Project draft: “Lord Peter’s England: Britain Between the Wars”

Extraordinarily good site header by my sister, Laura McCauley, who was kind enough to help me out

Lord Peter’s England: Britain Between the Wars is up and running on WordPress.com. The site currently features its first content post, an examination of what the first Lord Peter Wimsey book, Whose Body?, can tell us about how shell-shock was viewed culturally and socially in British society in the early 1920s, as well as a host of informational pages to orientate users to the site and its purpose.:

  • About this site: This is a brief introduction to why the site was made and what its purpose is, as well as to the author of the site (that is to say, me.)
  • About Lord Peter Wimsey: Whilst writing the first content post for the site I realized that I didn’t really provide any sort of introduction to the series that makes it clear why reading it is worthwhile beyond its historical contents, which runs somewhat contra to one of my intentions for the site, which is that reading old books is entertaining and enjoyable and that gleaning valuable historical insights from them is a kind of bonus. I wanted to foreground that these books, on top of the didactic purpose they can serve, are tremendously fun to read, so I added this page introducing Lord Peter Wimsey as a character.
  • The Dorothy L. Sayers Society: This links out to the Society’s webpage, which is what is typically listed on published copies of Lord Peter Wimsey books as the main resource for learning more about Sayers’ life and work.
  • Reading literature for historical content: This was a page for the site that I had planned to include in my proposal, as in addition to doing my own historical literary criticism in the content posts on the blog, I wanted to demonstrate for the site’s readers how they can engage in similar practices while reading. This page briefly discusses historical criticism and New Historicism before suggesting some questions to keep in mind while reading in order to carry out such analysis. These sections are followed by an excerpt from the very beginning of the first Lord Peter Wimsey book and a demonstration, using that passage, of the sort of historical subtext that one can glean while reading.
  • Where to read: As I had mentioned in my original proposal, the Lord Peter Wimsey books have entered the Canadian public domain and as such are available to read online. In order to encourage site users to read them, I’ve provided the links to these texts on this page.
  • Site directory: This page will be updated with each new content post—it’s essentially serving as a table of contents for the site, organized by the different books in the Lord Peter Wimsey series. I’ve linked the content post that’s currently up, and I’ve listed the posts that I’m planning to write.

The content post that’s currently up, “Whose Body? and shell-shock,” exists to serve as a proof-of-concept for what the rest of the site will eventually be. This post combines excerpts from the novel with analysis and some historical research to discuss the portrayal of shell-shock in Whose Body? and what that portrayal tells us about British culture at the time that it was written.

With the site’s framework set up and the first post published, I’d love the opportunity to get some feedback now before publishing more posts along the same lines. The site directory page includes the titles of several other planned posts, which constitute my next orders of business. Each post is quite an undertaking as it requires me to reread a book while looking out for a specific topic that I remember as having been a salient part of that particular story, then carrying out close readings of passages that relate to that topic, and then doing some additional background reading, so I’m aiming to have up perhaps three more by the end of the semester.

I’d appreciate any feedback you can offer about the usability and the usefulness of the site, and of anything that you think might improve it!

4 Replies to “Project draft: “Lord Peter’s England: Britain Between the Wars””

  1. Katherine I’m so impressed with your work on this! I think my first reaction to your home page was “wow that’s a lot of text.” I think it would be more reader-friendly if it was broken up into smaller “chunks” (that dreaded word), either through more blog posts per book, or with separate headings.

    1. Hi Katie—as usual you are right about my unconscionably long paragraphs. I have split some up for you and will continue to do so in future posts.

      When I have more posts, I plan to use “read more” cuts so that the homepage isn’t just a bunch of extremely long posts one after the other, but that feels silly with the site as it is with only a couple posts!

  2. This project is such a cool concept. It’s exciting to see it coming together. Overall, it’s clear that you have been able to get the key components of the site as you envisioned it up and it’s looking neat. Love the header image.

    My first impression on your first post is that it’s likely going to be helpful for you to include a little bit of intro to each of the posts before you move into the text from the books. Users are going to end up landing on individual posts in the blog and it’s going to be helpful if they consistently get some orientation into what is going on. I think it could even be a short thing that is a sentence or two in your voice opening up what we as readers should be thinking about as we enter into the text.

    It would also be great to think about including some of the images in the posts, it looks like some of the books have really striking covers. The advertisements stuck in the middle of the posts were somewhat distracting. I’m unfamiliar with the home.blog site you are using to host your wordpress site. Is this an artifact of that? It likely wouldn’t be the case if you were to host the site on wordpress.com.

    One other comment on the theme and layout. Many wordpress themes let you include a sidebar on the right of the blog. Consider adding in a sidebar as that would provide you a place to include a little bit of about the site text there and also navigation to previous posts.
    So those are some suggestions for things to think about. Overall, it’s exciting to see your concept coming together!

    1. I believe .home.blog is just another standard URL ending for free wordpress.com sites now. I made a WordPress site back in 2014 and the URL defaulted to name.wordpress.com, but I’ve made two this year and they’ve both gone name.home.blog. I have not had any luck changing it to a .wordpress.com address although it seems to be the case that I should be able to. Unfortunately that does mean the advertisements are WordPress’ way, and I can’t seem to find a path around them.

      Thank you for the feedback—I will be putting the rest of it to use!

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