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Modernist Review #43: Inside and Outside Modernism: An Anatomy of 1922 and its Cultures

4 November 2022

Domonique Davies and Benjamin Bruce, University of Reading

In March this year we held a conference at the University of Reading to discuss the year 1922. The idea was to take a holistic approach to the year, looking at its history, literature and culture, and the papers that we received exceeded our expectations, discussing everything from cookery to concepts of blindness. However, it might be argued that to attempt to delineate a single year in all its fullness and contradiction is neither advisable nor possible. Billie Melman, in discussing the 1920s, for example, has written that ‘a decade […] is not a fact. It is an arbitrary measurement of time, retrospectively imposed upon […] the past by the tidy-minded student of history.’[1] How much more can this be said about a single year which will encompass all manner of ideas, forms and actions, some derived from the distant past, many recently born and a few that will appear on just a single occasion and have no subsequent relevance. Even if this places some formidable obstacles in the way of characterising just twelve short months, it does not mean that something of relevance cannot be surmised. It is important, though, to avoid the tidy mindedness of which Melman speaks and not place more value upon the banner headlines than the small print.

Continue reading “Modernist Review #43: Inside and Outside Modernism: An Anatomy of 1922 and its Cultures”

Modernist Review #43: Introduction

4 November 2022

Dr Beci Carver, University of Exeter

Take an innocent seeming word like ‘wicked.’ When in 1922, T. S. Eliot used this adjective in The Waste Land to introduce Madam Sosostris’s ‘wicked pack of cards’, he meant, according to Christopher Ricks and Jim McCue, ‘Excellent, splendid, remarkable.’[1] This American and distinctively modern meaning, dated to 1920 by the Oxford English Dictionary,[2] is in-keeping with our familiar idea of Eliot as an out-of-place American abroad. But if you flip the word on its back, acknowledging the positive primary sense while recognising too that nothing in The Waste Land is quite what it seems, you will see it wriggle with other possibilities. For the word stems from ‘wretch’, meaning, originally, ‘outcast’,[3] an etymological association that now underlies the dominant meaning of ‘evil’ or ‘mischievous’ like a causal explanation. The word also stands out in the history of the English language in having been confined throughout its early formation to Middle English and Scottish, making no contact with Latin, Greek, Old Norse, Old French, Old German, or any of the usual suspects for linguistic influence. ‘Wicked’ was incubated in the UK for the whole of its life until, in the early 1920s, it was let out to America and promptly positivised. If we read Eliot’s ‘wicked pack of cards’ in English as well as an American way at once, we find ourselves in the company of a highly unpredictable creature. Continue reading “Modernist Review #43: Introduction”

Food Innovations: The Conditions of ‘Cookery’ in Good Housekeeping

4 November 2022

Loren Evangelista Agaloos, University of the Philippines, Diliman

This paper explores the intersection of food studies and modernism by considering the women’s periodical in the early twentieth century, particularly Good Housekeeping (GH) and its Department of Cookery pages. My focus is on the American edition of GH from the year 1922, whose digitised volumes are available on the Home Economics Archive: Research, Tradition, History (HEARTH), which is found within Cornell University Library’s open-access collections.[1] Continue reading “Food Innovations: The Conditions of ‘Cookery’ in Good Housekeeping”

The RUSI Journal in 1922

4 November 2022

Jacqui Grainger, Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI) and University of Westminster

The RUSI Journal is the journal of the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI).[1] It has been in continuous publication since 1857 and provided a semi-authorised voice on the military and geopolitical concerns of Whitehall and Westminster until the 1980s. As its funding landscape has changed, the institute and its journal have transformed to provide independent research and analysis.

The content of the RUSI Journal throughout 1922 is mainly concerned with analysis of World War One with articles that focus on the campaigns and actions of 1917-1918. These articles are interspersed with discussions of more recent events and by late 1922 feature the genocide of Greek communities in Anatolia during the Greco-Turkish War and the final months of the Ottoman Empire. From the contents of the RUSI Journal for 1922 five key topics emerge:

Continue reading “The RUSI Journal in 1922”

The Modernist Bookshops of Charing Cross Road

4 November 2022

Matthew Chambers, University of Warsaw

Today, bookshops like Foyle’s and Any Amount of Books on Charing Cross Road or the cluster of booksellers on the adjoining Cecil Court Road operate as reminders of the heyday of bookselling in this area of London in the early-to-mid twentieth century. In 1934, for example, there were twenty-six booksellers on these two streets, and several were active in the publishing and distribution of modernist literature. Charing Cross Road was opened in the late 1880’s to improve travel between Charing Cross and Tottenham Court Road and Bloomsbury.[i] Booksellers began opening shops in the earliest years following the road’s opening and has long since been associated with bookselling.[ii] There was an immense variety in the types, commercial success, and longevity of the bookshops. Amongst these booksellers were some for whom the current trends in writing and the arts held the most fascination, and they actively sought to not only sell but also publish and support these authors. Continue reading “The Modernist Bookshops of Charing Cross Road”

What Did 1922 Mean for Wallace Stevens?

4 November

Domonique Davies, University of Reading

If 1922 was a significant year for Modernism, it certainly was for Wallace Stevens. Aged forty-two and established in his position as chair of the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company, Stevens spent much of the latter half of 1922 compiling poems for his first collection, Harmonium, which would be published with A. A. Knopf the following year. While Stevens would go on to become one of America’s most anthologised poets, his feelings towards his work during his early career reveal much about his ambitions for his writing, and the roles of language and sound within his poems. This piece will pinpoint the significance of the year of 1922 within the development of Stevens’s poetics, focusing on a letter from Stevens to the editor of Poetry magazine, Harriet Monroe, on 28th October 1922.

Continue reading What Did 1922 Mean for Wallace Stevens?

Modernism on the Road: Rural Touring in 1922

4 November 2022

Emma West, University of Birmingham


In June 1922 a curious sight appeared in the Lake District. Along the banks of the Derwent and the Honnister Pass came a grey Lancia van with the words ‘The Arts League of Service Travelling Theatre’ emblazoned on the side. Grey vans were uncommon then, so sightings sparked much interest. Residents in Borrowdale and Rosthwaite, The Sphere reported, were ‘agog with excitement’.[1] The van’s contents were even more surprising. Upon its arrival out climbed no fewer than ten players with their baggage, including props, costumes and, most remarkably, a ‘proscenium stage, curtains, lighting set and switch box’.[2] As the players erected their stage, a complicated system of interconnecting ladders, a crowd began to gather outside.[3] A photo survives of them waiting at Rosthwaite’s new village hall, the Borrowdale Institute, queuing up in their Sunday best. Continue reading Modernism on the Road: Rural Touring in 1922

The Crossword Puzzle and the Information Society

4 November 2022

Adele Guyton, University of Leuven

In February 1922, the editor of Pearson’s Magazine wrote:

Here is a new form of puzzle in the shape of a Word Square that will provide you with a very pleasant hour’s entertainment. […] If you like this sort of thing, I shall be pleased to give you one every month, but in that case you must write and tell me. […] These new word squares are having a tremendous vogue in America just now.[1]

This was the first crossword published in the United Kingdom and was the first of many quizzes to fill Pearson’s pages during the 1920s and 30s.[2] This might seem quite innocuous – after all, puzzles are everywhere in magazines and newspapers today – but I suggest here that beyond being a “vogue” from America, the Pearson’s crossword is a popular manifestation of the information culture of European modernism.[3]

Continue reading The Crossword Puzzle and the Information Society

Reading Through the Canon: A 1922 Snapshot of James Joyce’s Library

4 November 2022

Emily Bell, University of Antwerp

Earlier research for the same project was published in issue #32 of The Modernist Review in an article, ‘Bestsellers and a Modernist’s Library: Hits and Misses’ (2 August 2021).

In recent years, Richard Oram has noted, with perplexity, the continued side-lining of writers’ personal libraries and the research opportunities they present,[i] despite the material turn of the new modernist studies. Using Oram’s observation as a point of departure, this article will consider the potentialities of a critical lens on James Joyce’s library for thinking about reading habits in 1922. While Oram probes the more concretely bibliographic aspects of writers’ libraries as discrete collections, this article will address the library within the contexts of usage and the reading public. In other words, the library will be tested as a critical tool to explore some personal, cultural, and public resonances of 1922; a lens to look through and beyond the canon. Continue reading Reading Through the Canon: A 1922 Snapshot of James Joyce’s Library

Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room, and Epistemology

4 November 2022

Angela Harris, Independent Scholar

In Virginia Woolf’s 1922 novel, Jacob’s Room, Woolf purposely writes Jacob to be wholly unknowable.  Literary critic, Linda Martin explains that Woolf achieves her effect of unknowability by deliberately embedding inconsistent cues about Jacob throughout the text. With reference to theory of mind, Martin explains that ‘readers have a strong, internal impulse to infer complex mental lives within fictional characters.’[1]  By undermining the reader’s compulsion to impute a complex mental life to Jacob, Woolf effectively plunges the reader into a state of doubt. This is compounded by the highly experimental nature of the text, which is not written in narratively coherent chapters, but rather in vignettes, offering abrupt glimpses into its disjointed novel-world. The narrator, unlike the omniscient speaker of Victorian narration, is identified to be a woman and is about thirty-five years old.[2] What the reader knows of Jacob is ostensibly mediated by her observations of him, which are vulnerable to error.  Her narration thereby provides an overlay of skepticism, so that every reading of Jacob and Jacob’s Room remains doubtful.  This paper argues that Woolf does this in order to perform on the reader the uncertain epistemology of her time. Continue reading “Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room, and Epistemology”

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