In the history of the development of human civilization, the Silk Road has been an important route of traffic and exchange between the East and the West. From Zhang Qian’s 張騫 opening up of the Silk Road across the Western Regions (Xiyue 西域) to Zheng He’s 鄭和 sailing to the Western Oceans (xia xiyang 下西洋) more than 1500 years later, China had a continuous desire to explore beyond its borders. At the time of Zheng He, the term “Western Oceans” (xiyang 西洋) had a specific meaning. As shown by the account of Ma Huan 馬歡, who personally joined Zheng He on the voyages, the people of Ming China considered the “Western Oceans” to be the Namoli Ocean (Namoli yang 那没黎洋), later called the Indian Ocean. Thus, it could be concluded that the Western Oceans where Zheng He’s fleet went meant the Indian Ocean. Even today most scholars still divide the Eastern and Western Oceans at Brunei, with no clear understanding of where the Western Oceans to which Zheng He sailed were actually located. It is therefore important to make clear that the Western Oceans in his time referred to the Indian Ocean, before moving on to investigate the purpose of the voyages and related historical issues. Even more important is to point out that Zheng He’s expeditions in the early fifteenth century reflected that Chinese people took to the seas on a scale larger than ever before and joined the maritime and overland silk routes together. The place where this occurred was the Indian Ocean.
Communities of practice
This paper explores the contexts in which the academic books of the future in the arts and humanities (A&H) are being shaped, with the aim of demonstrating how crucial it is that the communities of practice that produce those books continue to work together to build better bridges of understanding and collaboration. There is particular reference to the Arts and Humanities Research Council/ British Library Academic Book of the Future Project (2014–2017) and to a case study of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur.
Victor Gollancz, Stanley Morison, and the reimagining of marketing at Victor Gollancz, Ltd and the Left Book Club
When George Orwell’s advertising copywriting anti-hero, Gordon Comstock, declared in the 1936 novel Keep the Aspidistra Flying, ‘advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill-bucket’ (Victor Gollancz, London, p. 55), he was expressing something deep in the British psyche, that of the dichotomy between the creation of art and the pursuit of revenue. Nowhere is this seen more keenly than in publishing during the period. It is also significant that the third of Orwell’s novels was, like the previous ones, published by Victor Gollancz, because, despite the widespread view that in publishing it was a time of inertia, of maintaining the status quo, it is, of course, not as simple as that. Despite a lack of innovation in the industry the 1930s, reading numbers increased, more books were sold than ever before, the industry commercialized to an extent unseen in previous decades, and three of publishing’s most innovative men came to prominence. This paper seeks to explain how this came about—how an inherently conservative industry, with its prices and profit margins stabilized and protected by the Net Book Agreement, became radicalized in a way not seen before. I will contest that it is that very conservatism that made innovation both necessary and inevitable; that the growth in readership and disposable income during the period made it necessary to commercialize the publishing industry if it was to grow and prosper; and that business in general was waking up to the possibilities offered by marketing, and so publishing needed to harness the power of marketing if it was not to fall behind the business curve. Marketing can sometimes be about art or politics, but it is always about business. Where does that leave a personally wealthy, philanthropically inclined, but commercially minded publisher such as Gollancz? His enthusiastic take-up of the new marketing tools and processes that had come to prominence in the 1920s started with his time at Ernest Benn, accelerated with the founding of his new publishing company in 1928, and went into overdrive in 1936 when the Left Book Club was founded. It is true to say that Gollancz’s success was founded on three pillars: an unshakeable faith in his own abilities, an uncanny knack of selecting the ‘right’ titles commercially, and a thorough embracing of all that marketing and publicity had to offer, with little thought as to how that might appear to others as long as it was working for him. He was fortunate to have supporting him another great iconoclast of the time—the typographer Stanley Morison. This paper is as much about the Gollancz–Morison double act as it is about Gollancz individually, even if there can be no doubt as to the true driving force behind the changes.
Breaking the hermeneutic contract
This article examines the place of computer-generated literary texts within the boundaries of modern literary analysis. Any act of reading engages interpretive faculties; modern readers assume a text to embody human agency. With this assumption, readers assign authorial intention and hence develop a perceived contract between the author and the reader. Yet computer-generated texts bring this contract into question. Drawing from historical examples of conceptual writing, this article shows how computer-generated fiction calls into question current conceptions of authorship and what it means to be a reader, but it nevertheless fits within a longstanding literary lineage.
This article describes W. H. Smith’s bookselling strategies in the 20th century, and how the firm handled the question of whether it should supply potentially offensive publications to the public, in the 1960s and early 1970s. Its internal debate centred on avoiding adverse publicity and challenging the firm’s moral values. This research-based discussion draws attention to the relationships between booksellers and the buying public in Britain, and the expectations they each had of the other. The research indicates the wider implications for how we study print culture and book history, and the importance of the modern bookselling archive.
Questioning the legitimacy of Kim Kardashian-West’s status as a cultural and literary intermediary
This paper considers the reactions to the announcement of the Kim Kardashian-West Book Klub and explores how this episode illustrated the perceived illegitimacy of celebrities like Kardashian-West, who are commonly associated with ‘lowbrow culture’, engaging with and discussing literature, an activity that has traditionally been seen as a middlebrow endeavour. The reactions to the Kardashian-West Book Klub not only reflect issues around the status of celebrities as cultural intermediaries but also bring to the fore historical principles that have questioned the intelligence and capabilities of women readers. This paper positions the Kim Kardashian-West Book Klub within the wider historical context of women readers and book clubs and considers the prestige, or lack thereof, of celebrities who try to be cultural and literary intermediaries. The paper also considers the Kardashian-West Book Klub in relation to other major celebrity book clubs and argues that such forays into literary culture are used by some celebrities to bolster their social and cultural capital, acting first and foremost as a branch of their personal brand identity, rather than as altruistic enterprises.
Becoming a woman in 1970s teen magazines
This paper uses a case study from 1970s girls’ magazine Honey to demonstrate how paying attention to reader contributions published in magazines can give a richer, more nuanced view of the relationship between magazine and reader. The case study, a debate on why women assume they will have children, offers a new understanding of the way that such interactions in the magazine contributed to the development of young women’s understanding of the increasing freedoms available to them in the 1970s.
Caroline Davis and Vincent Trott
Nothing has had so much impact on our daily lives in the past two decades as the revolution in technologies of communication. Across the resulting debate in industry and academia the notion of ‘storytelling’ has come into prominence. It is a term in need of conceptual placement and theoretical framing. Publishers may feel that they have first call on storytelling as primary producers of the written text. When oral traditions documented by scribes gave way to authorship of the written text, the dissemination of knowledge became by way of print. But since the invention and adoption of other media—film, radio, internet, web, book apps, interactive mobile media—storytelling has been the exclusive domain of none. This paper provides a definition of ‘story’, ‘storytelling’, and ‘storyteller’ based on contemporary examples and historical usage, and traces how the affordances of new technologies have opened up pathways in storytelling by looking at examples from the origins of media convergence in the early 20th century to today.