Expanding the POOL Group: the fiction of Robert Herring and Oswell Blakeston between 1927 and 1934

Polly Hember

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis recovers the works of two queer writers, Robert Herring (Robert Herring Williams (1903-1975)) and Oswell Blakeston (Henry Joseph Hasslacher (1907-1985)), in order to consider the creative exchange and the currents of queer intimacy that constituted and animated the POOL group. Since its scholarly revival in the late 1970s and 1980s by Deke Dusinberre and Anne Friedberg, the POOL group’s composition has often been conflated with its founders and therefore presented as a group of three: H.D., Bryher and Kenneth Macpherson. Though aspects of the group’s work have been examined, such as the feature film Borderline (1931), and H.D. and Bryher’s contributions, there is still much about the POOL group’s artistic activities that is yet to be explored.

This thesis offers an expanded view of the POOL group to include Herring and Blakeston, examining their neglected fictional works produced during POOL’s most prolific period of production (1927-1934) alongside POOL’s archives in order to expand current critical conceptions of the group and their modernist experimentation. By acknowledging POOL as a group that never defined its own boundaries, I argue for a more diffuse model based on connecting lines of queer intimacies within POOL’s creative network, which includes works by Herring and Blakeston. These are: Herring’s Adam and Evelyn at Kew, or; Revolt in the Gardens (1930) and Cactus Coast (1934); Blakeston’s two POOL texts, Through a Yellow Glass (1928) and Extra Passenger (1929); and Blakeston’s ‘Flowers of White Light (Plus Entertainment Tax)’ from the collection Few Are Chosen (1930), along with his short story Magic Aftermath: A Romantic Study in the Pleating of Time (1932). By considering these works as POOL texts written by two crucial members of the group, new insights into POOL’s thematic dimensions are seen: from their queer modernist experimentation to their debates on cinema production, sound, and modernity. Engaging with discourses of new modernist studies and queer historicism, this thesis presents a revisionist study of the POOL group’s composition, activities, and ethos, offering close readings of previously neglected texts to reveal POOL’s queer articulations and their network of intimacy.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Townsend, Christopher, Supervisor
  • Armstrong, Tim, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Dec 2023
Publication statusUnpublished - 2023


  • modernism
  • modernity
  • visual cultures
  • the POOL group
  • cinema
  • twentieth century
  • queer theory
  • intimacy
  • networks
  • group dynamics
  • film
  • Robert Herring
  • Oswell Blakeston
  • H.D.
  • Bryher
  • Kenneth Macpherson
  • haptics
  • temporality
  • Close Up
  • Borderline
  • Wing Beat
  • Foothills
  • Monkey's Moon
  • I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside
  • little magazines
  • periodicals

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