CFP: Archives, authority, aura: Modernism’s archival turn

Journal Special Issue: Papers on Language and Literature

Special Issue Call for Papers

Edited by Naomi Milthorpe, University of Tasmania

The modernist scholar increasingly engages in work in the archive: engaging in minute and painstaking textual labour, seeking authority in manuscript papers and genetic criticism, or assisting in the opening up of modernist texts as part of digital humanities projects. We dig, pore, peer, and dust, seeking in the authenticity of the object an authoritative material basis for new readings. Thus our labour in the archive resembles sometimes archaeology as much as literary criticism. At the same time as archives are sites of solid physical slog, and of a stabilising foundation in materiality, they also seem to prompt dream-work. Manuscripts have aura; they are relics; they enchant us. Part of the enchantment of the archive emerges from its multiple narrative possibilities, as Alice Yaegar Kaplan suggests: will the researcher find herself in an epic, a gumshoe novel, or an adventure story? As a result, archive work proffers complex and multiple affective responses, and possesses, as Philip Larkin, once stated, a “magical value.”

This special issue of Papers on Language and Literature seeks case studies, narratives of material encounters, and close readings, in order to investigate and interrogate the recent turn to the archive in New Modernist Studies. The issue will aim to draw together central debates germane to both modernist studies and archival studies: from the opposition (and interrelatedness) of material and digital culture; the role of the author-figure in supporting manuscript studies; and the ethics and politics of the archival turn.

Papers may consider, but are not limited to, the following topics, approaches, and questions:

  • The author figure in modernist archival studies
  • Collection: processes, politics and practices
  • Material and digital archives
  • Aura, authenticity, and authority
  • The construction of authorial or scholarly identity through the archive
  • Official and alternative histories
  • Archives and everydayness
  • The archive as home
  • Do manuscripts still matter?


Papers should be approximately 6000 words long and conform to the 2008 MLA Style Guide. For queries or to submit a paper please contact the editor at

Deadline for submissions: 31 January 2018