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Cheap Modernism

Expanding Markets, Publishers’ Series and the Avant-Garde

Lise Jaillant

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The first sustained account of cheap series of reprints that transformed literary modernism from a little-read movement into a mainstream phenomenon

We often think of Mrs Dalloway or A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as difficult books, originally published in small print runs for a handful of readers. But from the mid-1920s, these texts and others were available in cheap format across Europe. Uniform series of reprints such as the Travellers’ Library, the Phoenix Library, Tauchnitz and Albatross sold modernism to a wide audience – thus transforming a little-read "highbrow" movement into a popular phenomenon. The expansion of the readership for modernism was not only vertical (from "high" to "low") but also spatial – since publisher’s series were distributed within and outside metropolitan centres in Britain, continental Europe and elsewhere. Many non-English native speakers discovered texts by Joyce, Woolf and others in the original language – a fact that has rarely been mentioned in histories of modernism. Drawing on extensive work in neglected archives, Cheap Modernism will be of interest to all those who want to know how the new literature became a global commercial hit.

Key Features

  • The first account of European reprint series that sold modernism to a wide, international public at the beginning of the twentieth century
  • Draws on extensive work in neglected publishers’ archives
  • Sheds new light on the relationship between publishers and major modernist writers (including Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, James Joyce and Wyndham Lewis)
  • Prompts a rethinking of modernist institutions, away from small presses and little magazines and towards large-scale publishing enterprises


Introduction – Discovering Modernism: Travel, Pleasure and Publishers’ Series
1. ‘Introductions by Eminent Writers’: T. S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf in the Oxford World’s Classics Series
2. Pocketable Provocateurs: James Joyce and D. H. Lawrence in the Travellers’ Library and New Adelphi Library
3. Rewriting Tarr Ten Years Later: Wyndham Lewis, the Phoenix Library and the Domestication of Modernism
4. ‘Parasitic Publishers’? Tauchnitz, Albatross and the Continental Diffusion of Anglophone Modernism
5. ‘Classics behind Plate Glass’: the Hogarth Press and the Uniform Edition of the Works of Virginia Woolf
6. Conclusion

About the Author

Lise Jaillant is an AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) Leader Fellow. She teaches in the School of the Arts, English and Drama at Loughborough University, UK. She specialises in twentieth-century literary institutions, with a special interest in publishers and creative writing programmes. Her first monograph was Modernism, Middlebrow and the Literary Canon: the Modern Library Series, 1917-1955 (Routledge, 2014). She then wrote Cheap Modernism: Expanding Markets, Publishers’ Series and the Avant-Garde (EUP, 2017) and she edited Publishing Modernist Fiction and Poetry (EUP, 2019). Taken together, these three books offer a broad overview of Anglo-American publishers in the early-twentieth-century, and their influence on the diffusion of modern literature.


"Embedded in broader histories of technological advancement in book production, education reform, copyright law and burgeoning academic markets, Jaillant's study makes a significant contribution to the continuing work of de-ghettoizing literary modernism."

- Amber K. Regis, University of Sheffield, Times Literary Supplement

"Extensive archival work" – "Cheap Modernism is a book of facts and figures" for scholars "interested in analysis of context as well as content: how material culture and economics affected the style and substance of a text, and how it affected the reception and canonisation of modernist writers"

- Rebecca Bowler, Keele University, Times Higher Education

"...illustrates an exemplary methodology for future study of what we might call serial culture."

- Loren Glass, University of Iowa, Los Angeles Review of Books

"Brilliant" – "Cheap Modernism is a valuable resource to scholars and students of Woolf and of modernism more broadly."

- Woolf Studies Annual

"Intriguing, elegantly argued and thoroughly researched study: definitely one to recommend for purchase by your university library."

- Literature & History

"As an introduction to an underexplored aspect of interwar publishing, Cheap Modernism is expertly done."

- Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America
"This study is highly informative and an enjoyable read: a rare combination. "
- Stephen Barkway, Virginia Woolf Miscellany

"Cheap Modernism is an accessible and valuable resource, providing thorough details and useful statistics."

- James Joyce Quarterly

"This book is notable for Jaillant’s deft use of a distinctive range of archives to throw new light on the relationship between the writers of the Modernist canon – Eliot, Woolf, Joyce, Lawrence and Wyndham Lewis – and the reprint publishers who introduced them to a wider European readership than the small coteries that greeted them on first publication. These reprint editions, neglected by many previous scholars, were not only in some cases rewritten by the authors but also placed the works in a new context of popular and genre fiction."

- Alistair McCleery, Scottish Centre for the Book

"Scholars of Modernism will find Jaillant’s volume, in confronting academic prejudices against mass editions and presenting data collected from a range of literary and publishing archives, both an inspiring and a stimulating read."

- Forum for Modern Language Studies

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