Modernism, Middlebrow and the Literary Canon : The Modern Library Series, 1917–1955 book cover
1st Edition

Modernism, Middlebrow and the Literary Canon
The Modern Library Series, 1917–1955

ISBN 9781138048409
Published March 10, 2017 by Routledge
224 Pages

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Book Description

In the 1920s and 1930s the Modern Library series brought out cheap editions of modernist works. Books by writers including H G Wells, Virginia Woolf and James Joyce, were published and marketed alongside detective fiction and other books that we would now class as ‘middlebrow’. Jaillant provides a thorough analysis of the mix of highbrow and popular literature in the Modern Library and argues that the availability and low cost of modernist works helped to expand modernism's influence as a literary movement. She uses previously unknown material from publishers' archives to bring fresh insight into the role of the market on both modernist writers and their readers. 

Table of Contents

Introduction: ‘Good Taste in Reading’ 1. H G Wells, Science and Sex in the Modern Library, 1917–31 2. ‘The Modern Library is Something Magnificent’: Sherwood Anderson and the Canon of American Literature 3. Blurring the Boundaries: Detective Fiction and Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in the Modern Library 4. Woolf in the Modern Library: Bridging the Gap between Professional and Common Readers 5. Canonical in the 1930s: Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop in the Modern Library Series 6. ‘If it’s Like Any Introduction You Ever Read, I’ll Eat the Jacket’: Faulkner’s Sanctuary, the Modern Library and the Literary Canon Conclusion

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Lise Jaillant is Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) at Loughborough University, UK.


"Jaillant’s study, through its evidence of careful research and painstaking work in the archives, offers a fresh perspective on the high/low debate told from the vantage point of one of the century’s leading publishers." --Matthew Levay, Idaho State University, The Year’s Work in English Studies

"Consistently insightful, surprising, and concise, Jaillant’s book makes an important contribution to both modernist and middlebrow studies." - Emma West, Cardiff University, Modernism/ Modernity

"Jaillant’s study provides fascinating insight into the marketing methods of the Modern Library" --Loren Glass, University of Iowa, Los Angeles Review of Books

"An important new contribution…part of the more conscientiously transatlantic move in modernist studies." --Amy L. Blair, Marquette University, American Literary History

"A solid investigation of an overlooked phenomenon. Graphs and illustrations lend substance to the various discussions. Students of Modernism will be grateful." --Gary Day, De Montfort University, Times Higher Education

"Jaillant’s study offers a detailed and carefully drawn study of the Modern Library’s version of Woolf and her contemporaries." --Claire Battershill, Simon Fraser University, Woolf Studies Annual

"A fascinating study of book production and the marketing of culture in the early 20th century." --Rebecca Bowler, Keele University, Times Higher Education 'What are you reading' section

"The book is carefully researched and full of interesting facts...The case studies in Modernism, Middlebrow, and the Literary Canon provide an excellent addition to a course on book history and modernism." --Jaime Harker, University of Mississippi, SHARP News

"shrewd and agile study." --Natalie Wright, Women: A Cultural Review

"Meticulous unpacking of just how contentious the players on opposite sides of the Modern Library debates actually were. At this point enter Anthony Comstock, the founder of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. . . . Jaillant tells his story in ways that bring a human face to the censors and their brand of censorship." --Sanford Pinsker, Franklin and Marshall College, Sewanee Review

"Jaillant has made a valuable contribution to both the history of the book and our understanding of the literary canon." --Troy J. Bassett, Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne, Clio: A Journal of Literature, History, and the Philosophy of History

"Immensely illuminating" – the book "greatly changes the way we think about the middlebrow, canon formation, and the canon itself."--Erik Fuhrer, University of Notre Dame, Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America