The importance of publishers’ papers for the study of literary history has been highlighted by several studies over the last decade. In the twentieth century, the “mediation of publishing” became as relevant an institution as literary criticism in the definition of a literary canon, be it domestic, foreign or transnational. The concurrent professionalization of specialized intellectual work based in publishing including professional figures such as literary agents, series editors and consultants (readers and translators) played a key role in the shaping of publishers’ catalogues and their papers therefore represent an invaluable source for studies in the field.
By focusing on Anglo-Italian literary transfer, with specific attention to the novel, my paper will analyse archival evidence – readers’ reports and publishers’ correspondence – to illustrate the ways in which professionals working in literary publishing coined and/or used a set of easily translatable cultural categories to select, evaluate and market fiction produced between the Forties and early Sixties in both United Kingdom and Italy. In particular, I am interested in showing how their particular use of these categories – e.g. “realism” or “neorealism” – can shed new light on the dynamics of literary transfer and reception.
Sara Sullam is Assistant Professor of English Literature at Milan University and British Academy Visiting Fellow at the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies.
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