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Modern Print Artefacts

Textual Materiality and Literary Value in British Print Culture, 1890-1930s

Patrick Collier

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Demonstrates the ways in which print artefacts asserted and contested literary value in the modernist period

This study focuses on the close connections between literary value and the materiality of popular print artefacts in Britain from 1890-1930. The book demonstrates that the materiality of print objects—paper quality, typography, spatial layout, use of illustrations, etc.—became uniquely visible and significant in these years, as a result of a widely perceived crisis in literary valuation. In a set of case studies, it analyses the relations between literary value, meaning, and textual materiality in print artefacts such as newspapers, magazines, and book genres—artefacts that gave form to both literary works and the journalistic content (critical essays, book reviews, celebrity profiles, and advertising) through which conflicting conceptions of literature took shape. In the process, it corrects two available misperceptions about reading in the period: that books were the default mode of reading, and that experimental modernism was the sole literary aesthetic that could usefully represent modern life.

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1. Mapping Literary Value: Imperial/Modernist Forms in the Illustrated London News
2. “Quite Ordinary Men and Women”: John O’London’s Weekly and the Meaning of Authorship
3. Reactionary Materialism: Book Collecting, Connoisseurship, and the Reading Life in J.C. Squire’s London Mercury
4. Harold Monro, Poetry Anthologies, and the Rhetoric of Textual Materiality
Postscript: Against Modernist Studies

About the Author

Patrick Collier is Professor of Literature at Ball State University, where he teaches nineteenth- and twentieth-century British literature and film studies. He is the author of Modernism on Fleet Street (2006) and the co-editor of the Journal of Modern Periodical Studies and of the collections Transatlantic Print Culture 1880-1940 (2008) and Print Culture Histories Beyond the Metropolis (2016).


Always a fearless trailblazer, Collier argues eloquently for scholarly attention to the full range of early twentieth-century print culture. This carefully researched monograph is an exciting next step for a modernist studies that must leave behind its obsession with "modernism".

- Mark Morrisson, Penn State University

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