MSA Research Travel Grant
2020-2021 Research Report
I was awarded the Modernist Studies Association Research Travel Grant in 2019 for a project I was then calling Weaponized Modernism. I had big plans of travelling to London in the summer of 2020 for archive research. That trip never happened. That project never happened. The COVID-19 pandemic forced me to reevaluate what types of projects I could realistically complete. I wasn’t sure if the Modernist Studies Association would allow me to use the grant once the pandemic “ended,” and with the drying up of all travel funding at my institution, I knew there was no way a project that required me to go overseas was doable. So I changed my plans.
Luckily, MSA was exceedingly graceful and not only allowed me to use the travel money three years after it was granted, but also permitted me to use it for my new research project and to spend some of the monies on research-related expenses other than travel. This allowance has made all the difference to not just one, but two research projects, which will be the main materials I submit when I go up for Full Professor. These projects include a book on British women writers (Storm Jameson, Mollie Panter-Downes, Jan Struther, Rebecca West, and Virginia Woolf, and others) who sold World War II and an Anglo-American postwar geopolitical realignment to their readers, often through discussions of the domestic sphere. The funds also helped support an ongoing collaborative writing project on Violet Hunt and her circle of female author friends.
Because my institution does not have faculty research funds, and with COVID the ability to access our library and use Interlibrary Loan was extremely interrupted, MSA allowed me to spend some of my travel funds on books for research. This has been a game changer for my project on WWII British women writers. Thanks to the funding, I gained access to the books I needed for the remaining chapters of my project. I completed one of the chapters in early fall and plan to complete the remaining two by the end of 2023. The funds also enabled me to take a 2-day research trip to the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University. Here, I looked at materials on Rebecca West’s letter exchange with the New Yorker’s Harold Ross as well as other materials pertaining to her writing for Americans in the 1940s. The Beinecke also contained materials helpful to my project on Violet Hunt. West was a friend of Hunt’s and part of the circle of writers she clung to in her final years. Within the West materials there were letters from Hunt, mentions of Hunt in West’s diaries, and even a picture of them together. The other research trip I took with this grant money was a day trip to the Manuscripts Division of Princeton University’s library. Here, I looked through letters between Hunt and Oliver Stoner, who was the husband of Norah Hoult. (Hoult’s book There Were No Windows is about Hunt.)
I am grateful that the MSA acknowledged the new post-pandemic reality for many scholars, especially those at institutions that don’t have research funding readily available for faculty. I am also grateful that they understood the practical reasons my project needed to change from what I had imagined doing in 2019. Because of this, I was able to make major progress on two projects that will be the backbone of my scholarly agenda as I seek my next major promotion.
2019-2021 Research Reports
My project examines the ways in which mid-century Australian novelist Eleanor Dark mobilised the aesthetics of international modernism and the publishing opportunities available to her both at home and abroad to engage with international modernity from a settler-colonial context.
Due to the generous support of an MSA Travel Grant, I was able to travel to Canberra in the Australian National Territory to undertake archival research in the Eleanor Dark Papers at the National Library of Australia (NLA). I spent a week examining the correspondence between Dark and other prominent local and international writers and cultural figures from the 1920s to the 1970s. Through accessing these letters, I built a stronger picture of how Dark’s modernist aesthetics and left-leaning, liberal humanist ideas were communicated and received in the mid-century period.
Archival research also allowed me to trace some of the important influences on Dark’s work. I found that a number of prominent anthropologists wrote to Dark in response to the publication of her award-winning novel, The Timeless Land (1941). These letters helped me to examine the intersections between Dark’s depiction of Australian Indigenous cultures and interwar anthropological discourse – a finding which has informed by discussion of her use of modernist primitivism. I was also able to access many of the letters that Dark received from American poet Karl Shapiro. Shapiro met Dark when he was stationed at an Australian hospital during the Second World War; the pair continued to correspond while Shapiro was on active service in New Guinea and after his return to the United States. Shapiro’s letters to Dark reveal how both writers’ ideas and work developed as the result of this remarkable transnational literary friendship.
The research undertaken at the NLA will appear in my monograph, Middlebrow Modernism: Eleanor Dark’s Interwar Fiction, which is due to be published by the University of Sydney Press as part of the Studies in Australian Literature series in the coming year. This monograph will provide the first single-author study of Dark’s writing to be published in over four decades and represents a significant contribution to the field of Australian modernism.
I wish to thank the MSA for this invaluable support. As an early career researcher attempting to juggle the demands of writing with being a new parent, this grant has played a vital role in helping me to reach an important career milestone: the completion of my first book.
Ruth Lechlitner’s poetry and the Environment
Ruth Lechlitner (1901-1989) is best known (if at all) for her radio verse drama We Are The Rising Wing broadcast on WOSU in Columbus, Ohio and published in the 1938 volume of James Laughlin’s New Directions in Prose and Poetry. At the time Lechlitner was clearly, with the publication of her first volume Tomorrow’s Phoenix (1937), identified with the group of labor-left poets who were her contemporaries. Louis Untermeyer, writing in the Virginia Quarterly Review (Summer 1940) on “New Meanings in Contemporary American poetry” suggests that ‘In poetry the leading figures of a new order based on a universal moral sense begin with Carl Sandburg and Archibald MacLeish (. . . ) and embrace the younger Muriel Rukeyser, Willard Maas, James Agee, Elizabeth Bishop, Oscar Williams, Robert Fitzgerald, Joy Davidman, John Wheelwright, Ruth Lechlitner, and other warring contributors to New Masses and Partisan Review.’ Of the four women poets mentioned here (Bishop, Rukeyser, Davidman – who married C.S.Lewis – and Lechlitner) only Lechlitner fell into the footnotes of literary history. But her work bears comparison with these poets; Lechlitner is part of what Cary Nelson in The Oxford Handbook of Modern and Contemporary American Poetry (2012) terms a ‘collaborative critique of Depression-era capitalism and a collective call for revolutionary change.’
The MSA travel award supported essential research in the Lechlitner Archive at the University of Iowa Library. This rarely-visited archive provided some wonderful discoveries; alongside poetry manuscripts and first editions, Lechlitner’s notes and letters indicated a sustained engagement with the work of Lewis Mumford and his philosophy of technology and the pioneer of the ecology movement Murray Bookchin, and a serious interest in the genre of SF poetry. I was also able to read and research the manuscripts of Lechlitner’s unpublished documentary prose poem Through a Glass Darkly on the Sonoma State Hospital (an institution founded as the California Home for the Care and Training of the Feeble Minded in 1884) and her post-nuclear-apocalypse radio verse-drama Tale of a World’s End (broadcast in 1959).
As a result of my archival research I presented a paper on my findings at the MSA conference in Toronto entitled ‘Labour, Life and Cosmopolitics in Ruth Lechlitner’ and am currently working on an article, ‘Extinction Poetics: Ruth Lechlitner’s Apocalyptic Pastoral’ for a proposed cluster on Reading Modernism in the Sixth Extinction for the Modernism/modernity Print+ platform. In focusing on the genre of late modernist SF poetry, which Lechlitner’s work exemplifies, I intend this article to offer a new way of reading modernism, extinction and apocalypse. Engaging closely with Lechlitner’s poetic I am arguing for the ongoing need to revise our conceptions and canons of modernism, and to acknowledge the way that emergent methodologies enable us to turn to ‘extinct’ texts and regenerate their contemporary relevance. I am also continuing to research Lechlitner’s radio plays. Furthermore, given that Lechlitner remains out of print and rarely anthologised, and given the contemporary relevance of her work to both intersectional feminist and anthropocene studies, I am developing a project to edit and publish a critical edition of her poetry.
From February 10-15, I traveled to Ireland to consult the archives of Irish playwright Teresa Deevy. My goal was to find out how Deevy, as a deaf woman, composed her radio plays in the 1930s through 1950s and the kinds of institutional barriers she encountered. What I found in the archives shifted my focus slightly, but significantly, from Deevy as a radio writer to Deevy as a radio “listener.” The archives included rich correspondence detailing her visits to the radio studios, her reading of radio scripts, and her experience of observing her sisters as they listened to radio drama from their family home in Waterford, Ireland. While the project started out focused on radio institutions and accessibility, I left with a more nuanced understanding of Deevy as a media user who generated her own pathways of access.
I began at the University of Maynooth’s special collections where I was able to work through a trove of Deevy’s papers, which included typescripts of her radio plays, press clippings of criticism on her work, and personal recollections about Deevy from her nephew. From Maynooth, I went to the Trinity College archives in Dublin where I consulted twenty years of correspondence between Deevy and her close friend and fellow playwright Florence Hackett. Here I found some of the most intimate portraits of Deevy’s engagement with the radio medium, including an ecstatic account of her first visit to the BBC Belfast studio. I was also able to look at the Denis Johnston papers, which included the production notes for Johnston’s television adaptation of Deevy’s The King of Spain’s Daughter, which was produced for the BBC in 1939 before the television service was put on hold for the duration of the war. Deevy was enthusiastic about the possibilities of audio-visual broadcasting well before the medium was widely known outside of specialist circles and seemed eager for a mode of broadcasting that would be more inclusive of deaf viewers.
I took a side-trip to Limerick on February 13th where I was hosted by the Irish Women’s Writing Network and gave a talk at the University of Limerick on my work in progress. In attendance was Deevy’s grand-niece Jackie Deevy. I had a chance to talk with her after the lecture and briefly discuss the family history. She provided additional insights into the culture around deafness and disability within the Deevy household. Teresa Deevy had twelve siblings, two of whom were also deaf and of these two sisters, one was blind as well. Ms. Deevy relayed to me that all the family members knew how to use manual fingerspelling to communicate. After speaking with her and reading through the archives, I feel more convinced that previous critics have over-inflated claims that Deevy relied exclusively on lip-reading and that her deafness was incidental to her work.
My last day in Dublin, I met with the co-organizer of the Dublin Theatre of the Deaf, Lianne Quigley, and discussed the company’s 2017 adaptation of Deevy’s The King of Spain’s Daughter, which was performed in Irish Sign Language. The Dublin Theatre of the Deaf’s performance was titled Talk Real Fine, Just Like a Lady and was created in collaboration with performance artist Amanda Coogan for the Dublin Fringe Festival. It was a loose adaptation—what Coogan calls an “appropriation” of the source material— that put Deevy’s script in conversation with issues affecting the Deaf in Ireland. The performance emphasized the relationship in Deevy’s script between a young, rebellious woman and an older woman circumscribing what is possible for the younger generation. The Dublin Theatre of the Deaf drew out this element to tell the story of oralism in Ireland when young Deaf women were told by the nuns that ran St. Mary’s School for the Deaf that they were not allowed to communicate by sign. This production shows the ongoing relevance of Deevy’s work for the Deaf community in Ireland and the potential of performance art to bridge the gap between historical plays like Deevy’s and contemporary audiences.
I want to thank the board of the Modernist Studies Association for this generous travel grant. As a contingent faculty member, I cannot overstate the difference it made in allowing me to pursue my research.
The MSA grant supported a research trip to New York, where I gathered rare research materials pertaining to the U.S. Justice Department’s monitoring of the New Negro movement in Harlem. My original plan was to focus predominantly on the original criminal case files from the 1923 legal trial of the United States of America v. Marcus Garvey. Unforeseen political events, however, caused me to sharpen my original research plans. My trip served as a good reminder that history is never static and sometimes the best evidence-based research can only occur by accounting for this fact.
Written correspondence with the National Archives and Records Administration commenced three months prior to travel. A meticulous list was developed to determine which physical records still exist nearly 100 years after the original SDNY court case. Although court transcripts of the legal trial’s original opening and closing statements were sadly discarded, either when the case was consolidated or moved into archival storage, over 1400 pages of the proceedings were on site at the federal building in lower Manhattan. I requested all key witness testimony and volumes related to the court case, as well as additional materials on the government surveillance of Marcus Garvey, the Black Star Line Steamship Corporation, and the Universal Negro Improvement Association. It was not without a certain amount of political irony, then, that just before I was scheduled to fly out to conduct research on the federal government that the U.S. government was swiftly shut down, throwing my research trip into jeopardy. On the eve of the shutdown, I received an apologetic message from a NARA research librarian indicating that my visit was in jeopardy. Federal employees would soon be locked out of the building until further notice and not permitted to access their email to confirm or cancel appointments.
Although the government shutdown was the longest in history, causing insurmountable financial hardship for many federal employees, the impact on my own research was unusually productive. My flight was non-refundable, which caused me to sharpen my role of researcher-as-detective. The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture held the only known microfiche copies of the 1923 SDNY court records. A week was spent digitally scanning over 1000 microfiche records. The process was tedious but faster and more accurate than handling the original documents in poor condition at NARA. The time saved allowed me to focus additional attention on locating now-declassified federal surveillance records on members of the New Negro movement. I probed the Schomburg’s extensive records on Garvey’s political rivals including Cyril Briggs, founder of the African Blood Brotherhood and editor of The Crusader. Rare documents were also scanned from the John Edward Bruce papers, Claude McKay’s writings, and the photographs, portraits, and prints of the UNIA movement. I recorded important street addresses while researching in order to tour on foot Harlem landmarks significant to the New Negro movement. Walking from the original location of the UNIA’s Liberty Hall down to the pier where the Black Star Line’s flagship S.S. Yarmouth was once moored allowed me to piece together and reimagine the urban physiognomy that gave rise to New Negro calls to make the potential for freedom visible. While many of the neighborhoods have been gentrified, and sliced up, segmenting the Harlem community into different groups, the project of archival recovery functions to catalogue the material history that features so centrally in the fiction, poetry, and art of black modernists from the turbulent period of the twenties.
I wish to express my gratitude to the MSA and its membership for this invaluable research opportunity. It will enable my transition from doctoral candidate to junior scholar, allowing me to supplement my dissertation with additional materials to revise it into a monograph, and ultimately to advance the field of black modernist studies in new directions
The Margins of the Lyric: Gwendolyn Brooks Annotating Modernism
Gwendolyn Brooks read with pen in hand. Annotating in bold strokes, she lacked hesitation in pointing out where texts succeeded and where they did not. While it may seem to be an unexpected source, Brooks annotated an edition of Ezra Pound’s ABC of Reading published in 1951 and housed in Emory University’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library. Underlining and writing in the margins, Brooks assessed Pound’s theories and proposed new interpretations of his work. Brooks’s marginalia throughout her library indicate that her voice as an annotator and as a poet developed in tandem. Ultimately, she contributes to what Sonya Posmentier in Cultivation and Catastrophe: The Lyric Ecology of Modern Black Literature (2017) calls “a different history of the lyric generated on the margins of American and European modernity” (4). Marginalia add another layer to interpretation of the lyric, particularly as they are, as Derrida put it, “parasitic and grafted” to the page (Annotation and Its Texts, Ed. Barney, 204). The books in Brooks’s library document her crafting of a critical voice, one that becomes increasingly more direct over time, attracting attention to what has been overlooked and why it matters.
A Modernist Studies Association Research Travel Grant supported travel to Brooks’s archive at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Since the archive’s acquisition in 2013, the volumes in Brooks’s library have not been fully explored and are not available online. I was also able to work with Brooks’s teaching materials, which often address the books in her library. Preparing to teach poetry workshops at Columbia College, Chicago and subsequent courses at other institutions in the early and mid-sixties, Brooks read T. S. Eliot scholar Elizabeth Drew’s Poetry: A Modern Guide to Its Understanding and Enjoyment, Edmund Wilson’s Axel’s Castle, and Oscar Williams’s Pocket Book of Modern Verse, referring to each in her teaching notes. Williams’s and Louis Untermeyer’s Modern American Poetry and Modern British Poetry anthologies and David Daiches’s Poetry and the Modern World remain when Brooks drafts a more expansive recommended reading list for an American literature course in the early seventies, including Langston Hughes and Arna Bontemps’s Poetry of the Negro 1746-1970, James Baldwin’s Nobody Knows My Name, and Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun.
Taken together, Brooks’s library and teaching materials preserve the physicality of her engagement with modernism. As a teacher, she contributes to and redefines modernism’s midcentury institutional presence, her classes adding to those addressed in the work of Rachel Sagner Buurma and Laura Heffernan and Mark McGurl. Brooks’s pedagogical reading of modernism invites her to pose new questions for herself and her students. Contemplating Eliot’s Waste Land, she notes in her copy of Axel’s Castle that while the current world may exist in a state of decay, “at least it is not rigid.” In such a world, the lyric presents a malleable form, one to which Brooks and her students could bring new life.
Nicholls State University
With the support of an MSA Research Travel Grant, I traveled to Reading, England, in June 2019 to complete archival research in the BBC Written Archives Centre on the BBC colonial service radio programs of the 1940s – 1960s. I examined roughly two thousand pages of scripts, memoranda, letters, and other documents from Calling the West Indies, Calling the Caribbean, and Calling West Africa, and collected information on a variety of radio shows, from the well-known Caribbean Voices to little-explored programs such as Ten-Minute Talks, West Indian Diary, Behind the News, and We See Britain. I also examined extensive archival records relating to the development of the BBC pamphlet Going to Britain?, published in 1959 and first conceived and produced as a series of radio broadcasts.
In my research, I identified a genre of “London stroll” broadcasts, in which Caribbean and West African writers engaged with traditions of urban flânerie, mapping, and cultural memory. In news bulletins, creative works, and personal essays, on a variety of BBC programs, I located dozens of texts that aimed to create a rich map of the English landscape for colonial audiences. Using GIS mapping software, I then traced the representations of England in these radio transmissions, highlighting the specificity of location in these aural “maps.”
To create my maps, I used QGIS, an open-source geographic information system mapping software. I first digitized specific scripts I identified during my research trip, identified sites referenced by the authors, and then located the coordinates of the place-names using Google Maps. In the resulting database table, I also tagged additional features: whether the writer had visited the site mentioned, the type of or reason for the visit, and the forms of transportation referenced. Finally, I created a GIS layer for each script, which I placed on an ordnance survey of Great Britain from 1937 – 1961, a georeferenced historical base map archived by the National Library of Scotland.
Thus far, I have created multiple representative maps reflecting routes, frequency of types of site mentioned, and other factors for several Caribbean writers, including Andrew Salkey, George Lamming, and Carlisle Chang. I presented some of these findings at MSA 2019 in Toronto, and I am currently completing an article on these three writers. Through the various digital landscapes I create using QGIS, I delineate a complex cultural politics in which metropolitan England is produced for colonial listeners even as its aesthetic properties and cultural centrality are called into question.
I am grateful to the Modernist Studies Association for providing substantial material assistance for me to complete this research trip. In the coming year, I anticipate digitizing a decade of West Indian Diary site references in order to consider how Caribbean immigrants from a variety of fields and geographic locations represented their experiences in Great Britain for their Caribbean audiences. Using digital mapping to represent the substantial body of archival material available for the BBC colonial programs will help produce a more complete accounting of the period and make this significant archive more accessible to a wider body of scholars.
The MSA Research Travel Grant funded research for my new book project, on the history of modern fiction and mental health. I spent a week working in the archives at London’s British Psychoanalytical Society (BPS), the Wellcome Library, and the Freud Museum. This archival study centered on the transatlantic scientific discourses of psychopathology in the first half of the twentieth century. This research will generatively shape and enrich my new book, which explores how narrative form unsettles clinical definitions of mental illness. Each chapter considers an emergent psychiatric diagnosis and examines this model of personhood in period fiction as well as scientific writing. Engaging recent debates in the medical humanities and ongoing studies of gender, race, and disability, this project rethinks the cultural politics at work in biological schemas of health and illness and highlights the vexations of interpretive practices shared by the sciences and the arts.
My London research primarily focused on the unpublished and non-digitized writings of understudied British female psychoanalysts with diverse medical training and varied contributions to popular discourse. At the BPS, where I spent the majority of my time, I reviewed the papers of Marjorie Franklin (also a psychiatrist), Sylvia Payne (also a physician), Karin Stephen (also a physician and the sister-in-law of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell), Joan Rivière (an early English translator of Freud), Susan Isaacs (also an “agony aunt” advice columnist who wrote under the pseudonym of Ursula Wise), and Marion Milner (also a best- selling writer who spent two years in the US, from 1927-1929). I also spent time at the Wellcome Library, reviewing the papers of better-known figures like Melanie Klein and Donald Winnicott and exploring doctors’ notes related to several of my diagnostic focuses. Finally, I spent a day at the Freud Museum reviewing materials related to the BPS’s “Controversial Discussions” of the 1940s, about the evolving scientific methods of psychoanalytic practice. Franklin, Payne, Stephen, Rivière, Isaacs, Milner, Klein, and Winnicott all participated in these heated and well-documented discussions. At the Freud Museum, I also reviewed the 200+ letters written to Anna Freud upon her father’s death in 1939.
This fruitful archival study will allow me to diversify understandings of modernist-era scientific networks (the archives included many letters between the understudied figures and their famous counterparts). The research will further elucidate the uneven gendering and other identitarian dynamics of the standardizing cultures of modern mental health (Franklin was Jewish, like many figures in this history, and I’m considering how to address this through-line in the project). All of this work will help me to illuminate the exchanges between early twentieth- century scientific logic and the narratives of health and illness developing in modern novels. The MSA grant will thus be instrumental in helping me to think through our evolving efforts to interpret consciousness and corporeality.
With the generous support of an MSA Travel Grant, I was able to visit Dominica, in the Caribbean, to consult the National Archives and locate a number of sites related to Jean Rhys—a writer central to my new book project, Writing the “Way Out”: Language, Technology, and Anticolonial Modernism. Though Rhys’s personal papers are housed at the University of Tulsa, the National Archives in Roseau contain an extraordinary body of material relevant to her family history, the period of her residence on the island (1890-1907), and the time of her brief return (in 1936). These materials include records illuminating the formation of her social consciousness (e.g., registers of slaves and manumissions: Rhys was descended from a prominent slave-owning family on her mother’s side); the historical circumstances that inform her work (e.g., the 1844 uprising known as the “Census Riots,” which her grandfather’s actions precipitated); and public opinion concerning members of her immediate family (e.g., newspaper articles on her father’s efforts to revive the plantocracy under Crown Colony rule: Crown Colony status deprived Dominicans of representative government in exchange for £15,000 for roadworks—funding intended to “open” the mountainous interior of the island to cultivation by means of the “Imperial Road”). These documents suggest the degree to which Rhys, on both sides of her family, was implicated in the apparatus of British imperialism—and the extent to which this apparatus was often a literal one: a form of power imposed through imperial technologies (e.g., roads).
Because many of the documents in the National Archives (especially nineteenth-century newspapers) are now too delicate to handle, the archivists created digital copies for me—a service that gave me permanent access to rare materials and saved me several days’ work on the ground. I was thus able to spend much of my time on the island visiting sites important to Rhys: I located her childhood home (now occupied by a tailor’s shop), the Botanical Gardens, the Public Library, and the Protestant Cemetery (where her father is buried) in Roseau; the ruins of the Geneva plantation (once belonging to her mother’s family) on the south coast, with its cast-iron waterwheel and crushing apparatus; the town of Massacre (which appears in Wide Sargasso Sea just below “Granbois”—a fictionalized version of her father’s estate, Amelia); the industrial remains of the Hampstead plantation, where Rhys stayed during her return journey to Dominica in 1936; the Kalinago Territory (the last settlement of indigenous peoples in the Caribbean), which figures in the story “Temps Perdi”; and the Perdu Temps mountain trail. I was also able to drive the sixteen extant miles of the Imperial Road and hike to a number of sites in the interior of the island, including Middleham Falls. Once a portion of Middleham Estate, the Falls are part of the plantation responsible both for the “illogical” route of the Imperial Road and its inevitable failure. (Consisting of mountainous terrain obviously uncongenial to cultivation, the estate was defunct by the First World War, and the Imperial Road—which had been diverted to access it—had failed along with it.) Given that Rhys, in her work, frequently aligns European imperialism with the technology used to subdue colonial landscapes and peoples, such traces are of double significance: a sign of imperial conquest and an index of the island’s natural resistance to instrumental domination.
I would like to express my sincere thanks to MSA for materially assisting my research, and especially for the timely support of my work in what is likely an increasingly vulnerable archive. Dominica was devastated by Hurricane Maria in September 2017, and though the National Archives survived intact, they were directly affected: email connectivity, for example, was only restored in November 2018. In light of these circumstances—and given ongoing climatic threats to the region—I am grateful for the funding that made it possible to visit the island and its archives this year.
With the support of Research and Travel Grant from the Modernist Studies Association, I conducted research at the British Film Institute on the films of Lotte Reiniger and Julius Pinschewer, two of German cinema’s most important practitioners of experimental film animation. This work forms part of my current book project, Beyond the Border: Transnational Film Culture between Germany and Great Britain, which challenges conventional film histories by focusing on transnational networks of “useful film” production in the inter- and postwar period. With studies of two countries whose cinema histories are typically considered separately, the project pursues a research program outside the respective national spheres of Germany and Great Britain through chapters on propaganda, documentary, advertising, and travel films. Below, I give an overview of the research I pursued at the British Film Institute in London.
Pinschewer was the pioneer of advertising films in Germany. In addition to establishing a nationwide distribution network for advertising films, he fostered experimental trick animation both in Germany and later in Switzerland. My research focuses on Pinschewer’s British films. With support from the MSA, I was able to travel to London to use the BFI’s extensive print collections, from back issues of well-known journals to more obscure trade publications like Look and Listen, in order to understand better Pinschewer’s place in the British film industry. I supplemented my readings with viewings of films only available at the BFI like, for example, the 1948 film Willie Comes to Life.
Pinschewer was an impresario, a businessman as much as a filmmaker. Reiniger was an animator who collaborated with some of the most important filmmakers in Weimar Germany. As early as 1926, the year Reiniger released her most important film The Adventures of Prince Achmed, we see the first points of contact between Reiniger and British culture. 1926 was the year Reiniger created a series of animated films based on the Dr. Dolittle books, which were written by the Englishman Hugh Lofting. My research in London concentrated on Reiniger’s role in British cinema after she emigrated to Great Britain in 1935. For example, the film Galathea was featured in a lecture series and film program that showcased Reiniger’s work shortly after she arrived in Britain. I therefore tracked down the archival history, both visual and textual, surrounding Galathea. During my research, I also discovered a film, previously unknown to me, by the British animator Peter King that was dedicated to Reiniger and her husband Peter Koch. Produced by the British Film Institute Experimental Film Fund and titled 13 Cantos of Hell, this work reveals that Reiniger had students and imitators within Britain, thereby demonstrating the extent of her influence on British animators and the cultural landscape of the country after the war.
I would like to conclude by thanking the Modernist Studies Association and its members for supporting my research.
University of Colorado, Boulder
Thanks to the MSA Research Travel Grant, I was able to conduct research at the Victoria and Albert’s Blythe House archive (located in Olympia, west London). At Blythe House I examined selective issues of the strikingly designed trade journal, International Textiles, from 1933-1945 in order to contextualize my discussion of propaganda textiles during the interwar period. This research will inform part of my current book project, Fashioning Bloomsbury, specifically the fourth chapter titled “Wearing Propaganda.” This chapter examines the representation of service and work uniforms in two political polemics: Leonard Woolf’s Quack, Quack (1935) and Virginia Woolf’s Three Guineas (1938). Here I focus upon the uniform as exemplary of Bloomsbury’s distinctively modern preoccupation with materiality and its relation to forms of embodiment within the context of war.
Blythe House is one of the only archives that hold an almost complete set of the little-known multi-lingual journal, International Textiles, whose glossy and colorful pages look much more like a high-end fashion magazine than a trade publication. This influential trade paper was founded in Amsterdam in March 1933 by Jewish émigrés: businessman and writer Hans Juda; his wife Elsbeth (a photographer); and Bauhaus artist László Moholy-Nagy, who served as the journal’s art director. The magazine was initially published monthly in four languages (English, Dutch, French and German), and at the height of its success it had subscribers in ninety countries. In May 1940 production in Amsterdam was suspended due to the war, but the journal continued to be published in London with support from the British government and not an issue was missed during this period. In March 1946, just one year after the end of WWII, the journal was re-launched by Hans Juda as The Ambassador: The British export Journal for Textiles and Fashions, with a fervent nationalistic focus that sought to address the post-war needs of British infrastructure, export, and morale.
What was particularly useful for me was seeing how The Ambassador harnessed a sense of British patriotism without abandoning the internationalism that had fueled its values during its incarnation as International Textiles. In the issues that I examined, I witnessed the incredible range of the British textile and garment industries during the interwar period, particularly how they fared on the world stage. I learned that International Textiles was regarded as an asset to the British textile industry as well as a useful propaganda vehicle. Several of the articles that I unearthed, such as “New Cotton Designs Have British Fashion Appeal” (No. 4, 1941, p. 24) and “Creative Sights Will Promote British Skill” (International Textiles, No. 5, 1941, pp. 25-30), illustrated how Hans Juda used the magazine to promote positive publicity for Britain both at home and abroad while still making editorial space for world trade and culture. My archival research also enabled me to see how during the early 1940s the focus of the magazine shifted from its more explicitly international focus to a promotion of “British creative ability and craftsmanship” (as the March 1946 editorial regarding the magazine’s re-launch put it).
The invaluable research that I conducted at Blythe House will be useful to my overall monograph in progress, but it will be of particular use to my chapter on war and propaganda clothing. I am extremely grateful to the MSA for this support, particularly because International Textiles has not been digitized. I also learned that the Archive & Library Study Room at Blythe House will close on December 18, 2020 and all of its collections and artifacts will be moved to east London. This new facility, the Collections and Research Centre in Stratford’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, will reopen in Spring/Summer 2023.