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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

Contents

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
Bibliography.

About the Author

Lise Jaillant is Lecturer (Assistant Professor) at Loughborough University, UK. She specializes in twentieth-century literary institutions, with a special interest in publishers and creative writing programmes. Her first monograph Modernism, Middlebrow and the Literary Canon: the Modern Library Series, 1917-1955 was published in 2014. All her research has been based on archival work and funded by world-class organizations such as the Andrew W. Mellon foundation and the Alexander von Humboldt foundation.

Reviews

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

"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

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

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

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