“Woe unto you, scribes and pharisees”: The Raven, 1927

The reason I’ve gotten stuck in 1927 is the unexpected discovery in the info files of a Rice publication that I thought had vanished completely. The Raven claimed to be a literary magazine, which it sort of was, and also to be “radical,” which is harder to judge. I can say with certainty that it simultaneously annoyed and fascinated the student body at the Institute. From evidence in the Thresher I gather that six issues appeared over the course of 1926 and 1927 but only a single one, the last one by my count—from Summer 1927–survives in the Woodson. (If you have another, let me know ASAP!)

Over those two years the two publications conducted a running battle, with the Thresher derided as conformist and insipid and the Raven as arrogant and pointlessly provocative. (Both were correct, by the way.) In casting about for the right adjective to describe the tone of The Raven I first toyed with “snotty” then settled on “sophomoric,” as its editors were in fact sophomores in 1927. One thing is clear: this publication was absolutely original in this time and place. I’ve never seen anything like it. The other Rice publication of the day, The Owl, was simply a humor magazine that sometimes lampooned but never challenged the status quo. The Raven, though, took open delight in jeering at the conventions of the campus, the city, and polite society in general. One of the editors even claimed to be an atheist! The reward for all this, of course, was mockery, disdain, and what must have been a very satisfying notoriety.

It’s all so snotty (there’s that word again), so obviously calculated to irritate, that I almost hesitate to reproduce any of it here. But what the heck, for all the noxious attitude they actually had their finger on some real and studiously unacknowledged problems with Rice and with American academia in general.  Here are the first few pages, the warm-up as it were:

Hang on to your hats for Part II next week.

Bonus:

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3 Responses to “Woe unto you, scribes and pharisees”: The Raven, 1927

  1. Richard Schafer says:

    Surprisingly well written, I thought. And I was interested in the reference to the university having purchased an interest in the 4th floor of the Scanlan building. By that time, I thought Lovett had moved onto campus, and you’d said the Scanlan offices were just for him and his assistant. So why buy an interest in the 4th floor in 1927?

  2. jccooper says:

    How many literary magazines have there been in the history of Rice, I wonder. I believe I’ve now heard of at least four.

  3. Clark Trantham says:

    The Raven proves that young people were cruel to each other even before the internet. Clearly the whole bit about the drama club was a venomous rant.

    I also found the bit about no one being convicted under the honor system interesting. One of my fellow classmates from Arkansas undergraduate physics came to Rice a year ahead of me. The year I arrived he and several other physics students were found guilty and left Rice. Their defense boiled down to “everybody does it.” They did not get much sympathy. I guess the writer would be glad that the system did get tougher.

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