Fran Baker (University of Manchester Library) and Florence Impens (John Rylands Research Institute) ‘A dual perspective on the Archive of Carcanet Press’

These related talks on the archive of Carcanet Press provide a dual perspective in two different ways. One speaker is the archivist who curates the collection, and the other a researcher using it in her work. One paper focuses on the earliest days of the Press and the development of its translation series, based largely on evidence found in archival correspondence; the other discusses a recent project to acquire the email of Carcanet Press with the aim of ensuring that recent and contemporary archival correspondence is preserved for researchers of the future.

Florence Impens, ‘Retracing the Development of a Translation Series through the Archive of Carcanet Press’

Shortly after it was founded in 1969 by Michael Schmidt, Carcanet Press began to develop a translation series, at a time when poetry in translation, notably from Eastern European countries, was rapidly gaining momentum in the United Kingdom. The series was the fruit of a collaboration between Schmidt and Daniel Weissbort, co-founder with Ted Hughes of Modern Poetry in Translation in 1965, and a poet and translator himself.

Their collaboration was brief but intensive: by the end of the 1970s, when Weissbort’s input on the series stopped due to increasing work commitments in the United States, Carcanet had published nearly twenty volumes of poetry in translation, many of which were informed by joint editorial decisions.

Based on archival material, the talk will show how this collaboration was instrumental in shaping Carcanet’s translation series, as well as in the early successes of the Press. It will also provide elements of reflection as to how researchers in contemporary literature can approach archival material to invigorate their work.


Florence Impens is a Research Associate at the John Rylands Research Institute, University of Manchester, where she is working on a history of the publication of poetry in translation in the UK and Ireland after 1962. A specialist of twentieth- and twenty-first-century British and Irish poetry, she received her Ph.D from Trinity College, Dublin in 2013, and has since also held a NEH Keough Fellowship at the University of Notre Dame.

Fran Baker, ‘Emails to an Editor: Preserving the Digital Correspondence of Carcanet Press’

The Archive of Carcanet Press is one of the most significant modern collections held by The University of Manchester Library, and the correspondence in the archive provides a rich and unique source for researchers working in a range of disciplines.

However, since the late 1990s, the quantity of hard copy correspondence in this living archive has been steadily diminishing. Most correspondence is now conducted by email, often including textually significant manuscripts and proofs exchanged as attachments. This digital archive was residing on hard drives and local networks at the Carcanet office, increasingly at risk of obsolescence.

This talk will provide a case study of the Carcanet Press Email Preservation Project, which tackled the acquisition and preservation of 215,000 emails and 65,000 attachments. As well as raising both curatorial challenges and opportunities, email also poses interesting questions about the future of literary research: what will editions of literary correspondence look like? How has email changed the way in which writers communicate? Is the value of a digital literary archive diminished by the fact that it is so easy to duplicate? Can meaningful research be carried out using quantitative data (like visualisations) rather than having access to the full content of correspondence?


Fran Baker is an archivist at The University of Manchester Library, with responsibility for literary, social/political history, and born-digital archives. She has an MA in Archive Administration and an MPhil in English Literature which focused on textual scholarship. She was a co-founder of the Group for Literary Archives and Manuscripts.

Monday 7th March (week 9) 1-2.15pm, HBS G03

All welcome!



Richard Bates (University of Nottingham), ‘How does one become a parenting guru? Exploring the childhood and archives of a French child-rearing authority, Françoise Dolto’.

Since the 1970s, millions of French children have been reared following the ideas and advice of Françoise Dolto (1908-1988), a psychoanalyst who rose to prominence on French state radio in 1976. Dolto presented herself as a radical advocate of children’s autonomy and liberal education, in opposition to a supposedly-dominant authoritarian approach.

This paper looks at how Dolto’s later career and attitudes were shaped by her childhood and adolescence in the interwar French bourgeoisie, and her encounters with the ‘Victorian’ values of the social and medical elite of that period. It will compare her experiences to those of others including her close French contemporary Simone de Beauvoir, and her American counterpart, Benjamin Spock. It will draw on correspondence, archival evidence and sociological studies to nuance, and sometimes undermine, the narratives put forward Dolto’s carefully-framed memoirs. This raises broader questions about the role of archival fragments in the creation and challenging of personal and collective myths.

Monday 22nd February (week 7) URS 2s26, 1.10 pm

All welcome!


Judith Watts (Reading, English) ‘Making Love: reading for pleasure and publishing for profit’

The household name of Mills & Boon invites a wry smile. It can also provoke a heartfelt defence from romance scholars and genre addicts, or equally passionate criticism from feminists and literary critics. Research into the company’s archive shows how the both the brand and romance genre developed, and their impact on publishing, authors and readers.

“No more doubts! No more disappointments!”

The romance made by Mills & Boon was crafted as mainstream entertainment and the company was one of the first in the industry to develop a relationship with the reader.  The correspondence offers a fascinating insight into how the firm constantly balanced the weight of plots and the measured out the desires of characters and authors to produce a profitable reading experience. Despite their conservative reputation, the company understood the value of the emerging categories that catered to changing tastes, and were innovative in adapting to the changing supply chain.  In this seminar Judith Watts explores some of the heavy work that went into maintaining light fiction and ‘Romances That Fill The Till’.

Monday 8th February, 6-7pm, Special collections, Museum of English Rural Life (MERL), Redlands Road.

All welcome!

happy with either

Dr Clare Broome Saunders (Oxford) ‘Through many dreary volumes of archives has she waded’: Louisa Stuart Costello and the 19th Century Literary Market

Louisa Stuart Costello (1799-1870) was a popular and critically acclaimed poet, novelist, travel writer, historian, biographer, artist, and medieval scholar. Her wide-ranging choice of genre demonstrates her acute understanding of contemporary reading trends and publishing markets: Costello offered the first original nineteenth-century version of the ‘Lady of Shalott’, preceded FitzGerald with her adaptations of Omar Khayyam’s verses, and was one of the first of the ‘Lady Travellers’ who demonstrated their connoisseurship and scholarship in the rapidly growing travel book market in the 1840s.

In this seminar, Clare Broome Saunders will share her experience of archival research in piecing together Costello’s life and work, and explore how Costello manipulated contemporary literary markets to make the most out of every piece of archival research she herself undertook, so that she could disseminate her academic medieval scholarship in commercially and critically successful outputs.

Monday 25th January (week 3) 1.10-2.15 URS 2s26

All welcome!

Magnus Qvistgaard (European University Institute) ‘The Dissemination of Henrik Ibsen’s Dramas 1850-1900: Agents, Markets and Reception’

During the last decades of the nineteenth century, the plays of the Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen were staged with tremendous success across the western world. Yet, although the success of his plays was noteworthy in itself, what makes it truly remarkable is the fact that it was initiated from Norway, a country that at the time seemed located at the very edge of European cultural space. In my talk, I explore how Ibsen’s pan-European success was possible. Utilising the perspective of ‘transfer history’, I focus on the middlemen involved in the transferral of the dramas; the cultural markets through which they were disseminated; and the way in which they were integrated into local cultural fields. As a movement from the European cultural periphery towards its various centres the history of Ibsen’s success may be used as a prism for the investigation of cultural circulation, hegemonic structures and agency. Furthermore, the transnational perspective on Ibsen’s success offers a chance to challenge the national categories which often dominate the study of literature.

Magnus Ibsen Freie Bühne

Monday 11th May 1pm-2.30pm

Henley Business School, G03

All welcome!

Professor Carolyn Steedman (Warwick ) ‘Text or Archive? The Diaries (1800-1815) of Joseph Woolley, Framework Knitter’

The diaries of Joseph Woolley (c.1769-1850), Nottinghamshire stockingmaker, are the basis of An Everyday Life of the English Working Class  (Steedman, CUP 2014). The book would not exist without them. Now, all done and dusted, they raise important questions about how a historian should read texts from the past. Are the diaries a text, to be read and analysed as literature; or an archival document? Or both? How should historians use literary and narrative theory in their reading of ocuments? Should they read in this way, in the first place?

Monday 27th April 

5.15-6.30pm, Special Collections, Museum of English Rural Life (MERL)


Dr Matthew Philpotts (German Studies, University of Manchester) ‘How Long is a Literary Journal? On Fractal Dimension and Periodical Texture’

My contention in this paper is that the distinctive form of the periodical challenges us to look outside the conventional paradigms of literary and cultural studies to develop new conceptual and analytical frameworks for this unique medium. More specifically, I argue that there exists a compelling and theoretically productive parallel between the complex and heterogeneous form of the periodical and the characteristic features of the mathematical sets defined by Benoit Mandelbrot as fractals. Infinitely complex in their fine structure, self-similar at multiple scales, and derived from simple recursive equations, fractal functions have been used to map the irregular forms that proliferate in nature, but these same properties also resonate strikingly with those of the periodical in its multiple and varying patterns of elements. Indeed, just as rock formations, clouds, and coastlines defy traditional Euclidean geometry, so periodicals defy traditional poetics. And just as fractal geometry provides tools to tame these complex and irregular forms, so it can furnish us with new approaches to describe and conceptualise the ‘texture’ of the periodical, understood as the complex and irregular patternings of its textual, visual, and material elements.

Drawing on a pilot, British Academy funded project to develop a periodical mapping application (P-MApp), this paper will explore the conceptual and analytical potential of the periodical as a fractal form. In particular, I shall demonstrate that fractional (or fractal) dimension can serve as a highly effective measure of periodical complexity, opening up the possibility of systematic comparative and typological analysis of periodical form.

Matthew Philpotts

Senior Lecturer in German Studies, University of Manchester


Monday 20th April, 1-2.30pm, Henley Business School, G03

All welcome!