgic…”
She trailed off, permitting Marshall to jump in for a moment.
“Not just memoir, though, more of an intersection between his memoir and his music,” Marshall said.
Halpern took over again.
“His music, and my life,” she finished. “I love personal essays, and I think I write a lot about myself in general. It’s how I like to write, so it’s nice having an outlet that allows you to do that in a way that is still engaging with other people, and other art forms as well, so that piece was cool for me because I got to combine a lot of my family history, and my relationship with my brother, in addition to love for a musical artist and another thing that they’re producing, which was his memoir.”
When the question was turned on him, Marshall responded decisively.
“My favorite essay was—it’s probably our longest essay on the website—is all about my love of The Office—” he said.
Halpern voiced her support for his choice.
“That’s one of my favorite pieces,” she said.
Marshall continued, briefly.
“…and what the characters have come to mean to me…” he started.
Halpern cut in.
“And how you’re in love with Pam,” she said.
He agreed and completed his explanation.
“Yeah, and how I’m in love with Pam, and how I keep coming to this narrative, and [how I] find comfort in a television series,” Marshall concluded.
Reverberations accepts submissions from anyone around college-age—they can be a little older or younger—from any university or location. Advertising through hometown friends and other universities’ writing departments, Halpern and Marshall have accepted and published pieces from Washington University in St. Louis, the New School, Columbia University, and others, in addition to those submitted by Wesleyan students.
As publication will continue over the summer, all are welcome to continue submitting pieces to the magazine.
“And we know that everyone reads for fun for the summer, we know everyone’s doing it, because it’s the only time we get to, so write about it,” Halpern said.
All operations will be based at the University, and currently, Halpern and Marshall make up the editorial board (made possible with the help of Ali Arminio ’18, who manages the website). Next fall, the two will seek to expand the number of people on staff in order to increase the publication and promote the expression of personal connections with art in all of its forms.
“Even though you might not be an expert in the field, I don’t think you should shy away about talking about your connections with art forms, because I think art should be something that’s open to everyone, oftentimes it isn’t which is sort of, I think, it’s a pretty shitty thing, for art to be exclusive and elitist,” Marshall said. “We’re privileged to go to Wesleyan and be exposed to many different types of art, and I think that everyone should be able to interact with it.”