The Modernist Review #32: Book History & Networks

2 August 2021

Have you experienced the joy of returning to your favourite bookshop yet? Flicking through pages to decide what to choose, asking a bookseller for a recommendation, with the smell of paper and possibly the clink of teaspoons and the whir of a coffee machine from the cafe at the back. Maybe you listened to ‘coffee shop sound effects’ on YouTube while you read during lockdown – a lot of that reading was probably on a screen, as librarians (our unsung heroes) rushed to provide eBooks, and publishers limited review copies to digital rather than print. It’s been a strange year for books, and it’s made us here at the Modernist Review leaf back through the pages of book history to a century ago, and think deeply about the networks in which we read and exchange books.  Continue reading “The Modernist Review #32: Book History & Networks”

Was There a War Books Boom?

2 August 2021

Andrew Frayn, Edinburgh Napier University

I’m always interested in how true ideas are that we take for granted.  In my previous work on interwar First World War literature, I’d noted the repeated claim that there was a ‘War Books Boom’ around the end of the post-war decade, but also that there wasn’t a sustained, evidenced account of that.  I’ve won funding to employ research assistants to work on this alongside me, so it is very much a collaborative project: Dr Fiona Houston enumerated works published in the UK from 1926-33 that invoke the war; Louise Bell did the same for the Scottish context 1925-34, and then Dr James Benstead refined and analysed the data she gathered (James has written a separate piece for this month’s TMR on his data work). I’ve also currently got an intern, Beth Campbell, working on some social media and dissemination (coming soon). Continue reading “Was There a War Books Boom?”

Organising Data: What Open Data Can Do

2 August 2021

James Benstead, Edinburgh Napier University

In this article I’m going to write about organising the data from the project on the Scottish War Books Boom, and how working with Open Data principles can identify new connections among the material and open up new avenues for scholarship.  The overall findings to date are discussed in a parallel article in this month’s TMR.  

Continue reading “Organising Data: What Open Data Can Do”

A Manifesto Against Specialization: Experiment (1928-31)

2 August 2021

Rachel Fountain Eames, University of Birmingham

We at Cambridge, at that time, thought of physics as an activity as natural as breathing or writing poetry.[1]

The intellectual atmosphere of 1920s Cambridge was under the constant impress of science. The British poet and critic Kathleen Raine describes how she and her peers were ‘under the spell of the new scientific universe’, feeling an impetus to integrate and respond to the developing scientific landscape.[2] The same was true of the faculty, with I. A. Richards’s scientifically-inflected formalisation of literary criticism shaping the English department.[3] The Cavendish Laboratory boasted some of the period’s most influential physicists and science popularizers, including J. J. Thompson and Ernest Rutherford, and students of all stripes enjoyed regular guest lectures from eminent scientists like Paul Dirac, J. B. S. Haldane, Arthur Eddington, and Albert Einstein.[4] For some, their breathtaking discoveries gestured to new applications; for Raine and her contemporaries, they inspired the ‘excitement, illumination, or whatever that quickening of the pulse may be that tells the poet here is the matter for poetry’.[5]‘The scientists of the Cavendish Laboratory’ she says, ‘had set the problem the poets must resolve as best they could: to discover the qualitative implications of their new modelled universe.’[6] In November 1928, those poets responded with a wave of experimental writing to fill the pages of a new student-run magazine: Experiment.

Continue reading “A Manifesto Against Specialization: Experiment (1928-31)”

Bestsellers and a Modernist’s Library: Hits and Misses

2 August 2021

Emily Bell, University of Antwerp

Despite the broadening of approaches to push boundaries in modernist studies – linguistic, cultural, national, critical, formal – single-author studies are alive and well. Author-centricity has been a methodology in its own right: the life of an individual justifies critical study whether it is biographically-oriented or not. This longstanding tradition of author-centred modernism has been subject to critique since structuralist interventions (and ensuing subfields) widened the scope of literary studies to explore the cultural matrices and circumstances of textual production. But how do we continue to justify scholarship that spotlights individuals already centralised in our narratives of modernist culture?

Continue reading “Bestsellers and a Modernist’s Library: Hits and Misses”

Book Review: London and the Modernist Bookshop

2 August 2021

Nick Hubble, Brunel University London

Matthew Chambers, London and the Modernist Bookshop (Cambridge University Press, 2020)

In British Writers of the Thirties (1988), Valentine Cunningham describes Parton Street, off Red Lion Square, as the epicentre of England’s literary and cultural life: 

And at No. 4, the centre – if such a metaphor is possible – of this epicentre, was the bookshop run by Old Wellingtonian David Archer, the home of the Parton Press (which issued Dylan Thomas’s 18 Poems, George Barker’s Thirty Preliminary Poems, David Gascoyne’s Man’s Life is this Meat), briefly the address for New Verse, from May 1935 the headquarters of Artists International, the mecca in fact of the radical artistic and poetic young. (109)

However, for all this (epi)centrality, there has been no systematic history of Archer’s bookshop – despite mentions in memoirs and interviews from Barker, Gascoyne, Esmond Romilly and Philip Toynbee among others – until Matthew Chambers’s decision to write about it as a case study in his London and the Modernist Bookshop. This is an instalment in the Cambridge University Press series, ‘Elements in Publishing and Book Culture’, which, like all Cambridge Elements, collects short (20-30,000 word) peer-reviewed books into thematically-linked ‘gatherings’ such as, in this case, ‘Bookshops and Bookselling’. The idea is that these publications provide an initial port of call for easily accessible, quality research-based texts on topics such as, in this case, the role of bookshops in establishing and maintaining literary networks. Hence, the focus here is on the history of a particular bookshop and the literary scene which developed around it in central London. As Chambers argues, even if ‘Archer’s’ is only ‘one example of what Huw Osbourne has termed the “modernist bookshop,” the shop’s relationship to Lawrence & Wishart publishers next door and Meg’s Cafe [later The Arts Cafe] across the way presents an opportunity to consider how modernist bookshops existed as part of the world of literary publishing and socializing’ (1).  Continue reading “Book Review: London and the Modernist Bookshop”

Book Review: The Modern Short Story and Magazine Culture

2 August 2021

Yen-Chi Wu, Academia Sinica

Elke D’hoker and Chris Mourant, eds. The Modern Short Story and Magazine Culture, 1880-1950. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2021)

In their seminal essay that charts out the agenda of the New Modernist Studies, Douglas Mao and Rebecca L. Walkowitz highlight the idea of expansion. To conceive of a new understanding of modernism, they contend, we need to expand the conventional narratives surrounding modernism in three dimensions: temporal, spatial, and cultural latitude. Expanding the cultural latitude of modernism invites us to revisit ‘the battle of the brows’, which sparked lively debates on literary tastes, artistic styles, and social class in the early twentieth century. During this period, little magazines that championed avant-garde arts vied for attention with middlebrow and illustrated popular magazines. To that end, periodical studies proves to be a vibrant field in which to examine the complex and dynamic exchange between modernist writing, commercial interest, and popular literature. A growing scholarship has emerged in this field; Elke D’hoker and Chris Mourant’s edited collection, The Modern Short Story and Magazine Culture, 1880-1950, is the latest addition. The collection’s unique contribution lies in its focus on the short story form in the periodical context. The book teases out the complex ways in which editorial philosophies, evolving gender politics, the two world wars, and debates on literary tastes influenced the thematic concerns and artistic expressions of the short story form.  Continue reading “Book Review: The Modern Short Story and Magazine Culture”

Modernism and Science: Call for Papers

In an interview with Arts and Decoration magazine 1915, Marcel Duchamp praised the ‘scientific spirit’ of Seurat and Cezanne, then predicted that ‘the twentieth century is to be still more abstract, more cold, more scientific’.[1] In this, he was presented as an ‘iconoclast’, providing a dramatic new perspective on art. Yet, a wide range of modernist writers and artists witnessed and responded to a world in which scientific innovation was impossible to ignore. Continue reading “Modernism and Science: Call for Papers”

The Modernist Review #31: Visual Cultures

1 July 2021

In Jean Rhys’s 1927 short story, ‘Mannequin’, we open to the scene of Anna trying to find her way to the lunch room, dressed in the ‘chemise-like garment of the mannequin off duty’.[1] On the cusp between a state of dress and undress, between human individuality and thingness, clocked-on objectification and clocked-off satiation of hunger, Anna and the other mannequins represent a crossroads of modernist preoccupations with visual culture. Rhys traverses the bridge between mannequin as human model and mannequin as static window-dressing with Parisian grace, grappling with the tension between stillness and movement that embodies the ways of seeing and being seen in modernist artforms. In this Benjaminian age of mechanical reproduction, where does the agency lie in visual forms of representation? Continue reading “The Modernist Review #31: Visual Cultures”

Synaesthetic Hieroglyphs: Max Ernst’s 1923 Tableau Poême ‘Dans une ville pleine de mystères […]’

Leanne Darnbrough, KU Leuven University

Perhaps no other visual artist of the Dada and Surrealist period worked so profoundly and adroitly with the concept of the visual pun as Max Ernst. His prolific oeuvre, which spans drawing, painting, frottage, collage, sculpture and writing, attests to his dedication to the development of a new, visual language. As Natalia Brodskaïa notes, « [i]l fallait cependant pour lui que le langage artistique réunisse deux facteurs : le naturalisme de la représentation et le secret. »[1] (‘It was however necessary that an artistic language unites two factors: that of naturalistic representation and that of the secret.’ [own translation]) While his use of the semantics of the visual has often been remarked upon, one aspect which has not received as much attention is how the synaesthesia of many of his works chimes with the Egyptmania of the wider cultural milieu and specifically with avant-garde attention to the mediality of inscription spurred by reflections on the hieroglyph. Hieroglyphic here embodies three main characteristics: (1) the image excised from its original context; (2) a blurring of the boundaries between pictorial and textual; and (3) a fascination with the ontology of the alphabetical. Continue reading “Synaesthetic Hieroglyphs: Max Ernst’s 1923 Tableau Poême ‘Dans une ville pleine de mystères […]’”

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