Dr Emma West BA, MA, PhD, AFHEA

Dr Emma West

Department of English Literature
British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow

Contact details

University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

My research examines the relationship between high modernism and popular culture in early- and mid-twentieth century Britain. My postdoctoral project, Revolutionary Red Tape: How state bureaucracy shaped British modernism examines how public servants and official committees helped to commission, disseminate and popularise British modernist art, design, architecture and literature.


  • BA, Cardiff University (2009)
  • MA, Cardiff University (2011)
  • PhD, Cardiff University (2017)


I studied for my BA, MA and PhD in the School of English, Communication and Philosophy at Cardiff University. While writing my PhD, I taught on several English Literature modules, teaching everything from Romantic poetry to the contemporary novel. I am an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. In 2012, I spent three months at the Library of Congress as part of the AHRC’s International Placement Scheme; in Autumn 2016, I was a Visiting Scholar at KU Leuven, Belgium.


In 2017/18 I will be teaching on the core Modernism module on the MA Literature and Culture.


My work is interdisciplinary: as such, I have a wide range of research interests in periodicals, material and visual culture, the ‘brows’ and cultural hierarchies, fashion, and performance from early- and mid-twentieth century Britain.

My PhD thesis, 'The Highs and Lows of Modernism: A Cultural Deconstruction', considered how a range of 'popular' texts from fashion to travel posters to mass-market magazines challenged the strict divide between 'high' and 'low' culture in 1920s Britain. My work is informed by critical and cultural theory, but I am increasingly interested in reclaiming lost or neglected sources which expand our understanding of the modern period.

I have published essays on modernism, fashion and theory; I am currently preparing an essay on Wyndham Lewis’s magazine the Tyro and the popular fiction magazine the Royal, as well as a piece on modernist design for British ballet. I am also developing two editorial projects which explore the relationship between word and image in literary and artistic modernism.

Other activities

I am the Founder and Chair of Modernist Network Cymru (MONC).

I have organised or co-organised many conferences, including Alternative Modernisms (Cardiff University, 2013), A Century On: Modernist Studies in Wales (Swansea University, 2015), Twentieth-Century British Periodicals (University of Reading, 2017) and Word and Image (National Library of Wales, 2017).

I was a postgraduate representative for the British Association for Modernist Studies (BAMS) in 2013.

I am a member of the British Association for Modernist Studies (BAMS) and the Modernist Studies Association (MSA).  


Book chapters

  • ‘Surrealist? Modernist? Artist? - The Vicissitudes of Elsa Schiaparelli’, in Patricia Allmer (ed.), Intersections - Women Artists/Surrealism/Modernism (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2016)
  • ‘“hap-hap-hap-hap-happy clothes”: Avant-Garde Experiments in/with Material(s)’, in Sasha Bru et al., The Aesthetics of Matter: Modernism, the Avant-garde and Material Exchange (Berlin: De Grutyer, 2013), 67-81.

Journal articles

  • ‘“Betwixt and Between”: Towards a (N)ontology of the Mediocre’, Word and Text, 3.1 (2013), 12-24.
  • ‘A Modern(ist) Mode: Fashion, 1910 and the Limits of Modernism’, Word and Text, 1.2 (2011), 65-78.


  • ‘Modernism, Middlebrow and the Literary Canon: The Modern Library Series, 1917–1955 by Lise Jaillant (review)’, Modernism/Modernity, 22.2 (April 2015), 415-416.