2021 Returning to the Page Conference

Our Returning to the Page: Visualising Design and Desire in Fan Magazines conference will take place online from 8-12 February 2021.

Please email us at normma.network@gmail.com to reserve your place. By doing so, you will be on our list to receive info about the conference schedule, the conference Discord server, and more. All are welcome!

Our schedule:

Monday 8 FebruaryTuesday 9 FebruaryWednesday 10 FebruaryThursday 11 February Friday 12 February
First batch of papers released – “Magazines” Second batch of papers
released –
  5PM GMT: Q&A session – “Magazines” 5PM GMT:  Q&A session – “Stars” 5PM GMT: Online screening of A Star is Born (Wellman, 1937) 5PM GMT:
Exciting fan magazine quiz (with prize!)
  6PM GMT: Roundtable on Fan Magazines and the Archive,      


These are on the blog here: Magazines and Stars.

About our conference:

This conference is designed as a sequel to our 2015 event Turning the Page: Digitization, movie magazines and historical audience studies. That conference focused on the development of the study of historical fan magazines in recent decades, with a particular emphasis on the impact of increased digitization (by the Media History Digital Library, among others) on this development. In this context, we particularly emphasised the importance of “reclaiming” the fan magazine – an ephemeral and often academically neglected object – as an important research tool for the study of stars, fans, Hollywood and non-Hollywood film industries and cultures, and more.  

The purpose of this follow-up event is two-fold. Firstly, we wish to investigate the ways in which the field of historical fan magazine studies has evolved over the past five years. Secondly, we wish to focus, for this event, specifically on the design of the magazines and the relationship between the visual aspects of the publications and their contents. This choice is partly motivated by the online nature of the conference: since we will all be consuming the conference papers on a small screen, this format is excellently suited to an in-depth and detailed study of magazines’ visual elements.

With this focus, we particularly want to emphasise the importance of talking about the fan magazine holistically, as a complete and multi-layered object often consumed by its original readers in unorthodox and non-linear ways. As Sally Stein noted in the context of Ladies Home Journal in 1985:

“Studies of magazines have usually treated literary texts, or editorial images, or ads, as independent entities, and have proceeded to analyze their meanings divorced from their original context. This strategy flattens our conception of the way magazines came to be assembled and then received. For these elements are certainly not apprehended in isolation; rather images and texts, ads and editorial matter, are each designed to work off each other within the larger ensemble of the magazine.” (Stein, 1985: 7)

While some scholars have appreciated this importance of taking a holistic approach, we believe that much coverage of the fan magazine as a research object still tends to treat the visual and textual elements as easily separable from each other, failing to appreciate the holistic reading experience these periodicals offered their readers, who often consumed them in their available “scraps of time.” (Stein, 1985: 6)

The conference, which is free to attend, will make selected presentations available asynchronously, while a number of scheduled live sessions will also be organised via the Zoom platform, including a roundtable focusing on archives and digitization.

Conference organisers: Tamar Jeffers McDonald, Lies Lanckman and Sarah Polley.

Twitter: @design_desire

Instagram: design_desire2020