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Senate House Library

Spineless Wonders series: digital and queer publishing


Written by
Tansy Barton & Leila Kassir, Academic Librarians, Senate House Library

Spineless Wonders is a network of artists, writers, academics and librarians across the UK, creating and researching small press publications including artists books. The project and accompanying event series celebrates the value and variety of material published without a spine. The third event in the series is taking place online on Friday 13 May 2022 - book your free place here. The day will include panels exploring queer publishing and digital spineless forms with a roundtable looking back at the project so far and what is to come. 

Jenny lives with Eric and Martin / by Susanne Bösche ; with photos by Andreas Hansen ; translated from the Danish by Louis Mackay. London: Gay Men’s Press, 1987

Panel 1: Queer Publishing

Senate House Library is co-organising with the Institute of English Studies the first panel of the day on Queer Publishing, which will consider historic and contemporary examples of the ways in which LGBTQ+ experiences, identity, creativity, and community have been - and are being - expressed in print. The talks promise to be varied and engaging. 

Brooke Palmieri, who runs Camp Books, will talk on ‘information activism’ and the economies of paper-based exchange, creating fresh prints and selling queer second-hand materials to generate funds for art, activism, and mutual aid. David Grundy will explore the group of 1950s Boston poets, including John Wieners and Joe Dunn, who were termed ‘The Occult School’, and who collectively published fugitive, one-off magazines and limited-run chapbooks. Rudy Loewe will share how they have used self-publishing, via zines, comics, artists’ books, to engage critical dialogues and create learning resources. Christopher Adams will talk on the role of the dust jacket in the publication of queer texts during the mid-twentieth century, and how these ephemeral book wrappers impact our understanding of the books. Finally, Michael Bronski will consider his experiences during the decade following the Stonewall uprising, and how print was used to consciously build queer communities. 

Panel 2: Digital Forms of the Book and Archive

Spineless publications don’t just exist in printed formats, but also in virtual and digitised spheres. This panel of five speakers, organised by the Spineless Wonders project team, will consider aspects of online book and archival culture. Christopher Ohge will show how digital archives and scholarly editing can reveal the story behind Mary Rawson’s 1834 anti-slavery anthology ‘The Bow in the Cloud’. Tabitha Tuckett will present digital humanities research projects utilising UCL library’s special collections and multi- & hyper-spectral imaging. Heather Yeung will present and read from her poetry and small press publications. Elaine Treharne’s talk will explore artists’ books and ephemera alongside digital poetics and Tim Brennan will present ‘A Drawing Ceremony: a short guide to contemplative and meditational drawing.’ 

Panel 3: Roundtable of Organisers

The final panel of the day will be a roundtable discussion between the Spineless Wonders project team, which consists of academics, artists, writers, and librarians from the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL and UCL Library, the Institute of English Studies at the School of Advanced Studies, Dundee University, Manchester Metropolitan University and Senate House Library. This panel will be a chance to reflect on the ideas which have emerged across the three Spineless Wonders events which have taken place this academic year, and to consider futures for the subject and the project. 

Sigils for queers, poster printed at London: Camp Books, 2019