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Emma West


Emma West Position: Postgraduate Researcher Email:
Area: Critical and Cultural Theory

PhD Research

My thesis, entitled ‘The Highs and Lows of Modernism: A Cultural Deconstruction’, aims to interrogate the high/low culture divide. It examines whether this dichotomy truly describes modern texts and practices, and considers new, more productive ways of categorising cultural texts.

In doing so, the thesis draws on Derridean deconstruction, Russian formalism and cultural semiotics. It is interdisciplinary in focus, ranging across modern art, graphic design, fashion, music, literature and modern magazines.

Academic Background

MA in Critical and Cultural Theory (Distinction), Cardiff University, 2011
BA in English Literature and Cultural Criticism (1st Class Hons.), Cardiff University, 2009


‘Surrealist? Modernist? Artist – The Vicissitudes of Elsa Schiaparelli’, in Patricia Allmer (ed.), Intersections – Women Artists/Surrealism/Modernism (Manchester: Manchester University Press, forthcoming 2015)

'"hap-hap-hap-hap-happy clothes": Avant-Garde Experiments in/with Material(s)', in Sarah Posman, Anne Reverseau, David Ayers, Sascha Bru, Benedikt Hjartarson (eds.), The Aesthetics of Matter: Modernism, the Avant-garde and Material Exchange (Berlin: De Grutyer, 2013), pp. 67-81.

‘“Betwixt and Between”: Towards a (N)ontology of the Mediocre’, in Word and Text 3.1 (June 2013)

'A Modern(ist) Mode: Fashion, 1910 and the Limits of Modernism', Word and Text 1.2 (2011)

Conferences, Symposia and Seminars

Conference papers:

‘Municipal Modernism: Conflict and idealism in the General Post Office, 1933-37’, Modernism and Collaboration Conference, Franklin University, Lugano, Switzerland, June 2015

‘Illegitimacy as Creativity: Modernist Art, Fashion and Lotmanian Cultural Translation’, Cultural Translation DTP Training Day, Cardiff University, May 2015

‘“rais[ing] the level of public taste”: Utopian beliefs and vanguard design at the GPO, 1933-38’, Centre for the Study of Cultural Modernity, University of Birmingham, December 2014

'“The Well-Dressed Woman”: Fashion, Representation and Aspiration in British Travel Posters, 1920-1948', MSA 15, Everydayness and the Event, University of Sussex, August 2013

‘“The Art of the Poster”: Aesthetics vs. Profits in Popular British Posters, 1920-1948’, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington DC, December 2012

‘“Battle of the Brows”: Cultural Stratification in Modern Britain, 1867-1948’, at New Work in Modernist Studies, Institute of English Studies, University of London, December 2011

‘A Modern(ist) Mode: Fashion in 1910’, at BAMS 1910 Centenary Conference, University of Glasgow, December 2010

‘This is My Life: Kay Boyle and Modernist Autobiographics’, at 'No Hawkers No Models': The Vicissitudes of the Modernist Muse, University of Westminister, June 2010


In 2013 I was the principal organiser of the international Alternative Modernisms conference (, held at Cardiff University from 15-18 May 2013.

I am a member of (and past elected postgraduate representative for) the British Association for Modernist Studies (BAMS).

In 2012 I founded the Welsh Network of Modernist Studies. As of October 2014, the Network has now been renamed Modernist Network Cymru (MoNC); for more information or to join, please see