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Spineless Wonders III
Spineless Wonders III, Leila Kassir, 2022

About this event

The third of a 3-day series of events presenting research on small press publications, raising questions for contemporary and future publication through returning to early histories of word and image.


10.00-10.05 Welcome address by Prof. Sharon Morris, Slade School of Fine Art, UCL and Prof. Clare Lees, Director of the Institute of English Studies, SAS.

Session 1: 10.05 - 12.00 pm Queer Publishing

Co-curated Leila Kassir and Tansy Barton, SHL and Clare Lees, IES. Chaired by Sarah Pyke, SAS, Post-doctoral Fellow for the Toolkit for Inclusion and Diversity in English Studies.

Theme: The role of Queer Publishing


Brooke Palmieri
‘Visceral Ephemeral Economies’: This talk will outline the economies of printing and selling secondhand books and rare materials to generate funds for art, activism, and mutual aid. Reflecting on the past four years of running CAMP BOOKS, Palmieri will adapt what scholar Cait McKinney calls "Information Activism" to consider the use of fresh prints on the one hand--zines and posters made to urgently respond to an event or desire--and secondhand, historical materials on the other--books and ephemera from LGBTQIA+ history--to create an alternative economies.

Brooke Palmieri is a historian, writer, and printer, if printing can also be considered as a form of sculpture and performance. In 2018 they founded CAMP BOOKS (, a platform for making the history of gender non-conforming people more accessible through teaching, cheap printing, and building archives and libraries. Their writing has been featured in publications by Pilot Press, WMN_Zine, and Louche Magazine, and recent work include "Muscle Memories" as part of In Transit, Our Memory Fragments at Chelsea Space and "Take Nothing For Granted: Theses on History," at Gaada.

David Grundy
‘The "Occult School" of Boston’. In the 1950s, the poets John Wieners, Steve Jonas, Ed Marshall, Jack Spicer, Joe Dunn, and Robin Blaser formed what their latter-day comrade Gerrit Lansing would dub “the School of Boston . . . an occult school, unknown.” With the exception of Dunn, all were openly gay, and their preferred haunt was Beacon Hill, a historically bohemian district that in the nineteenth century had earned the moniker "Mount Whoredom". "Occult School" published in fugitive, one-off magazines and limited-run chapbooks--Boston Newsletter, Wieners' Measure, and Lansing's Set--in which they envisioned poetry as a zone of mystical knowledge, turning conditions of marginality and enforced secrecy into tools of power, in a sexualized poetics that audaciously broke down the boundaries between writing and life.

David Grundy is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Warwick, and the author of A Black Arts Poetry Machine: Amiri Baraka and the Umbra Poets (Bloomsbury, 2019). A poet and publisher, he co-runs the small press Materials. He is currently working on a book on queer poetics Never By Itself Alone, and co-editing the Selected Poems of Calvin C. Hernton andThe Umbra Galaxy (both Wesleyan University Press).

Rudy Loewe
Rudy Loewe will share the ways that they have used self publishing within their practice over the last ten years. This has included creating zines, comics and artist books as a way of engaging in critical dialogues and creating learning resources.

Rudy Loewe is a visual artist working with painting, drawing and text to platform black histories and sociopolitical themes. They are currently a PhD candidate at University of the Arts London.

Chris Adams
The dust-jacket, according to Claire Badaracco, is 'a bridge' between the author's text and the reader, an important part of the publishing process that transforms a text into an object to be marketed and sold. But what happened when social, legal, and economic forces sought to silence or diminish the text’s existence? This talk briefly explores dust-jackets of queer texts and considers how their ephemeral nature impacts our understanding of the queer book.

Christopher Adams is a LAHP-funded PhD student at the Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London. His thesis explores the publishing history of queer British novels in the postwar period. He also works as a playwright and screenwriter.

Michael Bronski
‘Small Press Publishing and Community Building in the U.S. after Stonewall’. The avalanche of queer activism that began after the Stonewall uprising in June of 1969 was intensely focused on community building. Much of the organizing was located in urban centers, and university campuses, but consciously reached out beyond those areas. One of the most effective of doing this was through print media – newspapers, journals and especially small press books. Bronski will discuss how presses – with whom he was involved – such as Good Gay Poets and Fag Rag Books, and publications Fag Rag and Boston Gay Review incorporated community building practices in all aspects of their work.

Michael Bronski has been involved Gay Liberation organizing and publishing since 1969. He is the author Culture Clash: The Making of Gay Sensibility (1984) Pulp Friction: Uncovering the Golden Age of Gay Male Pulps (2003) and A Queer History of he United States (2011) among other books. He is Professor of the Practice in Activism and Media at Harvard University.

12.00-12.30: Lunch break

12.30-1.15: Slade 150 Lunch Time poetry reading by poet and artist, Christopher Kirubi

Christopher graduated from the Slade School of Fine Art in 2018 and has been featured in numerous exhibitions, events and performances both nationally and internationally, including CAMPUS Fugitive: The Unexpected Beautiful Phrase (2019) at Nottingham Contemporary, Breathless (2018) at 198 Contemporary Arts and Learning in London and Young Black Romantics (2018) at Lafayette Anticipations in Paris. Christopher is also a member of BBZ BLK BK, an online directory of queer womxn, trans and non-binary artists of Black ancestry.


The reading will include a brief interview conducted by Sharon Morris.

1.15-1.30: break

Session 2: 1.30-3.30 p.m. Digital forms of the book and archive

co-curated by Clare Lees, SAS and Sharon Morris, UCL. Chaired by Clare Lees.


Christopher Ohge, Digital Humanities, SAS
‘Mary Anne Rawson’s The Bow in the Cloud and the Unfolding of an Anti-slavery Anthology’. What was it like to make an anti-slavery anthology in the 1830s? At a time when print culture could drive political reform, the Sheffield-based abolitionist Mary Anne Rawson decided in 1826 to edit and publish an anthology of anti-slavery literature. It was published as The Bow in the Cloud in 1834, just after Britain passed the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act. This anthology also has a remarkable (and mostly neglected) manuscript collection of over 600 items that shows how the anthology was made. This presentation will show how digital archives and scholarly editing can unfold the complexities of the making of Rawson’s anthology, thereby revealing new stories about anti-slavery networks and the sociology of gift book publishing in the nineteenth century.

Christopher Ohge is Senior Lecturer in Digital Approaches to Literature at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. He is the author of Publishing Scholarly Editions: Archives, Computing, and Experience (2021). Other work has appeared in Essays in Criticism, American Literary History, Scholarly Editing, the Mark Twain Annual, and Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies, and several edited collections.

Dr. Heather Yeung
‘Eyes on Remote’ – a presentation and reading of Heather Yeung’s poetry and small press publications.

Dr. Heather Yeung is a lecturer in the English Dept. of the University of Dundee. Her research encompasses theoretical and applied poetry and poetics, often interacting with deep ecological and cultural materialist perspectives and her research interests include global literatures, global feminisms, music, and the plastic and performing arts. She is particularly interested in poetry’s (im)material status as a textual and verbal art form. Yeung’s recent publications include Spatial Engagement with Poetry, 2015, and she is currently editing a special issue of the journal New Global Studies. The Scottish Poetry Library hold a permanent archive of her poetry.


Adam Gibson
 Prof. At the UCL Institute For Sustainable Heritage, & Prof. Of Medical Physics; Oriol Roche, Doctoral candidate in the Dept. of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering; Tabitha Tuckett (UCL Special Collections & Department Of Information Studies)

A collaboration between UCL Special Collections, UCL Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering, the WEISS Centre for Interventional and Surgical Sciences and UCL Centre for Digital Humanities.

In this work, we investigated an early printed anatomical textbook called De humanis corporis fabrica libri septem (“on the construction of the human body in seven books”)[i] written by Andreas Vesalius in 1543. The second edition, printed in 1555, was supplied with separately printed pages with instructions on how to cut up and reassemble a three-dimensional anatomical illustration. UCL has two copies of the book, one where this reassembly has been completed and the other where it has not. We will explain how we used laparoscopy to see underneath the assembled 3D cut-out fragments and discovered a hand-written parchment support taken from a much earlier book. See: Vesalius' De Humani Corporis Fabrica: An Anatomical Pop-up Book


Elaine Treharne

‘Artists books, ephemera and digital poetics’. Elaine Treharne’s main research interests are in early medieval literature, information technologies, the handmade book, and cultural landscapes.

Elaine Treharne is a Welsh medievalist and Roberta Bowman Denning Professor at the Dept. Of English, Stanford University. Director of Stanford Text Technologies and PI on ‘Stanford Global Currents’, her current research projects include ‘Cyber Text Technologies’ and ‘Recollections’, research into personal archives. Her recent publications include ‘Medieval Manuscripts in the Digital Age’, 2020, and ‘Beowulf By All: a Community Translation’, 2021 and Perceptions of Medieval Manuscripts: The Phenomenal Book.


Tim Brennan
‘A Drawing Ceremony: a short guide to contemplative and meditational drawing’ making a book and e-book.

Artist and writer Tim Brennan is Prof. and the Department of Art & Performance, Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University. His extensive and international multi-media practice includes many collaborations such as Gruppen, and their text for sonic transmission. Brennan has been engaged in art writing since 1986, including the publication, Curationist Manifesto, 2017 and has coined the term Vishaiku to describe his particular collision of haiku and the visual.


3.45-4.55 p.m. Roundtable of Spineless Wonders research group from the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL; UCL Library; Senate House Library, Institute of English Studies, SAS; Manchester School of Art, MMU; Dept. of English, University of Dundee.

Clare Lees, Sharon Morris, Lesley Sharpe, Leila Kassir, Tansy Barton, Liz Lawes,Tabitha Tuckett, Tim Brennan, Heather Yeung.

4.55-5.00 Final Thanks – Sharon Morris and Clare Lees