Centre for Modernist Studies


Grace Lake / Anna Mendelssohn Papers

Born in 1948, Anna Mendelssohn was an activist and a highly regarded avant-garde writer and artist. In 1972, she was sentenced to prison for her political activities; post prison, she was accepted to Cambridge to read English and had a family whilst studying. Among her publications are the volume Implacable Art (Folio/Equipage 2000), a series of chapbooks, predominantly with Rod Mengham's Equipage press, and contributions to anthologies including Iain Sinclair's Conductors of Chaos (Picador 1996).

When she died Mendelssohn left behind a vast, glorious collection of manuscripts and drawings. Dr. Sara Crangle, director of the Centre for Modernist Studies, brought the archive to Sussex in 2010 through the generous donation of Anna Mendelssohn's family. The archive is open to the public as of September 2015 and full details are available on The Keep's website.


Sussex Modernism

The Centre for Modernist Studies is currently hosting events around the theme of ‘Sussex Modernism’.


Sussex is a county in which many of the leading writers, artists, composers, architects and patrons of British Modernism lived at key moments of their lives: Eric Gill and David Jones at Ditchling; Virginia and Leonard Woolf at Rodmell; Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant at Charleston; Roland Penrose and Lee Miller at Farley Farm; W. B. Yeats and Ezra Pound at Stone Cross; Jacob Epstein near Hastings; Henry James at Lamb House; D. H. Lawrence at Greatham; Edward James at West Dean; Eric Ravilious at Eastbourne; and Peggy Guggenheim at South Harting. Ivy Compton-Burnett was brought up in Hove; E. M. Forster was at preparatory school in Eastbourne as were Cyril Connolly and George Orwell; Evelyn Waugh was educated at Lancing; Grahame Greene lived in Brighton; Patrick Hamilton was born in Hassocks and lived in Hove. Surrealist psychoanalyst and painter Grace Pailthorpe and artist Reuben Mednikoff lived in Hastings. The composers Edward Elgar, Hubert Parry, John Ireland and Frank Bridge lived in Sussex: Bridge at Friston where his one and only pupil was Benjamin Britten; from 1934 opera at Glyndebourne has brought the world’s leading musical directors, designers, conductors and singers to Sussex. Winifred Ellerman lived and was educated in Eastbourne before becoming a writer, feminist intellectual, partner of the poetess Hilda Doolittle and patroness of European modernist magazines, bookshops and avant-garde cinema; Sydney Schiff, writer and translator, had a house in Eastbourne where he entertained T. S. Eliot and Katherine Mansfield and promoted the work of Marcel Proust in the English-speaking world. Raymond Williams lived and worked as a WEA lecturer in Seaford and Hastings. Walter Hussey was a renowned patron of the arts in Chichester, commissioning Graham Sutherland to paint an altarpiece and Leonard Bernstein to compose the Chichester Psalms, as well as working with John Piper, Cecil Collins, William Walton and Marc Chagall. Rick Mather’s Towner Gallery in Eastbourne and Loftus and Grieve’s Jerwood Gallery in Hastings are the latest additions to modernist public architecture in Sussex. From Mendelsohn and Chermayeff’s De La War Pavilion at Bexhill to Basil Spence’s University of Sussex at Falmer and Powell and Moya’s Chichester Festival Theatre, Sussex is also rich in modernist architecture.

Sussex Modernism now

Modernist experimentation continues to flourish at Sussex with the annual Sussex Poetry Festival, co-founded by Sara Crangle, and Hi Zero poetry readings, organised by Joe Luna.

In 2015 a series of public lectures on Sussex Modernism, hosted at the Towner Gallery, Eastbourne, were organised by Dr Alistair Davies.

Events related to the theme of Sussex Modernism can be found here.

Researching Sussex Modernism

The Keep at Sussex University holds many important collections relating to Sussex Modernism, including the Monk’s House papers (holding Virginia Woolf’s papers), the Leonard Woolf Archive, the Hogarth Press Book Collection, the papers of Rudyard Kipling, the papers of Charles Madge and the Mass Observation Archive.


Please contact Dr Hope Wolf, H.Wolf@sussex.ac.uk for information about future events. Hope would also welcome PhD proposals from students who are interested in working on themes related to Sussex Modernism, or who wish to work on any of the above authors and artists.

Modernist Magazines Project

The critic Michael Levenson warned that "A coarsely understood modernism is at once an historical scandal and a contemporary disability". The Modernist Magazines Project aimed to refine and enhance the record through the production of a scholarly resource and comprehensive critical and cultural history of modernist magazines in the period 1880-1945. So-called 'little magazines' were small, independent publishing ventures committed to new and experimental work. Literally hundreds of such magazines flourished in this period, providing an indispensable forum for modernist innovation and debate. They helped sustain small artistic communities, strengthened the resolve of small iconoclastic groups, keen to change the world, and gave many major modernists their first opportunities in print. Many of these magazines existed only for a few issues and then collapsed; but almost all of them contained work of outstanding originality and future significance.

The project aimed to document and analyse the role of both fugitive and more established magazines and to consider their contribution to the construction of modernism in Britain, Europe and North America. It resulted in a 3 volume Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines, an Anthology and an online resource, comprising an index of magazines, bibliographical and biographical data, selected contents and web links.

The study of modernism has been revolutionised over the last decade. Although it has long been recognised that 'little magazines' made a distinctive contribution to the modern movement, only a few examples have received any direct attention. The Modernist Magazines Project resulted in the most comprehensive critical study so far of this aspect of modernism and will be an essential tool for all researchers and scholars in the field.

The project was directed by Professor Peter Brooker (University of Sussex, now the University of Nottingham) and Professor Andrew Thacker (De Montfort University) and was supported by major funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). More details can be seen on the Modernist Magazines website.