Congratulations to Professor Janine Utell: her latest article appears in the current issue of the distinguished and venerable journal English Studies, volume 94 (2013). nest20.v094.i06.coverIn “Performing ‘The Profession’ in Leonard Merrick’s The Position of Peggy Harper (1911),” Professor Utell explores “the tension [in the novel] between inauthenticity and sincerity” and how this tension “is linked to the problematic place of the professional artistic self in the late Victorian/Edwardian cultural marketplace.” Merrick’s novel, admired by Virginia Woolf and George Orwell, is set in the professional world of the theatre in the early twentieth century.

The metaphoric work done by theatricality in Merrick’s novel drives his investigation into the problem of the authentic artistic (writerly) self committed to a professional ideal—a vocation—in spite of the demands of the marketplace and the impulse towards massification, fraudulence and insincerity in commercial cultural production. Merrick’s realistic and ironic representation of the construction of a working professional self in the world—here, the theatre—in tension with an ideal of profession as calling or vocation, ultimately speaks to and for the anxiety of performing an authentic self in early twentieth-century modernity.