Dr Innes M. Keighren (Royal Holloway, Geography) ‘Travels in a publisher’s archive: John Murray and nineteenth-century travel publishing’

Monday 27th October (week 5) 5-6pm, to be held at the Museum of English Rural Life (with a pop-up exhibition of archive materials)

In this talk, I present the findings of an AHRC-funded project which investigated the relationship between exploration and publishing in order better to understand how knowledge acquired in the field became, through a series of material and epistemic translations, knowledge on the page. In examining the transformation of travellers’ en route writing in journals and field notebooks into more-or-less polished print, I consider the significant role of editing, revising, and redacting in imposing order and authority on printed works of travel.

The paper considers-with specific reference to accounts of travel in South America, Africa, and the Arctic issued by the leading nineteenth-century publishing house John Murray-how journeys of exploration became published accounts and how travellers sought to demonstrate the faithfulness of their written testimony and to secure their personal credibility.

All welcome!

Professor Daniel Göske, Christian Weiß (Universität Kassel), ‘Inside Narratives: What Archives Tell Us about the Making of World Literature in the 1920s and 1930s’

Marketing international modernism in the 1920s and 1930s was a complex business, not least because of different structures in the publishing world in the U.S., Britain and Europe. Daniel Göske and Christian Weiß will approach this intriguing problem of texts in transit (across borders, literary markets and languages) by looking at some of the often forgotten “middlemen” (and “-women”) of literature: publishers (and their wives), literary agents and, mainly, translators who sometimes acted on their own in making contacts with “their” authors. The focus of the talk will be on the early German reception of, among others, Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence and Aldous Huxley, and it will draw on unpublished material held by Reading’s very special Special Collections.

Wednesday 19th March, 6pm, HumSS 127

All welcome!


Professor Alexis Weedon and Professor Bob Owens (University of Bedfordshire), ‘Researching the Publishing History of The Pilgrim’s Progress’, Monday 27th January, 5pm


John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress is one of the best-selling books of all time. First published in 1678, with a Second Part in 1684, it has appeared in over 1,500 editions. It has been adapted into many other media forms, and it has been translated into over 200 languages. This remarkable publishing and cultural phenomenon has never been adequately studied. This paper discusses our plan for a research project to record, analyse and make available bibliographical details of all known editions, translations and adaptations of this work, together with its reception history. The paper will outline some of the methodological issues we face in such a large-scale project in Publishing History.

Humss 127

Refreshments provided. All welcome!

‘Editorial craft and francophone African literature’, by Dr Ruth Bush (University of Westminster), Monday 10th March (week 9)


This paper will explore the intertwining literary and material contexts that shaped African literary production in the years surrounding the independences of 1960. Drawing on findings from research in French publishers’ archives, I will focus on a novel by Senegalese writer, Malick Fall, entitled La Plaie (1967 – The Wound). By considering this ground-breaking text in relation to debates concerning literary technique and political engagement, such as the emergence of the nouveau roman, I will ask to what extent and with what effect the archival traces of editorial mediation can be written into postcolonial literary history.

Dr Ruth Bush joined the University of Westminster as Research Fellow in French and Francophone Studies in March 2013 after completing her DPhil in Modern Languages at Wolfson College, Oxford (“Publishing Africa in France 1947-1968”). She has published in the Journal of Postcolonial Writing, the Bulletin of Francophone Postcolonial Studies, and has an article forthcoming in the Journal of Commonwealth Literature. She has recently completed a Heritage Lottery Funded web history of the UK’s first radical black bookshop and publishing house, New Beacon Books.

‘We met at a party': Professional children’s publishing and the ‘lady editor’, by Dr Lucy Pearson (University of Newcastle), Monday 24th February (week 7)


Accounts of children’s publishing imprints in the twentieth century often characterise their predominately female editors as enthusiastic amateurs. But how far is this true, and how did female editors really fit into the publishing culture of their parenting houses? This paper will consider two children’s editors: Mabel Carey, who began editing J.M. Dent’s children’s list in the 1930s, and Kaye Webb, who joined Puffin thirty years later. How had children’s publishing changed over those thirty years, and how far can Carey and Webb be seen as ‘lady editors’?

‘Exploring Black British Women’s Theatre’, by Dr Nicola Abram, University of Reading (English Literature), Monday 4th November (week 5)


Nicola’s recent research asks the question: “How have black British women used experimental performance aesthetics to engage with ‘race’ and gender identities?” Pursuing this enquiry has propelled her to various kinds of archives. In this talk she will showcase some findings from large public collections, online digital repositories and individuals’ private holdings. As well as encountering production recordings, playscripts and still images dating back to the 1980s, Nicola has also been confronted with many empty citations, gaps where items should be; her talk will briefly reflect on some of the inequitable preservation processes that produce these silences. By looking back through archives covering three decades of black British women’s theatre, Nicola has identified the continuity of what she terms an ‘intersectional aesthetic’. She will demonstrate this interpretive tool by commenting on the work of post-millennial black British playwright debbie tucker green.

Dr Nicola Abram is based in the Department of English Literature at the University of Reading. She is currently working on a book developing her research in black British women’s theatre, and is enjoying the opportunity to teach on black British fiction.

(This talk takes place as part of Reading’s Black History Month.)

6pm in Humss Room 301
All welcome!

‘Building an archive of popular fiction 1900 – 1950′, by Dr Erica Brown, Sheffield Hallam University, Monday 21st October (week 3)


‘Building an archive of popular fiction 1900 – 1950: Sheffield Hallam University’s Readerships and Literary Cultures collection.’

Dr Erica Brown

This archive, built through public donation, contains over one thousand novels by over 200 authors. We collect the best-sellers and lending library favourites of their day; those popular authors, such as Gilbert Frankau and Warwick Deeping, that Q. D. Leavis deplored as pandering to the ‘herd’ and ‘touching grossly on fine issues’ (Fiction and the Reading Public, 1932, p. 67).

To fully understand the literary history of the early twentieth century it is vital to remember, preserve and study these novels. In order to facilitate research we have created enhanced catalogue records which contain genre and subject terms, a plot summary, marketing information, and details of references to other books, reading and culture within the novels. This last field is an especially rich resource for the study of cultural hierarchies and intertextuality. The data has been collected with volunteer community readers who also produce book reviews.

This talk will demonstrate how the archive can be used by researchers, reflect on the cataloguing process, and present some of the rich data collected.



Monday 21st October (week 3)
5pm in HumSS Room 301
All welcome!