Publishers' Series and the Archive.
For scholars of modernism interested in the archives, the potential scope for research and inquiry has never been greater. No longer restrained to an author's papers, researchers have a vast range of archives at their fingertips, aided by the rise of the study of periodicals and other print cultures and digitization initiatives such as the Modernist Journals Project and the Modernist Archives Publishing Project. Yet, as Lise Jaillant points out in Cheap Modernism: Expanding Markets, Publishers' Series and the Avant-Garde, there is still a tendency amongst scholars to focus on "modernism's first emergence": that is, the small press first edition, the original printing in a little magazine (2). Jaillant's study, however, presents us with a compelling reason to look beyond these "firsts." While expensive first editions and little magazines brought modernism to a small audience, Cheap Modernism is interested in how the movement was first disseminated to the wider reading public. The central focus of the book is cheap reprints of modernist texts, published within series such as the Travellers' and Phoenix Libraries. Jaillant contends that these reprints are worthy of examination because modernist writers were frequently involved with the processes surrounding their production, meaning that the original publication of a text cannot always be considered as the definitive publication. However, this examination is not without its challenges for the scholar: after all, what is stored and recorded in archives and bibliographies "is that which is worth studying and what academia deems worth studying is that which is in bibliographies" (4). Institutions act as gate-keepers--determining what has value, influencing how scholars compile, write, and understand literary histories. These challenges--relying on book collectors and online marketplaces for book jackets and creating her own bibliographical spreadsheets, for example--make Jaillant's wide-ranging research all the more laudable.
Since the turn of the century, the publisher's series has received increased critical attention, as seen in Jay Satter field's The World's Best Books: Taste, Culture, and the Modern Library (2002), David M. Earle's Re-Covering Modernism: Pulps, Paperbacks, and the Prejudice of Form (2009), and John Spiers's two-volume The Culture of the Publisher's Series (2011), as well as Jaillant's previous monograph, Modernism, Middlebrow and the Literary Canon: The Modern Library Series, 1917-1955 (2014). In Cheap Modernism, Jaillant extends the ideas developed in this earlier title, arguing that these reprint series brought modernism to a wider audience, an audience far more geographically diverse and who encountered these texts alongside a range of middlebrow and popular titles. The expanding readership, then, was both "spatial" and "vertical" (1). Jaillant stresses that this audience should not be thought of as a "mass-market readership"--rather, it operated between the mass market and the exclusive circles who had access to modernist texts when they were first published (1). Cheap Modernism employs an impressive variety of sources to help substantiate its claims: articles, reviews, advertising, sales figures, book catalogs, production ledgers, contracts, dust jackets, diaries, and letters from authors and industry figures are all consulted. Through this extensive archival research and careful analysis of publishing and authorial practices of the early twentieth century, Jaillant presents an intricate view of one of the formative ways in which modernism was brought to a larger audience. Moreover, her methodology offers a useful model for other scholars working in the archives, opening up new areas for exploration of the roles paratexts and publication histories play in the interpretation of the literary text itself.
The five chapters of the book each take one or two publishers' series as their case studies, covering a variety of writers along the way. Jaillant's analysis begins with the Oxford World's Classics series, examining the introductions T. S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf wrote for reprinted eighteenth- and nineteenth-century titles during the 1920s. Invoking Pierre Bourdieu's ideas about symbolic capital, Jaillant claims that these introductions created a two-way "'consecration' process" (26). Using correspondence, sales figures, advertisements, reviews, and readings of the introductions themselves, Jaillant shows that attaching well-known names such as Eliot and Woolf to older titles brought these titles and the series new levels of status whilst also working to increase Eliot's and Woolf's own profiles. While Eliot's decision to write an introduction to Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone was part enthusiasm for the novel, part encouraging a wider readership, Woolf saw her introduction to Lawrence Sterne's Sentimental Journey in a more commercial light. As the Oxford World's Classics were distributed in the United States, an introduction was an opportunity to help increase Woolf's sales and reach across the Atlantic. This is reinforced, Jaillant argues, by the fact that Woolf rejected offers to write any more introductions for publishers' series once she had become an established name in America.
Jaillant then turns to the interwar debates over indecency and censorship, looking at reprints of works by James Joyce and D. H. Lawrence. By printing Joyce's Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in the Travellers' Library series at a time when Ulysses was still banned, Jonathan Cape was able to simultaneously capitalize "on the aura of the modernist celebrity, while downplaying the association with obscenity" (58)--some-thing also seen with Cape's publication of Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness. For readers intrigued by Ulysses, the titles in the Travellers' Library offered a reasonably-priced way to access Joyce's work. Similarly, Lawrence's publisher Martin Secker chose to publish Lawrence's novels in a uniform edition and his (less controversial) short stories and non-fiction in the New Adelphi Library series. This decision had multiple benefits. It helped to keep the New Adelphi Library safe from censorship, and it also meant that Secker was able to target two different groups of readers. Those intrigued by Lawrence's reputation could purchase the uniform edition, while others would receive a toned-down introduction in the New Adelphi Library.
The middle of the book is where the central argument of Cheap Modernism is most forceful, in a chapter on the 1928 edition of Wyndham Lewis's Ta r r. Wisely avoiding the debates over the merits of the original 1918 text versus the 1928 edition, Jaillant focuses on the role the Phoenix Library played in the reprinting process. For Jaillant, the 1928 Tarr demonstrates how the Phoenix Library brought modernism to a larger audience and how the series also "transformed the modernist text itself" (72). The careful comparisons of passages from the two versions in the chapter reveal the ways in which Lewis's revisions allowed for improved readability. Through readings of the edition's dust jacket, advertisements, reviews, and publishers' correspondence regarding distribution, the chapter shows that, despite these revisions, the Phoenix Library still marketed the text as a chance for readers to encounter the flavor of early modernism. As Jaillant observes, the fact that another publisher, Tauchnitz, used the 1928 revisions for its edition of Tarr shows just how important these revisions were in bringing the novel to a wider public.
Tauchnitz is the subject of Chapter 4, which considers the spread of Anglophone modernism across continental Europe. While Tauchnitz was an important way for expatriate modernists living on the Continent to get access to cheap titles--which Jaillant demonstrates through an examination of the titles in Joyce's Trieste library--the publisher was largely disinterested in printing modernist titles until Max Christian Wegner became the head of the company in 1929. But it was Albatross, Wegner's own venture with John Holroyd-Reece, where his vision for modern reprints was fully realized. Through analysis of the object of the Albatross book, Jaillant argues that these reprints were both spread and shaped by modernism: its texts were published in a format that "reflected the modernity of its content" (107). With colorful, stylish covers, an eye-catching colophon, and descriptions of each title in three languages, the Albatross titles were undoubtedly modern and cosmopolitan. Moreover, through the production of distinguished limited editions that used high-quality materials, the press was able to associate itself with prestige and market itself "as a luxury brand priced for a broad audience" (109).
The final chapter returns to Woolf, looking at the publication of the Uniform Edition of her works by Hogarth Press. Building upon the recent interest in Woolf's identity as a businesswoman, Jaillant uses Hogarth's advertising of the Uniform Edition titles to show that Woolf "fully exploited the commercial opportunities offered by the 'middlebrow' cultural sphere" in a bid to reach new readers: for instance, the reprints were advertised alongside a detective novel (129). In line with the work of Melba Cuddy-Keane and Helen Southworth, Jaillant argues that these advertisements complicate the period's perceived battle of the brows, showing that Woolf (and Hogarth) occupied a hybrid space in the literary field. While the Uniform Edition did not reach the level of sales that Woolf's titles did in other cheaper reprint series, it enabled Woolf to possess "total control over her brand," something difficult for other modernist authors to achieve (133).
The coda offers an insight into why these publishers' series struggled to continue their success during and after the Second World War. The rise of the Penguin paperback, changing readership, and disruptions to production and distribution during the War made it difficult for these series to ever truly recover. Indeed, the conclusion highlights the important contribution Cheap Modernism makes to the study of modernist print cultures: the book succinctly captures how modernism's movement into the wider public was only made possible by a series of period-specific contexts.
The burning question left unanswered in Cheap Modernism, however, regards the readers of these cheap editions. Who was part of this wider public? Who bought and consumed these reprints? While Jaillant frequently takes the effort to explain the material features of each series--the mention of the special fade-resistant wrappers on Phoenix Library books, for instance, hints at the potential publishers saw for their titles to be collected and displayed by their readers--little is dedicated to whether this potential was realized. But for a book already brimming with a wealth of information and analysis about the role of publishers and authors in this movement, this is something perhaps beyond the scope of its study. Cheap Modernism will be of interest not only to modernist scholars working in the archive but also to those researching book history and literary cultures.
Eliza Murphy is a PhD candidate in the School of Humanities at the University of Tasmania. Her doctoral research explores the role and representation of parties in comic novels of the interwar period, with a focus on the works of E. F. Benson, Stella Gibbons, Nancy Mitford, and Evelyn Waugh. More broadly, Eliza is interested in early twentieth-century literary culture, literary taste, and the relationship between modernist and middlebrow literature.
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|Title Annotation:||Cheap Modernism: Expanding Markets, Publishers' Series and the Avant-Garde|
|Publication:||Papers on Language & Literature|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2019|
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