Write Cut Rewrite

About the exhibition

Write, Cut, Rewrite is an exhibition dedicated to the creative importance of editing in literature, often referred to as ‘killing your darlings’.

Often, in the attempt to find the perfect form, the author cuts more words than the ones that are eventually published, and one might expect these discarded fragments to end up in waste-paper baskets and disappear. But many are preserved in libraries and archives, a testament to the importance of this form of creative undoing in the writing process.

The exhibition offers a peek behind the scenes into the writers’ workshops, drawing upon the Bodleian Libraries’ unparalleled collection of modern manuscripts from the 18th century to today, to reveal little-known literary revelations. It features abandoned works, such as Jane Austen’s The Watsons, and cases of censorship, such as Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. It also touches on the revisions and rewritings of famous books, offering a unique chance to look over the shoulder of literary greats at the moment of creation.

Highlights include discarded ideas, fundamental changes, deletions, additions, notes and scribbles from great authors such as Mary and Percy Shelley, Jane Austen, James Joyce, Raymond Chandler, Ian Fleming, Samuel Beckett, and John le Carré.

Exhibition highlights

Exhibition book

The cover of the exhibition book Write Cut Rewrite - an orange background with the title in large type

Write Cut Rewrite: The Cutting Room Floor of Modern Literature

By Dirk Van Hulle and Mark Nixon
Available now

Accompanying the exhibition this fascinating book unveils the mysteries of writing, cutting, rewriting and publishing exceptional creative works.

Richly illustrated and with insights into the drafting techniques of writers as varied as Jane Austen, Christina Rossetti, Raymond Chandler, Samuel Beckett, Alan Bennett, Barbara Pym, Philip Pullman and Alice Oswald, this book invites you to explore roads-not-taken and discover ideas which did not make it into renowned novels, poems and plays.

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This exhibition is curated by Dirk Van Hulle, Professor of Bibliography and Modern Book History at the University of Oxford; and Mark Nixon, Professor of Modern Literature and Beckett Studies at the University of Reading.

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