School of English

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Annabel Wearring-Smith

Research Student,

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Research Summary

Current Status PhD (full-time) - currently registered

Research Topic A Cultural Biography of the Virago Press: Feminist Politics and Publishing Networks 1973-1999

Research Summary

My research analyses the determinants of the Virago Press' publishing decisions, investigating their networks of institutional, interpersonal, and intertextual relationships. I work with archival materials from the British Library, Reading, Feminist Archive South, and The Women's Library, in order to source and chart these networks across the late twentieth century.

My thesis argues that the study of Virago as a feminist and commercial publishing press is greatly advanced by investigating them as the site of a myriad of networks: as the nexus which draws cultural institutions, contemporary writers, activists, texts, and political ideologies together. Moreover, as Virago was built upon the foundation of recovering women's lost narratives as political praxis, I believe that my network focus allows me to participate in acts of recovery ideologically aligned with Virago's project.

My research focuses on Virago's creation of, and interactions with, four networks:

  • Women's Liberation Networks, including the feminist Magazine Spare Rib, Mary Stott, and the Women in Media Collective
  • Publishing Networks, including commercial presses such as Penguin and other feminist presses and radical bookshops
  • Contemporary Literary Networks, including the authors Angela Carter, Margaret Atwood, and Maya Angelou
  • The Virago Modern Classics Network, including the intertextual relationships between VMC titles, the contemporary writers commissioned to introduce the books, and the academic interventions of Elaine Showalter which formed the cornerstone of the series.

By telling the story of Virago from the perspective of these networks, I aim to illuminate the vibrancy of the press in twentieth-century literary and political landscapes, enhance the existing and emerging narratives of Virago in the cultural consciousness and academia, and discover new methodologies for discussing the publishing's impact on cultural discourses more broadly and Virago's impact on the feminist and literary "canons" specifically.

This research emerges from work on Angela Carter's The Sadeian Woman, published by Virago in 1979, and my years spent as a commercial bookseller.

Research Interests

My primary research interests are on the intersections between publishing, politics and cultural movements and the relationships between dissemination and debate within the publishing industry in the late-twentieth-century. I am specifically interested in women's literature in this period, particularly the works of Angela Carter, Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, Michele Roberts and Sarah Waters.

Research Supervisors

Dr Sean Matthews (University of Nottingham)

Dr Steven Morrison (The University of Nottingham)

Dr Catherine Clay (Nottingham Trent University)

Primary Funding Source

The Midlands 4 Cities: https://www.midlands4cities.ac.uk

Conference Papers & Presentations

  • Semi-Pornographic' Sex-Textbooks: British Print Media Responses to Jane Cousins Make it Happy: What Sex is All About (1978) and Angela Carter's The Sadeian Woman (1979), Feminism(s) in the Media, [accepted: forthcoming September 2023].
  • 'The Image of a "Classic": Virago Press and the Feminist Reappraisal of the Classic', The Journal of Languages Texts and Society (LTS), Image(s) and Identity, July 2022.
  • 'Pandaemonium: Presenting A Creative-Critical Graphic Novel', English Showcase, March 2018

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