Areas of interest
My research focuses on literature in the modern period. I have broad interests in literary history, publishing, and print culture and my work is underscored by questions of feminism and class.
My first book, Home in British Working-Class Fiction (Ashgate, 2015), argued for the importance of home and domestic space in framing understandings of social class. It was reviewed in the TLS as an 'ambitious and welcome addition' to the study of working-class writing (March, 2016).
My second book, Books by Mail: The Story of the Book Society, 1929-69 explores the lives and literary tastes of Britain's first set of book club judges: Hugh Walpole, J. B. Priestley, Sylvia Lynd, Cecil Day-Lewis and Edmund Blunden. This has been funded by a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship. See here for more on the project.
I am currently working on three research projects. (i) Publishing Class uses the publishers' archives at UoR to explore the long history of publishing working-class writing and the structural challenges that writers from a working-class background have often faced. I wrote about this for The Bookseller.
(ii) The Modernist Archives Publishing Project (MAPP) is a critical digital archive that aims to reanimate the networks of C20 publishing. I am working with colleagues in UoR Special Collections and international partners to make parts of the Hogarth Press archive more widely available. and developing new research on 'Women in Publishing' as part of this project.
(iii) The Edinburgh Companion to Women in Publishing, 1900-2000 (Edinburgh University Press), eds. Wilson, Claire Battershill, Sophie Heywood, Daniela la Penna, Helen Southworth, Alice Staveley, Elizabeth Willson Gordon, Marrisa Joseph. I am lead editor on this 40+Ch international companion, highlighting womens' diverse work within global book and magazine publishing.
Since 2011 I have worked to bring the writings of Lancashire mill woman Ethel Carnie Holdsworth back into circulation, as featured in The Big Issue in the North (June 2016)
Prior to working at Reading I studied at the Universities of Warwick, Oxford and Durham.
I am currently supervising PhD projects on the Mills & Boon and Allen & Unwin archives, publishing in 1922, and libraries and literary censorship in Victorian Britain. I would be delighted to hear from prospective PhD students in any of my areas of research.
I run Part 3 modules:
- Class Matters
- Publishing Cultures: Writers, Publics, Archives
and Part 2 module:
- The Business of Books
I co-convene the core Masters module Materiality & Textuality and optional module Modern Literary Feminisms.
I am co-director of the interdisciplinary Centre for Book Cultures and Publishing and have specialist interests in using The Archive of British Publishing and Printing in my teaching and research. I have written on publishers' and digital archives, circulating libraries, colonial editions, literary censorship, reading patterns, and Leonard and Virginia Woolf's Hogarth Press.
In 2017, I organised the 27th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf at the University of Reading to coincide with the centenary of the Hogarth Press. Hear me talking to Mariella Frostrup on BBC Radio 4 about the centenary.
I am theme lead for the Department of English Literature's 'Archives & Materialities' research strand.
Recent research projects
Literature, Readers, and the Book Society Ltd., 1929-60
My current book explores the literary and cultural impact of the Book Society Ltd (1926-60). This was the first mail-order book club to operate in Britain and its influential Selection Committee (which included writers Hugh Walpole, J. B. Priestley, Clemence Dane and Edmund Blunden) played an important role in shaping mid-C20 tastes and reading patterns. Many well-known texts including Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca (1938), Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited (1945) and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) were Book Society Choices. Whereas the impact of the American Book-of-the-Month Club is well-known, the British Book Society is under-researched and rarely features in histories of reading or literary and cultural analysis of the C20. My research uses archival records to demonstrate how this powerful distributor transformed literary culture, the literary marketplace and multi-national reading communities.
See also: 'Virginia Woolf, Hugh Walpole, the Hogarth Press, and the Book Society', English Literary History, 79:1, Spring 2012, 237-60
The Modernist Archives Publishing Project (MAPP): The Hogarth Press Archive Online
I am a co-investigator on an international digital humanities project with colleagues Claire Battershill (Simon Fraser University, Canada), Alice Staveley (Stanford, US), Michael Widner (Stanford, US), Helen Southworth (University of Oregon, US) and Elizabeth Willson Gordon (King's University, Canada).
Currently under construction, the Modernist Archives Publishing Project (MAPP) aims to be a hub for digital scholarship and research on twentieth-century publishing (see
The database aims to capture the processes of textual production, dissemination, and reception - from the author's initial solicitation or submission to the publishing house, through editorial and production processes, to dust jackets and book design, readership and reviews, and catalogued sales figures. Ultimately we hope to expand beyond the Hogarth Press to include other publishers' archives.
I have been awarded two Undergraduate Research Opportunities Project (UROP) Awards to enable student-researchers to work on MAPP. For their blogs on the project please see:
See also: Wilson, N., Willson Gordon, E., Staveley, A., Southworth, H. and Battershill, C. (2014) The Hogarth Press, Digital Humanities, and Collaboration: Introducing the Modernist Archives Publishing Project (MAPP). In: Wussow, H. and Gillies, M. A. (eds.) Virginia Woolf and the Common(wealth) Reader. Clemson University Digital Press, Clemson, pp. 223-231. ISBN 9780989082679
In 2017, we are hosted the Annual International Virginia Woolf conference at the University of Reading to mark the centenary of the founding of The Hogarth Press.
The Ethel Carnie Holdsworth series, General Editor
This series is reissuing the work of Ethel Carnie Holdsworth (1886-1962): Lancashire mill-woman, journalist, poet, writer for children, author of serial fiction, novelist and political activist. I republished her classic industrial novel, This Slavery (1925) with Trent Editions in 2011. In 1913 Kennedy & Boyd reissued Carnie Holdsworth's first novel published in book form, Miss Nobody (1913), believed to be one of the first novels published by a British woman of working-class background. Our next title is Helen of Four Gates (1917), with a critical introduction by Pamela Fox. This was Carnie Holdsworth's bestseller, and made into a silent film in 1922 by Cecil Hepworth. The next reissue is General Belinda (1924), with an introduction by Roger Smalley. This is an episodic tale of domestic service, with powerful scenes of life as a Prisoner of War during WW1.
I have given talks on Ethel Carnie Holdsworth at The Working Class Movement Library in Salford, Blackburn and Great Harwood public libraries, and on BBC Radio Manchester and BBC Radio Lancashire.
Previous research projects
Home in British Working-Class Fiction (Ashgate, 2015)
The history of the working classes has often been written from the 'outside', with observers 'looking in' to the world of the inhabitants. My book engages with the long cultural history of this gaze and asks how 'home' is represented in the writing of authors who come from a working-class background. It explores the depiction of home as a key emotional and material site in working-class writing from the Edwardian period through to the early 1990s, with close readings of many works including The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (1914), Love on the Dole (1933), Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1958), Second-Class Citizen (1974) and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1985).
I recently contributed to a centenary film on Robert Tressell, 'Still Ragged: 100 Years of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists' produced by independent film-makers Shut Out the Light (2014).
The Impact of Distribution and Reading Patterns on the History of the Novel in Britain, 1880-1940 (AHRC research project with Dr Andrew Nash and Professor Patrick Parrinder)
This project examined the relationship between book history and literary history by investigating whether and to what extent the novel as a literary and cultural form has been affected by changing patterns in the distribution and readership of texts.
The project drew heavily on the nationally designated Archive of British Publishers and Printers in UoR Special Collections. I looked at correspondence between publishers and authors and financial records in publishers' archives to examine the impact of important distributors and groups of readers (like private, circulating libraries such as W.H. Smiths and Boots Book-lovers' Library) on the writing and revision of literary texts.
My essay on 'Boots Book-Lovers' library, the Novel and James Hanley's The Furys (1935)' won the 2013 Justin Winsor essay award from the American Library History Round Table.
- General editor of a new series of the works of Ethel Carnie Holdsworth with Kennedy & Boyd
- Co-editor, with Patrick Parrinder and Andrew Nash, of New Directions in the History of the Novel (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014)
- Editor of The Book World: Selling and Distributing British Literature, 1900-40 (Brill, forthcoming)
- Special issue of the Raymond Williams Society journal, Key Words: A Journal of Cultural Materialism, 5 (2007-8), 'Working Spaces, Working Lives'
Recent invitations to present my work
- Oxford Bibliographical Society, May 2015 - 'The Book Society Ltd and mid-twentieth century literary culture'.
- Invited lecture at international conference on the 'Democratic Highbrow', University of Salerno, Italy, May 2014 - 'The Hogarth Press and the Book Society'.
- 2013 Invited speaker at 'States of Independence: Independent Press Day' at De Montfort University
- Interview for BBC Radio 4, 'The Walpole Chronicle', May 2011, on the relationship between Virginia Woolf and Hugh Walpole, based on research in the Hogarth Press archives in Reading's Special Collections. (includes Listen Again)
I am the Lead editor on Cambridge Elements 'Publishing and Book Culture' series strand on 'Women, Publishing, and Book Culture', and on the editorial board of Key Words: A Journal of Cultural Materialism, the Raymond Williams Society journal.
I have peer reviewed book proposals and manuscripts for Bloomsbury, Routledge, and Palgrave Macmillan, and for the journals ELH, Literature and History, Contemporary Womens Writing, Book History, PMLA, Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, and Enterprise and Society.
- Wilson, N. ORCID: 0000-0003-4843-840X , Battershill, C. , Clarkson, H. , Hannah, M. , Nokhrin, I. , Willson Gordon, E. (2022) Digital critical archives, copyright, and feminist praxis. Archival Sciences ISSN: 1573-7500 | doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10502-021-09384-x
- Wilson, N. ORCID: 0000-0003-4843-840X and Southworth, H. (2020) Early women workers at the Hogarth Press (c.1917–25). Women in Print, vol 2 production, distribution and consumption. , 2. Peter Lang
- Wilson, N. ORCID: 0000-0003-4843-840X , Staveley, A. , Battershill, C. , Southworth, H. , Hannah, M. , Willson Gordon, E. (2020) New hands on old papers: modernist publishing and the archival gaze. Modernism/Modernity Print Plus , 5 (3).
- Wilson, N. ORCID: 0000-0003-4843-840X (2020) Ethel Carnie Holdsworth: General Belinda, co-operation and the servant problem. Women: a cultural review , 31 (4). pp. 433-451. ISSN: 1470-1367 | doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09574042.2020.1843238
- Wilson, N. ORCID: 0000-0003-4843-840X and O'Brien, P. (2020) Introduction: Raymond Williams and Working-Class Writing. Key Words: A Journal of Cultural Materialism , 18 pp. 5-21. ISSN: 1369-9725
- Carnie Holdsworth, E. and Smalley, R. , eds. (2019) General Belinda. The Ethel Carnie Holdsworth Series Kennedy & Boyd , Edinburgh. pp 226. ISBN: 9781849211369
- Wilson, N. (2019) ‘So now tell me what you think!’: Sylvia Lynd's collaborative reading and reviewing - the collaborative work of an interwar middlewoman. Literature & History , 28 (1). pp. 49-65. ISSN: 0306-1973 | doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0306197319829362
- Wilson, N. and Battershill, C. , eds. (2018) Virginia Woolf and 'The World of Books'. Woolf Selected Papers Clemson University Press , Clemson. pp 312. ISBN: 9781942954569
- Wilson, N. (2018) Middlemen, middlebrow, broadbrow. In: Ferrall, C. and McNeill, D. , (eds.) British Literature in Transition, 1920-1940: Futility and Anarchy. Cambridge University Press , Cambridge. pp. 315-330. ISBN: 9781316535929
- Wilson, N. (2017) Ethel Carnie Holdsworth: genre, serial fiction, and popular reading patterns. In: Goodridge, J. and Keegan, B. , (eds.) A History of British Working Class Literature. Cambridge University Press , Cambridge. ISBN: 9781107190405 | doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.1017/9781108105392.021
- Battershill, C. , Southworth, H. , Staveley, A. , Widner, M. , Willson Gordon, E. , Wilson, N. (2017) Scholarly adventures in the digital humanities: making the Modernist Archives Publishing Project. Palgrave Pivot Palgrave Macmillan , Houndmills. ISBN: 9783319472102
- Carnie Holdsworth, E. , eds. (2016) Helen of Four Gates. The Ethel Carnie Holdsworth Series Kennedy & Boyd , Edinburgh. pp 215. ISBN: 9781849211284
- Wilson, N. (2016) British publishers and colonial editions. In: Wilson, N. , (eds.) The Book World: Selling and Distributing British Literature. Library of the Written Word Brill , The Hague. ISBN: 9789004315860
- Wilson, N. , eds. (2016) The book world: selling and distributing British literature, 1900-40. Library of the Written Word Brill , The Hague. pp 221. ISBN: 9789004315860
- Wilson, N. (2016) Virginia Woolf and the Book Society Limited. In: Vandivere, J. and Hicks, M. , (eds.) Virginia Woolf and her female contemporaries. Clemson University Press: Woolf Selected Papers Liverpool University Press , Liverpool. ISBN: 9781942954088
- Wilson, N. (2016) Working class fictions, 1940-73. In: Boxall, P. and Cheyette, B. , (eds.) Volume 7: British and Irish Fiction since 1940. The Oxford History of the Novel in English Oxford University Press , Oxford. ISBN: 9780198749394
- Wilson, N. , Willson Gordon, E. , Staveley, A. , Southworth, H. , Battershill, C. (2014) The Hogarth Press, Digital Humanities, and Collaboration: Introducing the Modernist Archives Publishing Project (MAPP). In: Wussow, H. and Gillies, M. , (eds.) Virginia Woolf and the Common(wealth) Reader. Virginia Woolf and the Common(wealth) Reader, Virginia Woolf Selected Papers pp. 223-231. ISSN: 978-0-9890826-7-9 ISBN: 9780989082679
- Parrinder, P. , Nash, A. , Wilson, N. (2014) Introduction. In: Parrinder, P. , Nash, A. , Wilson, N. , (eds.) New directions in the history of the novel. Palgrave Macmillan , Basingstoke. pp. 1-14. ISBN: 9781137026972
- Parrinder, P. , Nash, A. , Wilson, N. , eds. (2014) New directions in the history of the novel. Palgrave Macmillan , Basingstoke. pp 256. ISBN: 9781137026972
- Wilson, N. (2014) Archive fever: the publishers' archive and the history of the novel. In: Parrinder, P. , Nash, A. , Wilson, N. , (eds.) New Directions in the History of the Novel. Palgrave Macmillan , Houndmills. pp. 76-87. ISBN: 9781137026972
- Wilson, N. (2014) Boots Book-lovers' Library and the novel: The impact of a circulating library market on twentieth-century fiction. Information and Culture: A Journal of History , 49 (4). pp. 427-449. ISSN: 2164-8034 | doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.7560/ic49402
- Carnie, E. , eds. (2013) Miss Nobody. The Ethel Carnie Holdsworth Series , 1. Kennedy & Boyd , Kilkerran. pp 264. ISBN: 9781849211277
- Wilson, N. (2013) Circulating morals, 1900-15. In: Bradshaw, D. and Potter, R. , (eds.) Prudes on the Prowl: Literature, Obscenity and Censorship in England, 1850-The Present Day. Oxford University Press , Oxford. pp. 52-70. ISBN: 9780199697564
- Wilson, N. (2012) Virginia Woolf, Hugh Walpole, the Hogarth Press, and the Book Society. English Literary History , 79 (1). pp. 237-6547. ISSN: 1080-6547 | doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.1353/elh.2012.0008
- Wilson, N. (2010) Ethel Carnie Holdsworth (1886-1962), ex-mill girl novelist. Women's History Magazine , 63 pp. 27-31. ISSN: 1476-6760
- Wilson, N. (2010) Libraries, censorship and reading patterns. In: Parrinder, P. and Gasiorek, A. , (eds.) The Reinvention of the British and Irish Novel 1880-1940. The Oxford History of the Novel Oxford University Press (Vol 4). , Oxford. pp. 36-54. ISBN: 9780199559336
- Wilson, N. (2007) Politicising the home in Ethel Carnie Holdsworth's 'This Slavery' (1925) and Ellen Wilkinson's 'Clash' (1929) . Key Words: A Journal of Cultural Materialism , 5 pp. 26-42. ISSN: 1369-9725