‘Messy Modernism: Looking for Woolf, Eliot, Joyce and others in Publishers’ Archives’ by Dr Lise Jaillant, University of British Columbia, Wednesday 8th May


Abstract: As literary scholars, what kind of archival documents do we consider “valuable” and worthy of scholarly inquiry?
Traditionally, many scholars of modernism have favoured the literary
manuscripts and letters of writers preserved in well-catalogued collections, while
publisher’s archives have been neglected. In particular, the archives
of commercial publishers have received little attention. Yet, in the
late 1920s and early 1930s, Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot and James
Joyce were no longer coterie writers published only by small
presses and little magazines. They were courted by large-scale,
commercial publishers and started appearing in cheap series of reprints.
Drawing on research in the archives of Oxford University Press and
Chatto & Windus, I will argue for the need to engage in extensive work
in often-messy publisher’s archives to further our understanding
of modernism and the market.

Lise Jaillant has recently defended her PhD on the Modern Library series at
the University of British Columbia. This talk is based on her new project on
European publisher’s series, supported by a Mellon fellowship at the
Institute of Historical Research (University of London). Jaillant has articles published or forthcoming in James Joyce Quarterly, Book History, Studies in the Novel and Clio:
A Journal of Literature, History and the Philosophy of History.

5pm, Humss 188

All welcome – please come along!



Translating Nature: Dr Alison Martin, March 11th, 2013

On Monday 11th March, Dr Alison Martin (Modern Languages and European Studies, Reading) gave a paper entitled:

Translating Nature: Helen Maria Williams and Alexander von Humboldt’s Voyage aux régions équinoxiales du nouveau continent


Helen Maria Williams’ English translation (1814-29) of Alexander von Humboldt’s Relation historique (1814-25) remains beleaguered by accusations made in the nineteenth century that it drew on ‘flowery French expressions’ and enthused excessively, while the language of Humboldt’s source text was flat, scientific and modern. This lecture offers a re-evaluation of Williams’s translation on three levels. Firstly, I examine how far it departed from the source text in its stylistic choices and use of language and what kind of effect this had on the target text as a whole. I then explore the extent to which the Personal Narrative could be seen as a continuation of Williams’s own creative literary oeuvre, and analyse stylistic parallels with her previous writing and literary translations. Drawing on recent discussions in translation studies of the translator as ‘animator’ of the original text, this paper asks where Williams’s ‘voice’ can be heard in the Personal Narrative. Finally, I offer a detailed analysis of hitherto overlooked archive material containing Humboldt’s corrections of parts of Williams’s manuscript, which illustrates the extent to which this translation was indeed a collaborative undertaking.

Seminar paper by Professor Josephine Guy, February 25th 2013

On Monday February 25th 2013, Professor Josephine Guy (University of Nottingham) gave a paper entitled:

The Textual Condition of Oscar Wilde’s Society Comedies: Re-Reading C19 Play-texts


With the exception of Joseph Donohue’s 1995 ‘reconstructive’ edition of The Importance of Being Earnest, no new, substantial textual work on Oscar Wilde’s best-known plays has been undertaken since the publication, nearly thirty years ago, of the (subsequently frequently re-printed) New Mermaids editions of his four society comedies. This paper examines the challenges posed by the nature of the surviving evidence of Wilde’s dramatic authorship, and in the process raises some general questions about how we interpret late nineteenth-century play-scripts and prompt copies, and the kind of the theatrical ‘event’ for which they are held to be witnesses.