Over the past year, I have been working on creating a digital resources website to support research and study of Wyndham Lewis’s first published novel, Tarr (1918, 1928), a project I am grateful to have had funded through an EMiC Master’s Stipend. The project has included summarizing the 1928 edition by chapter, compiling introductory information and bibliographies on Tarr and Lewis, and digitizing newspaper reviews and secondary sources relating to Tarr from the C.J. Fox Wyndham Lewis Collection housed at University of Victoria’s McPherson Library.
For those unfamiliar with Tarr, that might not be without reason: until recently, the book could only be found on the shelves of libraries, private collections, and second hand shops. After shocking early readers with its raw satire of the “bourgeois-bohemian” expatriate artists who populated Paris prior to WWI, Tarr faded into relative obscurity despite post-war revisions and multiple republications. However, Oxford’s 2010 inclusion of the novel in its World Classics series has rescued the novel from the “out of print” abyss, making the 1928 edition again available to scholars, students, and general readers.
Oxford’s republication of Tarr as a classic rightly signals that the novel holds much value for Modernist studies and pedagogy. Tarr is, in effect, a Modernist novel about early Modernism, and it offers unique insight into and critique of the social, economic, political, and cultural contexts of the art scene that birthed pre-WWI avant-garde movements.
Lewis first wrote Tarr during the period he was developing and expounding his Vorticist aesthetic prior to departing for war, and he extensively revised it a decade later, by which point his aesthetic and politics had inevitably changed. The Tarr resources website I’ve been developing, and in particular the nine digitized reviews of seven different publications of novel from the C.J. Fox Collection, are intended, in part, to provide a departure point for scholarly inquiry into the changing reception of Tarr, a topic that could also be fuelled by analysis of variations between editions. Recognizing the textual variants of the versions as a potential source of fruitful academic inquiry, the Modernist Versions Project, an online resource for collating and editing multiple versions of Modernist texts, will include the 1918 and 1928 editions of Tarr among its first digitization projects. Along with Oxford’s publication, the MVP editions will hopefully spark renewed academic interest in Tarr that the resources website could help to support.
Approaching the project without a background in web design and digitization, I have benefitted from the generous guidance and support of the EMiC community, the UVic English Department and McPherson Library Special Collections staff, and the Digital Humanities Summer Institute. I attended the DHSI course Digitization Fundamentals: Principles and their Applications at UVic in June 2011 and learned the basics of digitization. I also audited Dr. Arnie Keller’s UVic graduate seminar Creating Websites for Literary Studies and learned HTML5 and CSS3 in order to develop the site from scratch, and I received continual guidance from my MA supervisor, Dr. Stephen Ross. I also received the enthusiastic support of C.J. Fox, without whose incredible collection of Lewis-related materials the project would not have been possible.
I was additionally very fortunate to attend EMiC’s Exile’s Return Colloquium at Paris’s Sorbonne Nouvelle in June 2012, where I presented a draft of the website and received helpful feedback and encouragement. There, I had the pleasures of meeting the EMiC community and collaborators in person and attending engaging presentations on current Modernist Studies research. In the evenings, I was thrilled to explore the city that inspired the very Modernist works we had spent the day analyzing and to tour Montparnasse and Montmartre almost a century after Lewis wrote fictionalized accounts of those restless artistic neighbourhoods in Tarr.
Developing this project has been an invaluable learning experience in website design and the editorial decisions involved in producing a tool for digital literary studies. As I continue to refine the Tarr resources website, I am very grateful for all of the support the EMiC community has provided.
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