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Volume 55, Number 1, 2019

Special Issue
Archives, Authority, Aura: Modernism’s Archival Turn
Naomi Milthorpe, Guest Editor


NAOMI MILTHORPE, “Archives, Authority, Aura: Modernism's Archival Turn”


TODD MARTIN, “'What Was It?': The Avant-texte and the 'Grinding Feeling of Wretchedness' in Katherine Mansfield’s 'The Fly'”

ABSTRACT: Many readers of Mansfield’s “The Fly” understand the ending of the story as the boss’s return to the status quo. They tie the boss’s assertion of power by ordering Macey to fetch more blotting paper to a willful and successful forgetting of his son’s death. Clare Hanson, in her essay on Mansfield’s use of the “uncanny,” for example, concludes her discussion of the story by noting that for the boss, “Repression and disavowal are complete” (126). I would like to propose, however, that the two-staged structure of the story and evidence from the story’s original manuscript suggest otherwise. While a story like “Miss Brill” builds to the concluding revelation of Miss Brill’s loneliness and her immediate attempt to dissociate from the crying she hears, the boss’s revelation occurs much earlier, when he first imagines his son in his grave, a point the manuscript reinforces. His later attempt to dissociate himself from his wretchedness by re-immersing himself in his work, though, is no more successful than one imagines Miss Brill’s is.  The wretched feeling that his work has been built on a lie, no matter how much he tries to assert otherwise, cannot be so easily quelled.

EMILY RIDGE, “Close Reading an Archival Object: Reflections on a Postcard from Salvador Dalí to Stefan Zweig, Circa 1938”

ABSTRACT: Within modernist studies, archival material is typically allotted a secondary role. When invoked, it provides a basis for better understanding a literary text, genre, or author, our primary objects of study as literary critics. It is plumbed, as such, in order to add detail, light, shade, color, or, indeed, a backdrop to our analytical endeavors. It does not usually form the substance of those endeavors. We find ourselves turning to archival materials to lend support to our often pre-established theories. Hence that familiar moment of gleeful satisfaction in digging up a piece of historical evidence in some obscure archival folder that corroborates a particular critical reading and the concomitant sense of aimless archival drifting when those folders fail to yield anything of relevance. This article seeks to invert speculatively this assumed order of priority without falling into the disciplinary province of pure historical study. In other words, it will use a literary text—Stefan Zweig’s The Post Office Girl (written in the 1930s/1940s; published in 1982)—to add detail, light, shade, color and/or a backdrop to our appreciation of a historical object, namely a postcard addressed to Stefan Zweig from the surrealist artist Salvador Dalí around 1938. In doing so, it asks how far close reading methods can be usefully applied to such paraphernalia while also postulating a more integrated model of literary-historical study which would allow for a richer understanding of the entangled relationship between history and cultural production during the modern period.

CHRIS TOWNSEND, “A Deeper, Wider POOL: Reading Close Up through the Archives of Its Contributors”

ABSTRACT: This paper reconsiders the status of a canonical archive in the light thrown upon it by the belated scrutiny of subaltern collections. The Bryher archive in the Beinecke Library at Yale, together with readings of the journal Close Up and selected writings by H.D., has been used to establish POOL Group—H.D. with Bryher and Kenneth Macpherson—as a narrowly focused cell of writers who turned their attention to avant-garde film in the 1920s. The Bryher archive is thus used to extend and reinforce H.D.’s status as canonical figure in Anglophone literary modernism. What happens if we read this archive in a more nuanced way, one that accounts for its full diversity and acknowledges the reach and effect of Bryher’s influence beyond H.D. and Macpherson? What then happens if we read it in negotiation with the over-looked papers of other members of Bryher’s networks and if we use both resources to read around known gaps in the archive? This paper shows that in examining the neglected archive of prolific Close Up contributor Oswell Blakeston we can reconsider the constitution and focus of POOL Group, understanding it not as the exclusive activity of Bryher and H.D. and their male partner but as one that closely involves several other figures and that its activity is grounded in a negotiation with, rather than antipathy towards, mainstream film culture. This process both extends the avant-garde towards the film industry and includes film industry specialists, such as Blakeston, in vanguard literary practices. Secondly, this paper shows that more sensitive readings of the Yale archive, in conjunction with Blakeston's, allows us to reconsider the role in POOL of Robert Herring: another prolific writer for Close Up and editor of its successor, Life and Letters To-Day. Herring’s own archive was lost to fire in 1975. Using Herring’s letters to Bryher—conserved but neglected because not the product of a canonical figure—in conjunction with Blakeston’s archive, this paper shows that we may further understand the complexity and extended reach of POOL’s constitution and activity by reading around the destroyed materials. 

Book Reviews

ELIZA MURPHY reviews Cheap Modernism: Expanding Markets, Publishers’ Series and the Avant-Garde by Lise Jaillant

MICHAEL SHALLCROSS reviews New Directions in Book History by Claire Battershill, Helen Southworth, Nicola Wilson, Elizabeth Willson Gordon, Alice Staveley, and Michael Widner

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