Alix Beeston

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Alix Beeston is Reader in English at Cardiff University. She is the author of In and Out of Sight: Modernist Writing and the Photographic Unseen (Oxford University Press, 2018, paperback 2023) and the coeditor, with Stefan Solomon, of Incomplete: The Feminist Possibilities of the Unfinished Film (University of California Press, 2023). She is the founder and now coeditor, with Pardis Dabashi, of the Visualities forum at Modernism/modernity Print+.


Judging by its Cover, Part 2

The first section of “Judging by its Cover” consists of pieces that are interested in the cover as a form of compensation, a covering over, as a piece of gorgeous textile can mask or stand in for what one doesn’t want to confront, or what can’t be confronted for whatever nefarious, oblivious, or self-deceptive reason.

Judging by its Cover, Part 1

On October 26, 1936, T. S. Eliot wrote a letter to American writer and host of an influential Parisian literary salon, Natalie Barney. In it he admitted with discernible embarrassment that his most recent author at Faber & Faber, Djuna Barnes—whose Ladies Almanack (1928) was about Barney’s salon and featured her as the character Dame Evangeline Musset—did not approve of the design for the first edition of Nightwood. “I must explain,” he writes,


A creature luminous and vexed, the firefly flits in melancholic briefness, brilliant yet burning out, its light’s little lifespan mocked by the starry fixtures of the sky. The firefly’s illumination is a chemical process, like the flash of a camera but without the photograph’s sense of permanence and history. Instead, summer by summer, children chase down these natural lanterns and collect them in mason jars, glass enclosures for viewing their darkening demise. Aquariums of lost energy.

Looking like a Modernist

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, or so the story goes. For Snow White’s stepmother, the evil Queen, the terrible magic of the mirror is its unimpeachable veracity, its devotion to the truth. The mirror doesn’t lie about what it knows; and what the mirror knows, it knows precisely; and what the mirror knows precisely, it knows visually. Who is the fairest one of all? It sees what it knows and it knows what it sees.


Critical and creative engagements with modernism's cultures, objects, and problems of sight.