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Annabel Wearring-Smith

Languages and Literature, University of Nottingham

Thesis title:

A Cultural Biography of Virago Press: Feminist Politics and Publishing Networks 1973-1999

My research analyses the determinants of the Virago Press’ publishing decisions, investigating their networks of institutional, interpersonal, and intertextual relationships. I work with archival materials from the British Library, Reading, Feminist Archive South, and The Women’s Library, in order to source and chart these networks across the late twentieth century.

My thesis argues that the study of Virago as a feminist and commercial publishing press is greatly advanced by investigating them as the site of a myriad of networks: as the nexus which draws cultural institutions, contemporary writers, activists, texts, and political ideologies together. Moreover, as Virago was built upon the foundation of recovering women’s lost narratives as political praxis, I believe that my network focus allows me to participate in acts of recovery ideologically aligned with Virago’s project. 

My research focuses on Virago’s creation of, and interactions with, four networks:

  • Women’s Liberation Networks, including the feminist Magazine Spare Rib, Mary Stott, and the Women in Media Collective
  • Publishing Networks, including commercial presses such as Penguin and other feminist presses and radical bookshops
  • Contemporary Literary Networks, including the authors Angela Carter, Margaret Atwood, and Maya Angelou
  • The Virago Modern Classics Network, including the intertextual relationships between VMC titles, the contemporary writers commissioned to introduce the books, and the academic interventions of Elaine Showalter which formed the cornerstone of the series.

By telling the story of Virago from the perspective of these networks, I aim to illuminate the vibrancy of the press in twentieth-century literary and political landscapes, enhance the existing and emerging narratives of Virago in the cultural consciousness and academia, and discover new methodologies for discussing the publishing’s impact on cultural discourses more broadly and Virago’s impact on the feminist and literary “canons” specifically.

This research emerges from work on Angela Carter’s The Sadeian Woman, published by Virago in 1979, and my years spent as a commercial bookseller. 

Research Area

  • English Language and Literature
  • Languages and Literature


  • Feminist Book Fortnight 2022: The Tide Comes In: Feminist Magazines, Past and Present: Event Review, Time and Tide Magazine, 7th June 2022 (read here).


  • 'The Image of a "Classic": Virago Press and the Feminist Reappraisal of the Classic', The Journal of Languages Texts and Society (LTS), Image(s) and Identity, July 2022.
  • Sexist Stickers and Ironclad Obscenities: Virago Press, Angela Carter and the politics of censorship in publishing [forthcoming, Feb 2023].
  • ‘Semi-Pornographic’ Sex-Textbooks: British Print Media Responses to Jane Cousins Make it Happy: What Sex is All About (1978) and Angela Carter’s The Sadeian Woman (1979), Feminism(s) in the Media, [accepted: forthcoming September 2023].

Public Engagement & Impact

Public Engagement: 
  • Collegiate Presenter, 'Midlands4Cities Application Writing Workshop for 2023 entry', "How I Wrote my M4C Application", November 2022. 
  • Conference organiser for the Journal of Languages Texts and Society (LTS), Image(s) and Identity, July 2022
  • Conference organiser for the University of Nottingham Department of English PGR 'Work in Progress' Symposium, February 2023
Impact and Career Development projects 
  • Guest Editor, The Letters Page Journal (January-June 2023) 
  • Visual Media Marketing Editor, Journal of Language, Texts and Society (Jan 2022-)
  • Digital Archive Volunteer and Backstage Tour Guide, Nottingham Theatre Royal 40th Anniversary Heritage Project (Feb 2022-) 
  • Writer and Editor for self-created research blog, PublishHer

Other Research Interests

  • Angela Carter, The Sadeian Woman and the feminist pornography debate of 1980.
  • The history of the book trade and contemporary publishing cultures. 
  • Twentieth-Century women's and feminist magazine cultures.  
  • Suffragism, women's contributions to Modernism, and interwar women's writing and periodical cultures
  • Histories of, and women's interventions into, Fairy Tales and the Gothic.