The Textile Reader (2nd edition)

Editor's Introduction

Over a decade ago, I introduced the first edition of the Textile Reader with the acknowledgement that the writing compiled for the book was as concerned with how we write about textiles as it was interested in what we write about textiles. Selected content was intended to be eclectic rather than authoritative, in part out of my own discomfort with the possibility that the Reader may inadvertently contribute to building a textile canon that over time simplified and reduced, rather than expanded, readers’ curiosity.

Editing the second edition has proven daunting work. Textile scholarship can no longer be described as “emerging” as I wrote in 2010 and the sheer number of publications in the past decade has only made the task harder. Textile design now appears in more of the writing, as does a greater variety of geographies, albeit far from comprehensive. A number of new entries for the second edition are published in English translation for the first time from German, Russian and Spanish. This is an area of work that deserves continued attention if the anglophone dominance of academic scholarship is to genuinely be addressed. My sincere thanks to Liudmila Aliabieva, Lorna Dillon and Paulina Ortiz in particular for their recommendations of texts to consider for translation.

In truth, the opportunity to reconsider aspects of the first edition and the chance to rectify small errors that haunted perhaps few others than myself, has instead given way to a realization that the first edition was far more flawed than I understood a decade ago. The content included here now represents the outcome of a number of factors. Pertinence of texts to neighbouring material is an editorial style I have continued, where possible, to preserve. Similarly, I have continued to set excerpts from novels, short stories and poetry alongside more conventional academic writing. Structurally, the final section of this book has been reconfigured as “community”. Otherwise, I have continued the difficult editorial decision to include only one example of writing from each contributor, in an effort to include the greatest number of voices.

Along the way, some entries have found their place under different themes than their placement in the first edition. The disproportionate copyright costs of some key texts in the first edition mean they no longer appear in the second edition. These absences reflect my inability to countenance the vast disparities in copyright fees demanded by some publishers. Much like the content, the second edition’s further reading lists include less well known material that has come across my path. Continuing my aspiration for the eclectic rather than canonical, it is my hope these lists will be taken as a starting point for readers to also search out their own less familiar points of reference.

Kay Byrne has with patient tenacity and good humour undertaken the enormous administrative task of copyright clearance. While my own efforts as editor undoubtedly remain incomplete, I hope the content selected here will be taken as a representation of some of the voices that exist and some of the voices that are emerging in textile writing. The final content unashamedly remains a reflection of many things, not least of all my personal taste.

The Textile Reader (second edition) is published with Bloomsbury

  • Image credit

    Cover art is a detail of the embroidered and pieced textile Lenguaje (Language) (2020) by the Argentine poet and artist Florencia Walfisch. Image courtesy of the artist and Galería Van Riel. Photographer: Daniel Duhau.