Course convenor: Lise Jaillant

Modernist works such as Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway or James Joyce’s Ulysses are inseparable from the physical format in which they appeared. The 1922 Shakespeare & Company edition of Ulysses, with its iconic blue cover, is almost as famous as the characters in Joyce’s novel. But we need to look beyond those well-known first editions. By the mid-1920s, difficult modernist texts were no longer restricted to readers of little magazines or luxurious limited editions. They were read by a large audience in cheap reprint editions, and modernist writers became celebrities that often appeared in “slick” magazines such as Vogue and Vanity Fair. To gain greater control over the publication process, Woolf, Gertrude Stein, Nancy Cunard and others created their own presses and engaged closely with the physical materiality of books.

The aim of this course is to study the material format that made the diffusion of modernist literature possible. The course relies on an interdisciplinary framework, drawing from book/ publishing history, archival studies, sociology and digital humanities. Sessions at Senate House Library will allow us to view letters by Virginia and Leonard Woolf, rare editions published by Nancy Cunard’s Hours Press and neglected periodicals and publicity materials. 

This course will be of interest to students of history and literature, librarians, archivists, rare book specialists, museum professionals, booksellers and anyone who enjoys twentieth-century books.

Reading List

Introductory reading list

Battershill, Claire, Modernist Lives: Biography and Autobiography at Leonard and Virginia Woolf's Hogarth Press (London: Bloomsbury, 2018)

Bourdieu, Pierre, The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature, trans. by Randal Johnson (New York: Columbia UP, 1993)

Chambers, Matthew. London and the Modernist Bookshop (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2020)

Cooper, John Xiros, Modernism and the Culture of Market Society (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004)

Jaillant, Lise, ed., Publishing Modernist Fiction and Poetry (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2019)

Nash, Andrew, ‘Sifting Out “Rubbish” in the Literature of the Twenties and Thirties: Chatto & Windus and the Phoenix Library’, ed. by John Spiers, The Culture of the Publisher’s Series. Vol. 1 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), pp. 188–201

Plock, Vike Martina, ‘Virginia Woolf, Penguin Paperbacks, and Mass Publishing in Mid-Century Britain’, Book History, 25.1 (2022), 238–68 <>

Shillingsburg, Peter, ‘What is Scholarly Editing,’ Textual Cultures 15.2 (2022), 33-45

Staveley, Alice, Claire Battershill, Helen Southworth, Matthew Hannah, Elizabeth Willson Gordon, and Nicola Wilson, ‘New Hands on Old Papers: Modernist Publishing and the Archival Gaze,’ Modernism/modernity, 10/12/20, 2020.

Thacker, Andrew, ‘The Pure and the Dirty: Censorship, Obscenity, and the Modern Bookshop,’ Modernism/modernity 29.3 (2022), 519-541

The Modernist Archives Publishing Project (MAPP), 

Wilson, Nicola, ed., The Book World: Selling and Distributing British Literature, 1900-1940 (Leiden Boston: Brill, 2016)

Wood, Alice, Modernism and Modernity in British Women’s Magazines (London: Routledge, 2020)


LRBS 2023: Class Summaries

Introduction (Monday 13.30-15.30)
What is a modernist book, and why is the history of the book important to the history of modernism? This session introduces key questions, debates, and terminology in the study of modernist book history. Reframing modernism to take the printed text as the primary unit of modernist literature activates questions of class, gender, capital, authority, and textuality – a whole nexus of interrelated concerns are bound up between the covers of the modernist book. This session invites participants to consider what happens when we encounter the modernist book.

Reading List
Fordham, Finn, ‘The Modernist Archive.’ The Oxford Handbook of Modernisms, edited by Peter Brooker et al. (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp. 45-60.
Nash, Andrew, and Jane Potter, ‘Literature’, in The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain: Volume 7: The Twentieth Century and Beyond, ed. by Andrew Nash, Claire Squires, and I. R. Willison, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019), 279–318 <>
Shillingsburg, Peter, ‘What is Scholarly Editing,’ Textual Cultures 15.2 (2022), pp. 33-45

Women and Publishing #1: The Hogarth Press: A Press of One’s Own (Monday 16.00-17.30)
In a diary entry of 1925, Virginia Woolf revelled in being ‘the only woman in England free to write what I like.’ This was in large part because she and her husband Leonard operated the Hogarth Press. Founded in 1917, the Hogarth Press published not just Woolf’s own writing but that of her friends and fellow modernist writers including T.S. Eliot, Vita Sackville-West, E. M. Forster, Gertrude Stein, and more besides. Using material held in the Senate House library, this session investigates the ways in which the Hogarth Press’s distinctive publications contributed to the broader developmental trajectory of modernist aesthetics in the 1920s and 1930s.

Reading List
Mirlees, Hope, Paris: A Poem (London: The Hogarth Press, 1919) – N.B. This has recently been republished by Faber and Faber (2020)
Stavely, Alice, Claire Battershill, Helen Southworth, Matthew Hannah, Elizabeth Willson Gordon, and Nicola Wilson, ‘New Hands on Old Papers: Modernist Publishing and the Archival Gaze,’ Modernism/modernity, 10/12/20, 2020.
Woolf, Virginia, Monday or Tuesday (London: The Hogarth Press, 1921)
———, Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown (London: The Hogarth Press, 1925)

Women and Publishing #2: Shakespeare and Company and Ulysses (Tuesday 09.30-11.00)
The publication history of James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922) is a long and colourful one, which encompasses modernist bookshops, obscenity law, and international smuggling. It is a history that is inextricable from the fortunes of Sylvia Beach’s Paris bookshop Shakespeare and Company, which acted as a lending library from 1919 until 1941 and whose members included Ernest Hemingway, Katherine Mansfield, and Gertrude Stein. This session investigates the long material, legal, and textual history of Ulysses and its networks, situating Joyce’s novel within a richly peopled social and societal network.

Reading List
Kotin, Joshua, ‘Shakespeare and Company: Publisher’ in Jaillant, Lise (ed.), Publishing Modernist Fiction and Poetry (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2019), pp. 109-134
Kotin, Joshua, et al. Shakespeare and Company Project. Center for Digital Humanities, Princeton University. October 21, 2019. Accessed May 19, 2023
Thacker, Andrew, ‘The Pure and the Dirty: Censorship, Obscenity, and the Modern Bookshop,’ Modernism/modernity 29.3 (2022), 519-541

Women and Publishing #3: The Hours Press, the Egoist, and the European Avant-Garde (Tuesday 11.30-13.00)
This session investigates the role that women played in editing and publishing European avant-garde literature. In so doing, it uses two case studies. The first is Nancy Cunard’s Hours Press, which published lavishly produced editions of contemporary writing – poetry in the main. Cunard would publish writers including Ezra Pound, Samuel Beckett, Laura Riding, and Richard Aldington. The second is Harriet Shaw Weaver’s little magazine The Egoist. Though it was only published for five years, from 1914 to 1919, The Egoist would serialise several major modernist novels, including A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (serialised 1914-15), and Wyndham Lewis’s Tarr (serialised 1916-17). This class discusses the work that Cunard and Shaw Weaver did to curate and cultivate a European avant-garde.

Reading List
Aguirre, Mercedes, ‘Publishing the Avant-Garde: Nancy Cunard’s Hours Press,’ in Jaillant, Lise (ed.), Publishing Modernist Fiction and Poetry (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2019), pp. 135-153
Thacker, Andrew, ‘Dora Marsden and The Egoist: “Our War Is With Words.” English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920,’ 36.2 (1993), 179-196.
Shaw Weaver, Harriet (ed.) The Egoist: An Individualist Review (1914-19). Available at:

Middlebrow and Celebrity #1: The ‘Battle of the Brows’ (Tuesday 14.00-15.30)
What was the middlebrow? This session examines the relationship between what has come to be known as ‘highbrow’ modernism, mass culture, and the contested ground in between. Far from being as irreconcilable as contemporary talk of a ‘battle of the brows’ suggested, this session will discuss the ways in which modernism and the middlebrow were imbricated and the ways in which we can use book-historical methodologies to trace crosscurrents between the two.

Reading List
Jaillant, Lise, Cheap Modernism: Expanding Markets, Publishers’ Series and the Avant-Garde (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2018)
Humble, Nicola, ‘Sitting Forward or Sitting Back: Highbrow v. Middlebrow Reading’, Modernist Cultures, 6.1 (2011), 41–59 <>
Plock, Vike Martina. ‘Virginia Woolf, Penguin Paperbacks, and Mass Publishing in Mid-Century Britain,’ Book History, 25.1, 2022, pp. 238–68.
Woolf, Virginia, ‘Middlebrow,’ in The Death of the Moth and Other Essays (London: The Hogarth Press, 1942)

Middlebrow and Celebrity #2: Defining the Boundaries of Modernism (Wednesday 09.30-11.00)

Using material held at Senate House library, this session questions the boundaries of “modernism”: what 
is NOT modernism? After reviewing nineteenth-century movements (realism, naturalism, symbolism), we 
will focus on characteristics of the modernist style. We will also situate modernism in its historical 
context, and we will give an overview of the multiplicity of modernisms: literature, visual art, film, music. 
Finally, the relationship between modernism & modernity will be examined in details. 

Reading List
Armstrong, Tim, Modernism: a Cultural History (Cambridge : Polity, 2005)
Mao, Douglas, and Rebecca L. Walkowitz, ‘The New Modernist Studies’, PMLA: Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, 123 (2008), 737–748
North, Michael, Reading 1922: a Return to the Scene of the Modern (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999)

Modernist Publishing Houses: Faber (Wednesday 11.30-13.00)

This session focuses on Faber and Faber, a publishing firm whose history is closely associated with its 
famous editor T. S. Eliot. We will examine the evolution of Faber’s brand positioning, which has 
oscillated between tradition and innovation. Eliot once described its worldview as “classicist in literature, 
royalist in politics, and Anglo-Catholic in religion.” But he was also a radical innovator, an image that has 
had a long-term impact on Faber.

Reading List

Faber, Toby, Faber & Faber: The Untold Story (London: Faber & Faber, 2019)
Cooper, John Xiros, Modernism and the Culture of Market Society (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004)
Cooper, John Xiros, ‘Bringing the Modern to Market: The Case of Faber & Faber’, in Publishing Modernist Fiction and Poetry, ed. by Lise Jaillant (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2019), pp. 88–105

American Modernism: Scribner, Fitzgerald, and The Great Gatsby (Wednesday 14.00-15.30)

This session will focus on another modernist publisher with a staid image: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s publisher 
Scribner. We will examine American modernism versus European modernism. We will also focus on 
place (New York versus Chicago), time (the 1920s and modernity), and people (Fitzgerald and the “Lost 

Reading List

Curnutt, Kirk, The Cambridge Introduction to F. Scott Fitzgerald (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2007)
West, James L. W. III, ‘Did F. Scott Fitzgerald Have the Right Publisher?’, Sewanee Review, 100.4 (1992), 644–56. 
West, James L. W. III, ‘Fitzgerald’s Posthumous Literary Career’, Journal of Scholarly Publishing, 28.2 (1997), 92–101

Middlebrow and Celebrity #3 and #4: The Rise of the Modernist Star (Thursday 09.30-11.00 and 11.30-13.00)

These two sessions, which draw on materials held at Senate House library, focus on the rise of mass 
print culture (newspapers, cheap books, etc) and its impact on society. The advent of film is related to the 
creation of celebrity culture. It is in this context that we see the rise of the modernist star (Joyce, Stein, 
Woolf). Despite the large audiences and widespread celebrity of these authors, scholars have often 
presented modernism as a niche movement that only a coterie of readers could understand and 

Reading List
Hammill, Faye, Women, Celebrity, and Literary Culture between the Wars (Austin: U of Texas P, 2007)
Jaillant, Lise, ‘Shucks, We’ve Got Glamour Girls Too! Gertrude Stein, Bennett Cerf and the Culture of Celebrity’, Journal of Modern Literature, 39.1 (2015), 149–69 <>
Rainey, Lawrence, Institutions of Modernism: Literary Elites and Public Culture (New Haven: Yale UP, 1998)

Virginia Woolf, Cheap Editions and the Market for Fine Books (Thursday 14.00-15.30)

This session shows that the association of modernist writers with small presses did not end when commercial publishers and cheap reprint series became interested in the new literature. Texts such as Virginia Woolf’s Orlando were available in limited editions but also in inexpensive editions for a much broader market. In other words, modernism continued to be imbued with the prestige of luxurious editions, while also expanding its market thanks to cheap books.
Reading List
Jaillant, Lise, Modernism, Middlebrow and the Literary Canon: The Modern Library Series, 1917-1955 (London: Routledge, 2014)
Jaillant, Lise, ed., ‘“Flowers for the Living”: Crosby Gaige and Modernist Limited Editions’, in Publishing Modernist Fiction and Poetry (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2019), pp. 154–72
Willson Gordon, Elizabeth, Woolf’s-Head Publishing: The Highlights and New Lights of the Hogarth Press (Edmonton: U of Alberta Libraries, 2009)

Bestselling Modernism and Limited Editions: H. G. Wells and the North American Literary Market (Friday 09.30-11.00)

Scholars have often contrasted H. G. Wells, who reached a mass-market audience, and “difficult”
modernist writers who wrote for a coterie of readers. This session will show that H. G. Wells reached 
elite readers in the North American literary market, in addition to mass audiences. Thanks to publishers 
such as Random House and Charles Scribner’s, his work was not isolated from that of writers we now see 
as “modernist.” The Random House list of limited editions also included books by D. H. Lawrence and 
William Faulkner, for example. Wells’s reputation as a bestselling writer did not compromise 
his reputation among North American collectors. On the contrary, his bestselling status positioned him as 
one of the most important writers of the early twentieth century – a writer whose work deserved to be 
published in fine editions for sophisticated book collectors.    

Reading List
Benton, Megan, Beauty and the Book: Fine Editions and Cultural Distinction in America (New Haven: Yale UP, 2000)
Cole, Sarah, Inventing Tomorrow: H.G. Wells and the Twentieth Century (New York: Columbia University Press, 2020)
Wells, H. G., Experiment in Autobiography: Discoveries and Conclusions of a Very Ordinary Brain (Since 1866) (New York: Macmillan, 1934)

Summary of what we have learned/ next steps (Friday 11.30-13.00)

Course convenor