Review: Literature of the 1900s by Jonathan Wild


Review of Jonathan Wild, Literature of the 1900s: The Great Edwardian Emporium (Edinburgh University Press, 224 pp., £75)

Shopping, like much else, became recognisably modern in the first decade of the twentieth century. One of its principal modernisers was the American entrepreneur Harry Gordon Selfridge, the ‘Earl of Oxford Street’, whose flagship London store, opened in 1909, aimed to turn shopping from a necessity into a leisure activity. Selfridge’s offered immersive and material pleasures: its departments were arranged over many floors; its spaces were designed particularly to appeal to women; customers could see and handle the wares, assisted by 1,400 well-trained staff.

Jonathan Wild’s impressive Literature of the 1900s, volume one in The Edinburgh History of Twentieth-Century Literature in Britain, takes the department store as a metaphor for the decade’s literary field. The book’s chapters are figured as a store’s departments – departments for war and external affairs, administration, children, decadence, and internal affairs. The conceit is more than a clever way to organise his wide-ranging and potentially disparate material: it focuses the reader on the consumption of literature, which is his book’s central theme. Wild argues, convincingly, that readers and reading changed on or around January 1900, as literature, and fiction in particular, became Britain’s major leisure activity, and readers, or consumers, demanded more literature, and more kinds of literature.

Writers and writing changed too, in response to consumer demand but also reflecting the profound social changes of the last decades of the nineteenth century. Continue reading


New Book: Edwardian Culture – Beyond the Garden Party


We are pleased to announce that Edwardian Culture: Beyond the Garden Party was published by Routledge today. It is the sixth book in the series Among the Victorians and the Modernists and contains fourteen essays and an afterword. The book is available directly from the publisher here. For more details see below.

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The Russia Season at the Sainsbury Centre


Edwardian scholars may be interested in the following exhibitions at the Sainsbury Centre, both exploring aspects of pre- and post-WW1 culture in Russia:

In October 2017, to mark the centenary of the Russian Revolution, the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts will stage two major exhibitions contrasting art, life and culture in Russia before and after the Revolution.

The first exhibition, Royal Fabergé, will explore the glittering saga of the world’s greatest artist-jewellers during the decades preceding the First World War. The second, Radical Russia, will show how avant-garde artists – who had scandalised conservative society with outrageous and subversive painting, poetry and theatre – came with revolution to briefly become the State’s officially approved culture. Ultimately both high points of human artistry were to be laid low by horror and terror.

The Sainsbury Centre’s Russia Season will be completed by the permanent installation of the dramatic model of Tatlin’s Tower conceived as the most iconic architectural project of the Soviet era, though never built. With an immense impact on subsequent architects and designers, not least the architects of the University of East Anglia, the 10-metre tower will now rise in the sculpture park alongside the Sainsbury Centre.

For more information please see the SCVA website



Registration now open! ‘The Spirit of Speed: Edwardian Culture on the Move’, Sept 9th


Registration is now open for our fourth annual conference – ‘The Spirit of Speed: Edwardian Culture on the Move’, which will be held at the University of Lancaster on the 9th September. The conference is being held in association with the wonderful Edwardian Postcard Project and has been kindly supported by the Centre for Mobilities Research. Registration costs only £15, which includes lunch and tea on the day.

You can register for the event here. Please e-mail with any queries. A draft programme will be circulated shortly.



J M Barrie Society Launched


Edwardian scholars may be interested in the following announcement:

The J. M. Barrie Literary Society is officially launched! And for those who missed the birthday party at Kirriemuir on 9th May, a second event will be welcoming all at Senate House, London, 19th June at 5pm. See the website or facebook page for more details, or contact

Barrie is too often lost in the shadow of his most famous creation, Peter Pan. Our purpose as a Society is to promote and collectively enjoy the full range of Barrie’s huge and varied literary output, from the earliest journalism to the latest plays. We privilege texts over biography, and encourage active textual discussion and appreciation. Membership is FREE for the first year for those who join before 19th June 2017: sign up at Whether you harbour a secret love for Thrums, have been puzzled by Mary Rose, or are simply interested in learning more about Barrie’s work, we look forward to welcoming you.

Exhibition: ‘Places of the Mind’ at the British Museum


‘River Landscape;, by Ambrose McEvoy, c.1910

Ambrose McEvoy’s River Landscape is one of a few watercolours from the Edwardian era (or thereabouts) featured in the current British Museum exhibition Places of the Mind: British watercolour landscapes, 1850-1950. The exhibition focusses on the hundred years following the death of J.M.W. Turner, drawing parallels between watercolourists (and the odd pastellist and draughtsman) working across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Though the show features many familiar names – from James McNeill Whistler to Paul Nash and Henry Moore  – there are also plenty of unfamiliar faces within the hundred-plus exhibits.

The exhibition is hung thematically rather than chronologically, which means that works from the Edwardian era can be found throughout the room. A fair proportion of them, however, are located in the ‘a new golden age’ section, which explores the reception of watercolours from the late 1890s into the 1910s, with particular reference to the turn-of-the-century surge of interest in the work of the artist Hercules Brabazon Brabazon (1821-1906), whose fluid brushwork attracted the interest of artists associated with the New English Art Club, with whom he started exhibiting in his seventies. Other key artists in this section include Philip Wilson Steer and McEvoy. Though drawn almost entirely from the British Museum’s own extensive collection, the exhibition representations a unique opportunity to see such a large collection of works of paper from this period. Recommended to all Edwardian scholars and art lovers!

The exhibition is free and runs until August 27th. For more information see here.

CFP: ‘Movement’ for Exchanges


Still from Percy Smith’s ‘The Acrobatic Fly’ (1910 film)

Edwardian scholars may be interested in the following CFP:

CALL FOR PAPERS: Exchanges: The Warwick Research Journal  

Exchanges: The Warwick Research Journal is the peer-reviewed, open access, interdisciplinary research journal of the Institute of Advanced Study (IAS), University of Warwick. We are inviting high-quality interdisciplinary submissions from researchers at all stages of their careers in all academic fields.

For the October 2017/ Fifth Anniversary edition of the Journal, we particularly welcome submissions which will contribute to a themed section on ‘Movement’. Pertinent to current debates within and across many disciplines, movement can be understood as action, motion, emotion, and mobility, ranging from physical, mental, mechanical, geographical, industrial to musical, artistic, social, cultural, and political. People (migration and displacement), commodities and capital (trade and trade agreements), ideas and information (communication, translation, and connectivity), and images (film and television) move, and they move in all directions. We are also interested in the lack of movement, stasis, stagnation, and standoff, for example.

‘Movement’ is a compelling subject for scholarship in cultural history and the History of Art. Continue reading