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Centre for Uses of Literature

Radical Politics and Readers' Competitions: Amabel Williams-Ellis and Left Review

On 5 December 2023 (14:00-15:30) Clara Jones will give an online talk on Radical Politics and Readers' Competitions: Amabel Williams-Ellis and Left Review. Everyone welcome! Email for the Zoom link.

Abstract: Scantly read today, Amabel Williams-Ellis was a high-profile woman of left-wing letters at the mid-century. Literary and political journalist, popular front novelist and consummate committee woman, her name features on the executives of signal modernist institutions and political organizations, including The Left Book Club and International PEN. This paper focuses on her involvement with one such institution, the radical journal, Left Review. Williams-Ellis co-edited the journal from 1934-1936; organised its readers’ competitions; reported from the First Soviet Writer’s Congress in Moscow in 1934 where she was the sole British delegate and wrote one-off articles and book reviews. And yet existing criticism has paid little attention to Williams-Ellis’s role at Left Review or the sexual politics of the journal more broadly, both things this paper aims to do via an examination of her administration of its ‘Readers’ Competitions’. This research on Williams-Ellis addresses the ‘blind spot for women’ which Janet Montefiore notes in ‘Marxist “counter-histories” which deal with other traditions of left-wing writing than “mainstream” Audenesque (The Dangerous Flood of History (Routledge, 1996) p. 20).

Clara Jones is Senior Lecturer in Modern Literature at King’s College London. She is the author of Virginia Woolf: Ambivalent Activist (EUP 2016), which rescues the details of Woolf's political activism and social participation with organisations including the People's Suffrage Federation and the Women’s Co-operative Guild. Her current book project is about British interwar women writers and activists, and her next major research project, ‘Committee Women,’ is a literary and cultural history of women’s administrative labour in twentieth-century organisations.

Last Updated 15.02.2024