© Pikist
  • 11 May 2021: Ben Fried, "The Penguin Empire: Publishing, Editing, and Reading the Global Anglophone"


    Ben Fried (Cornell University): "The Penguin Empire: Publishing, Editing, and Reading the Global Anglophone", 11 May 2021


    This talk will tackle the worldwide expansion of Penguin Books, tracking the growth of its publishing empire through the second half of the twentieth century. How did Penguin gain and maintain its power? What have been the consequences of its commercial dominance, its shaping of texts and tastes, for writers and readers in English? Are individual authors and smaller publishers able to alter this institution, even as they are altered by it? I will discuss the Penguin Empire with particular reference to Penguin India and McPhee Gribble. The first, founded as a three-employee enterprise, has become the leading English-language publisher in South Asia; the second was a pioneering feminist press absorbed and discontinued by Penguin Australia. Each publisher’s greatest success, Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy (1993) and Helen Garner’s The Children’s Bach (1983), testifies to the conditions that created them. Together, they will speak to the uses of publishing history as a framework for the disputed discipline of the Global Anglophone, one that can explain both what is illuminating and what is distorting about it.


    Ben Fried is a PhD candidate at Cornell University, having previously studied at McGill and at Cambridge as a Gates Scholar. He studies the role of the editor in the rise of twentieth-century Anglophone literatures, analyzing the transnational networks of production and reception that give a material purchase to the burgeoning field of the Global Anglophone.

    This talk is made possible by our involvement in the collaborative research center Law and Literature (DFG SFB1385 Recht und Literatur).

  • 3 May 2021: Dr. Ian Gadd, "© Shakespeare"


    Ian Gadd (Bath Spa University): "© Shakespeare", 3 May 2021


    In February 1594, John Danter had his claim to the publishing rights to Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus approved by two of the officers of the London's Stationers' Company—and with this, the story of Shakespeare's copyright begins. This paper explores exactly what rights were being granted to Danter and those who followed him in securing the publishing rights to Shakespeare's other works, and how those rights fundamentally shaped Shakespeare's subsequent publishing history. By tracing the ownership of these rights from the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries through to the late eighteenth century, the paper will demonstrate how any history of the emergence of modern Anglo-American copyright needs to understand the changing commercial realities of the London book trade as much as the more well known legislative and legal landmarks.


    Dr. Ian Gadd is Professor of English Literature at Bath Spa University. Professor Gadd specialises in the literature and history of the sixteenth, seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. He considers himself to be both a bibliographer and book historian. He is particularly interested in the ways in which printed texts were produced and circulated, and the economics of the early modern English book trade as well as the critical editing of literary and non-literary works from that period. He is the General Editor of The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jonathan Swift and co-director of the initiative "Making Books: Creativity, Print Culture, and the Digital Research Centre". Professor Gadd was President of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP) from 2013 to 2017.

    This talk is made possible by our involvement in the collaborative research center Law and Literature (DFG SFB1385 Recht und Literatur).

  • 26 January 2021: Dr. Sarah Pyke, "'Gay Books Will Burn': Operation Tiger, Gay's the Word bookshop and literary censorship in 1980s Britain"

    © S. Pyke


    Sarah Pyke (London): "'Gay Books Will Burn': Operation Tiger, Gay's the Word bookshop and literary censorship in 1980s Britain", 26 January, 2021

    Noon to 2 pm.

    “Gay Books Will Burn” proclaimed a headline in London freesheet Capital Gay in June 1984, following the second of several raids by HM Customs and Excise on Gay’s the Word bookshop, Bloomsbury. These raids, known as “Operation Tiger”, saw thousands of pounds’ worth of stock seized, staff homes searched, and eight of the shop’s directors and its manager charged with importing indecent or obscene titles. They faced an Old Bailey trial, and possible imprisonment: the most high-profile obscenity case since that of Lady Chatterley’s Lover in 1960. Yet Operation Tiger – and the sustained, and ultimately successful, campaign mounted to “Defend Gay’s the Word” in the face of this heavy-handed state intervention – remains a largely underexamined episode in queer history. In this talk, I place Operation Tiger in a longer history of literary censorship and queer book use, examining the relationship between the state, the (queer) consumer, and the British bookselling and publishing industries. As mistrust of and hostility towards LGBTQ+ people continues to manifest in anxieties about books and reading, I suggest that attention to Operation Tiger and its repercussions is overdue – and may usefully inform our current moment.


    Sarah Pyke received her PhD in early 2020 from the University of Roehampton. In 2019-20, she worked on the AHRC-funded Living Libraries project, collecting and curating an archive of oral histories from people who use, work in and run the UK's public libraries, which will be preserved by the British Library. She is currently Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London.

    This talk is made possible by our involvement in the collaborative research center Law and Literature (DFG SFB1385 Recht und Literatur).

  • 3-4 November 2020: “Bookshelves in the Age of the COVID-19 Pandemic” Online Conference

    © 200 Degrees / Pixabay

    ONLINE CONFERENCE: “Bookshelves in the Age of the COVID-19 Pandemic”, November 3-4, 2020 (via Microsoft Teams)

    As we work from home and attend endless online meetings, our bookshelves are suddenly on public display. The speakers at this international conference will critically examine this particular cultural phenomenon, brought to public attention by the pandemic. This online-only conference is organized by the History of Books and Reading (HOBAR) research collaboration based in the Department of English & Creative Writing, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), The Open University and supported by SHARP (The Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing), the world’s largest scholarly organization in this research field.

    We are delighted to report that our colleague Ellen Barth and our current students Chandni Ananth and Laura Ntoumanis will be presenting along with WWU alumna Natalia Tolstopyat.

    Organizers: Dr. Shafquat Towheed, Dr. Edmund King, Dr. Sally Blackburn-Daniels (Open University), Prof. Dr. Corinna Norrick-Ruehl (University of Muenster)

  • 8 October 2020: Dr. Anamik Saha, “(Re)Thinking Diversity in the Publishing Industry”

    © Spread the Word/Goldsmiths, London, UK

    VIRTUAL PUBLIC TALK AND Q&A: Dr. Anamik Saha, “(Re)Thinking Diversity in the Publishing Industry” (via zoom)

    This research project, conducted by Dr Anamik Saha and Dr Sandra van Lente at Goldsmiths, University of London, in cooperation with Spread the Word and The Bookseller, explores the obstacles that writers of colour face in UK trade publishing. It rethinks ‘diversity’ by shifting the debate from a sole focus on the quantity of minorities who work in publishing to the quality of the experience, particularly for writers of colour. The project’s aim was to examine the ways that writers of colour are published and to reflect the findings back to the industry to make visible where the structural problems are. The research entailed qualitative interviews with 113 professionals in the publishing industries (authors, agents, CEOs and managing directors, editors, designers, staff in marketing, PR and sales, as well as booksellers and literature festival organisers). We explored how writers of colour are affected by each of these stages of production, and developed recommendations and calls to action from our findings.

    Date: 8 October 2020
    Time: 10.30 am – noon

    This event is hosted by the Chair of Book Studies as part of our involvement in the SFB 1385 Law and Literature [de].