Alix Beeston is Senior Lecturer 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) and the digital project Object Women. She is at work on two new books: a generalist, richly illustrated study of women in photography, and an edited collection of essays exploring the feminist possibilities of the unfinished film. Alix also edits the Visualities forum on Print Plus.
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.
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.
At the Oxford University Press stall at last year’s Modern Language Association Convention in New York City, Louise Hornby’s Still Modernism: Photography, Literature, Film was propped up next to Moving Modernisms: Motion, Technology, and Modernity, a collection of essays edited by David Bradshaw, Laura Marcus, and Rebecca Roach. Accidental, perhaps; mischievous, I hope: an editorial assistant with a twinkle in her eye.
This second batch of writers on the process of finishing their books ranges from meditations on the situatedness of academic writing to blow-by-blow descriptions of the publication process to a call for more inventive and ethical ways of acknowledging one’s scholarly companions. Here you can find writing on the “hard edge of a colonial language,” in Sarah Dowling’s apt description of her work. Helen Rydstrand narrates the difficulty of accepting any work as good enough. Rebecca Colesworthy calls attention to the “not-writing”: the money, time, and resources that condition the long-term development of a book. And Alix Beeston’s “intervallic bridgework” concludes this installment of the Process cluster by pushing the form of the monograph toward a politics of citation.
In 1876, Francis Galton, the cousin of Charles Darwin and the founder of eugenics, reported to the Anthropological Institute of London his newest physiognomic method for uncovering and defining human "types." Galton’s composite portraiture was an exercise in re-photography that co-opted the mechanical precision of the photograph for a pseudoscience of predetermined sociological and biological categories.