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You will be informed of your seminar placement when you are contacted by your seminar leader in mid-August.
This seminar will explore the contingencies that shaped, and continue to shape, the transmission of cultural production during the modernist period and into our contemporary investigations. In what manner do the tools and technologies of transmission, whether physical conveyance or textual mediation, affect the structures of literature and the visual arts? We hope to focus both on tools that enable the production of textuality and tools of conveyance that enable the transportation of a text or object from one place to another—for example, lady typewriters, steam ships, mail bags, postal systems—as they might affect aesthetic conception and production. Papers are invited on any topic related to modernist transmissions and the afterlife of these concerns in curatorship and the archive.
Digital Modernisms / Digital Modernities –– Ann Ardis
Digital humanities work today is a scholarship and a pedagogy “that is publicly visible… [and] bound up with infrastructure in ways that are deeper and more explicit than we are generally accustomed to” (Kirschenbaum, 2010). Digital humanities scholarship and pedagogy are collaborative enterprises that require and facilitate innovative partnerships—between students and teachers, between faculty, IT staff, and librarians, between institutions of higher education and museums and cultural organizations. This seminar will be a forum for considering the structures of innovation in digital humanities scholarship and pedagogy that are shaping and sustaining the interdisciplinary study of modernism(s) and modernity.
Fordism & the Structure of Modernist Innovation –– Jason Baskin
This seminar considers modernist cultural production from the perspective of the structure of innovation most crucial to the twentieth century: Fordism. Whether theorized by Gertrude Stein or Antonio Gramsci, whether understood primarily as a system of mass production or a mode of social regulation, the concept of Fordism draws attention to the reciprocity between organization and innovation, production and consumption, labor and subjectivity, economics and culture. It thus offers new ways to view modernist innovation not merely against but also within social and political structures. Participants are invited to use Fordism to illuminate any particular aspect of modernist culture or to address such larger questions as: Where does modernist innovation come from? How is it produced and how does it establish itself? How do we conceptualize shifts (geographical, temporal, ideological) within––or even beyond––modernism? Invited participant: Barrett Watten
Recent roundtables, keynotes, and articles that offer new global paradigms and expansive definitions of modernism raise the question of whether the concept of modernism associated with the MSA at its inception in 1999—the eponymous “New Modernisms” of its first two conferences—is already dated. Is any theoretically compelling rationalization of modernism as then envisioned still imaginable, and, if so, what would it look like? Should modernism remain conceptually anchored to an historical period? To particular modes of stylistic innovation? Is the MSA making the old New Modernisms obsolete, or making them new?
Invited Participant: Kevin Dettmar
Modernism and Neuroscience –– Tammy Clewell
Neuroscience, as well as cognitive science, evolutionary psychology, and artificial intelligence, has recently turned to issues long understood as the domain of literary studies and humanities scholarship: the self, consciousness, empathy, mind, embodiment, gender, and aesthetics. Evidenced by Steven Pinker’s dismissal of Virginia Woolf as inaugurating a “new philosophy of modernism . . . whose denial of human nature was carried over with a vengeance to postmodernism” (The Blank Slate 404), neuroscience sometimes views the academic study of literature as elitist, outmoded, and unscientific. But contemporary neuroscience has also construed modernism as prefiguring scientific insights, as in the work of Johan Lehrer, who claims Woolf, like other modernists, succeeded in articulating the “self” as a “fiction created by the brain in order to make sense of its own disunity” (Proust Was A Neuroscientist 182). This seminar seeks to bring into conversation modernism and neuroscience: what can neuroscience tell us about modernism and, conversely, how might modernism challenge or inform neuroscience? Especially welcome are papers on modernist texts that draw on the work of Pinker, Lehrer, V.S. Ramachandran, Denis Dutton, Daniel Dennett, Lisa Zunshine, Semir Zeki, Antonio Damasio, Brian Boyd, and Catherine Malabou
Broadcast Traces / Tracing Broadcasting –– Debra Rae Cohen & Michael Coyle
The last ten years of the “sonic turn” in modernist studies have done much to establish the importance of radio not only within 20th-century media ecology, but in terms of its formal impact, its shaping effect, on the “structures of innovation” of modernist text. This seminar asks—what’s next? What new vocabularies are necessary to help us write about sounds that may no longer exist, or to take soundings of the printed page? How can we move beyond the recovery of scripts and recordings to understand more fully the complexities, both sonic and political, of the modernist soundscape on the air and on the page?
In recent years, critics have illuminated innumerable connections between modernism in literature and the visual arts and innovations in other disciplines. Yet their methods vary considerably: while some adopt a definitional approach attuned to the history of disciplinary professionalization (see, e.g., Disciplining Modernism), others use materialist frameworks, rooting ideological and aesthetic shifts in changes in economic history (e.g. Esty, Wicke, Tratner). In response to the widely acknowledged difficulty of establishing a common ground for interdisciplinary analysis, this seminar will focus not on drawing interdisciplinary connections per se but on questioning and elaborating the theoretical and historical grounds on which such connections are—and might be—made.
Political violence in the twentieth century attained a scope and form unseen in previous eras. Dubbed the “century of violence,” the last century left us with pressing questions about the links between modernity and atrocity. From the poetry of the Great War trenches to testimonial writing from the Holocaust, the (long) modernist period is haunted by an aesthetic of violence in which attention to the physicality of brutal destruction is paired with formal experimentation that does violence to aesthetic precedent. This seminar will focus on the preoccupation with violence in inter-arts productions of the long modernism. Invited participant: Paul Saint-Amour
Modernist Soundscapes –– Steve Evans and Kaplan Harris
The last decade has witnessed an enormous expansion of databases that provide free and downloadable recordings of modernist and contemporary poetry. These recordings have long been the possession of poets themselves in personal collections, but digitization now allows them to circulate widely. The numbers are staggering: Al Filreis, co-founder of PennSound, reports that by 2007 listeners were annually downloading more than 8 million files (a number that continues to rise). This seminar thus invites essays that attend to the opportunities, as well as the challenges and limitations, of scholarship that draws on the vast archive of recorded poetry—also known as phonotexts. Methodological, historical, and pedagogical essays are all welcome.
Multipolar Modernisms –––James Gifford & Peter Midgley
Modernism experienced multiple instantiations and rapidly crossed national borders, but inequities fueled varied engagements with modernist practices and multiple experiences of modernity. 1930s South Africa experienced mass urbanization, which led to avant garde and revolutionary literatures integrating traditional forms and experimental techniques in startlingly modernist ways. The Modernismo movement in South America speaks to differing conditions of production, as do emergences of modernist practices in China, Japan, and India in the 1930s. This seminar invites reconsiderations of modernism in a global context, taking into account both boundaries (national and generic) and the relevance of indigenous knowledge systems.
Rethinking Modernism and Sexuality –– Colin Gillis & Tobias Boes
This seminar will consider the history of scholarly discussions about sexuality in modernist studies and explore new directions for study. In the introduction to the Cluster on Queer Modernism in the May 2009 PMLA, Heather Love observed: “Of all the forms of marginal modernism that have surfaced in the past couple of decades, queer modernism seems particularly likely to merge into modernism proper.” Has modernism become queer? If so, how did this happen and what does the future hold for the study of sexuality in literary modernism? How have feminist and queer theory contributed to our understanding of modernist literature? And how will the transnational turn in modernist studies extend and complicate our understanding of sexuality in literary modernism?
Naturalism and Modernism –– Simon Joyce
Modernism’s relationship with naturalism is far from simple. Naturalism traditionally functioned as despised other, as pure (or impure) content in opposition to high-modernist formalism, yet this overlooks their shared reaction to idealism: here Toril Moi’s point—and, before his death, Raymond Williams’s--is that Zola and Ibsen actually represented modernism’s first wave. What are the consequences of this re-evaluation, especially for naturalist fiction? What happens if we re-center it in our narratives of modernism? Considering its prominence in some countries (France, Ireland, USA) but not others (Britain), how might naturalism’s geography impact our understanding of modernism’s movement and global locations?
Invited Participants: Barry Faulk & Varun Begley
Modernism and Religion –– Stephen Kern
Papers sought on philosophy, theology, psychology, art, and literature. A challenging question is how intellectuals (e.g., Nietzsche, James, Freud, Weber) and writers (e.g., Joyce, Gide, Lawrence, Faulkner, Kafka, Hesse, Silone) struggled to distance themselves from religion while remaining immersed in its rhetoric, imagery, and narratives. Possible topics: secularization; conversion; metaphysics; psychical research; Christ figures; popular religion; and the politics of religion in WWI, Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and the Soviet Union. Participants are encouraged to read Lewis's Religious Experience and the Modernist Novel (2010), which suggests ways of integrating formal studies with imaginative literature, and consider his interpretation of the "secular sacred."
Invited Participants: Pericles Lewis & Anthony Domestico
Reception, Circulation and Consumption: The Social Infrastructure of Modernism –– Sean Latham & Gayle Rogers
The movement toward a methodological and archival focus on circulation and consumption, rather than authorial production alone, has helped expand the traditional material, generic, geographical, linguistic, and aesthetic boundaries of modernism in the twentieth century. This seminar welcomes participants whose work attends to the multiform ways in which modernism was marketed, read, reviewed, and circulated across these various boundaries. Such work might focus on: periodicals, reception studies, marketing campaigns, and political propaganda as well as scenes of actual reception recorded in diaries, surveys, and within novels, films, poems, and other texts. How, this seminar will ask, did art and commerce, for example, interact to make familiar texts look different when surrounded by advertisements or juxtaposed with other texts? What did influential texts such as The Waste Land signify differently to audiences reading it in translation? How might we begin to write new literary histories of modernism by taking into account the vast and diverse materials that periodicals present to us? Such questions will themselves offer a chance to reflect on the critical utility of “modernism” itself as a cultural or historical practice by trying to recover the diverse array of local practices—what one critic has called the “social infrastructure—that production-centered studies have neglected.
Modernism and Seriality –– Matthew Levay & Jonathan Eburne
This seminar explores the connection between modernism and seriality, asking how and where serial forms, sequences, and narratives circulated during the modernist period. How do different modes of seriality––formal, generic, philosophical, theoretical–– inform our understanding of modernism and modernity? How do serial forms affect readers, viewers, and listeners, and thereby alter the traditional parameters of aesthetic experience? How do market and economic forces influence the production of serial art? We invite papers on any aspect of serial modernism: sequels, cliffhangers, serial publication and the publishing industry, film serials, comics and sequential art, periodicals, and broader questions of mechanical reproduction.
Invited Participant: Michael Valdez Moses
This seminar will consider the connection between innovative forms and radical politics in works by women modernists. We invite papers that explore, but are not limited to, topics such as: how women use disciplinary hybridity and cross-genre forms to archive, document and revive histories traditionally left out of master narratives; the uses of experimentation to subvert and undo the binaries of gender, genre, race, war, sexuality, nation, etc.; theorizing works whose structures resist categorization and genre fixity; teaching hybrid and interactive modernisms; women's assertion of historical and political subjectivity through experimentation. We invite papers on literature, film and visual culture, among other topics.
The Emotional Life of Modernism –– John Marsh
“I felt the white-hot iron of joy deliciously pass through my heart!” Filippo Tommaso Marinetti exclaimed upon crashing his car, and since then—and no doubt before—modernism has spoken the language of emotion. Over the last two decades, advances in neuroscience have revitalized the study of affect and emotion, and these advances have slowly made their way into literary criticism. It seems time to ask, then, what modernism can learn from—or offer—this emerging field of study. Can we speak of the emotional life of modernism? As different from or congruent with the emotional life of other periods? Is there a canon of modernist emotions? What texts or ways of reading might help us answer these questions?
Nature and the Limits of Modernism –– Jeffrey McCarthy, Eve Sorum & Margaret Konkol
This seminar aims to measure the connection between modernist artifacts and the natural world. If, as Raymond Williams tells us, “Nature is perhaps the most complex word in the language,” then this seminar wishes to explore the dense signification of nature to culture, and especially the conflicted role nature plays in modernist representation. Under this broad rubric, we welcome papers from a variety of perspectives, and we hope to explore the methodological and interpretive possibilities that sprout from integrating the categories of modernism and nature. Potential paper topics might include (but are not confined to) engagements with and/or evasions of representing nature in particular texts or authors; eugenics, colonialism and the commodification of non-human nature, the connection between fascist aesthetics and nature; eco-critical turns in modernism; or eco-criticism’s difficult relationship with modernist abstraction.
“The Third Landscape” of Modernism –– Shannon McRae
In his 2002 “Manifesto of the Third Landscape,” French landscape architect Gilles Clément celebrates interstitial spaces: abandoned lots, undeveloped tracts outside of cities, around industrial sites, and on the margins between designated wilderness and developed spaces. Legitimizing these spaces, outside the binary discourses of wilderness and civilization, also reveals the underlying ideologies of the distinctions between ‘native’ and ‘invasive’ species that inform ecological discourse. We invite papers that use Clément’s post-modern re-evaluation of the ‘waste lands’ created in modernism’s wake to look back at the marginalized, ruined, or wasted spaces and cultures of modernism: cities such as Buffalo and the war-ravaged landscapes of Europe, place-based artistic movements such as the Harlem Renaissance, typically characterized as in decline after WWI, or even places or communities that fall between or outside distinctions between modernism and traditionalism. What emerges, ecologically and artistically, when we collapse distinctions between growth and decline, preservation and ruin, urban and rural, production and waste, native and invasive?
Transparent Spaces of Modernity –– Thomas Mical
The development of modernist spatial logic is premised on regimes of transparency. Modernist space frequently functioned as continuum, medium, or void, in the wake of industrialization of the construction process. Is there a universal modernist spatial logic? The theories, practices, and effects of literal and phenomenal transparency, in all its possible material and cultural manifestations, are important attributes that can be used to define and explore the possibility of a multiplicity of situations and events of modernist space. This seminar encourages discussion of the question concerning transparency, the function and effects of transparency, and theories of mechanical seeing and other optics in diverse works of modernism, broadly defined. Examples from architectural, other visual and spatial, or literary sources are welcome.
The Erotics of Literary Collaboration –– Sam See & Erin Templeton
Coincident with Foucault's location of sexuality in identities rather than acts, in things rather than relations, scholars often look ton individual texts, authors, and historical moments for evidence of modernist sexuality. This seminar proposes that we can expand such histories by examining erotic relation and collaboration between and among our common objects of analysis, whether aesthetic, biographical, or historical. For a period often preoccupied with the literary artifact’s aesthetic autonomy, what would it mean to locate erotics in literary collaboration rather than in the ostensibly autonomous objects created from such collaboration? Papers might examine erotics within textual groupings, authorial collaborations, and/or artistic movements.
How did the modernist quest to discover the deep structures of meaning and coherence in an apparently chaotic world give rise to or produce interesting variations on weird tales, occult stories, conspiracy narratives, paranoid fictions, etc? Let's go beyond the uncanny. Is Pound’s notion of the “conspiracy of intelligence” indicative of a larger narrative/psychic trend towards narratives of hidden coherence belied by surface chaos? Put differently, how does the modernist fear that the world lacks sufficient meaning give way to the late modernist fear that it has too much (e.g., Pynchon)? Or am I just imagining things?
‘English Literature Lives on Translation’: Modernist Poetry and Translation ––Demetres Tryphonopoulos & David Roessel
"English literature lives on translation, it is fed by translation," Pound wrote in 1929 in a statement as true of other languages as it is of English: Pound’s commitment to translation as a mode of literary production was rooted in his conviction, shared by many modernists, of its role in the shaping of a vital literary tradition. This seminar shall explore the significance of translation in modernism's genesis and development--in cases like Pound’s and H.D.’s, where the artist becomes the translator, but also in instances like that of Forster's active promotion of the translation of Cavafy into English. It may also address such issues as translation practice and/or theorizing; Benjamin and/or Derrida on translation; translation as site of cross-lingual correspondences; translation as artful inquiry/research drawing on the translator’s store of accumulated knowledge; and the teaching of literature in translation.
Modernism and Pleasure –– Lauryl Tucker & Elizabeth Sheehan
Modernism's fascination with difficulty, its anxieties about modernity, and its fraught relationship with mass culture suggest a modernist suspicion of pleasure. This seminar seeks to investigate but also to trouble this apparent antipathy to pleasure. Guiding questions include: Do modernist artworks imagine pleasure as necessarily solipsistic and trivial? What kinds of pleasure do modernist texts themselves signal or allow their readers? What connections can we draw between pleasure and laughter, whimsy, irony? How has the idea of pleasure figured in distinctions between modernist and middlebrow and, more broadly, how has pleasure shaped the production and consumption of modernist texts?
Patronage, Women Writers and Artists, and the Making of Modernism –– Julie Vandivere & Susan McCabe
As Lawrence Rainey discusses, one of the innovations of modernism was its shift in funding the arts. Neither wholly market nor patron driven, modernist arts and literature hang in a lacuna between the drive of the market and the largesse of the patron. From this financial conundrum, how do female writers and artists emerge? Once they emerge, how does their work find (or not) a place in the modernist canon. What influence did patrons have on modernist women writers? What sort of work is produced as a result of their patronage? Conversely, what market exigencies aided or inhibited women writers and artists? What sort of art was produced as a result of the evolution of the role of market forces in the arts? We are interested in papers that discuss the influence of any female patron, including, but not limited to Bryher, Peggy Guggenheim, Nancy Cunard, Harriet Monroe, Mabel Dodge, and Natalie Barney. Additionally, we welcome papers that discuss the economic pressures of the free market/patron divide on modernist women writers.
Networks of Innovation –– John Westbrook & Roger Rothman
This seminar seeks to combine the question of networks, addressed in last year’s conference, with this year’s theme: innovation. It asks contributors to consider the ways in which networks foster the kinds of formal, thematic, social, and conceptual innovations associated with modernist practice. How might network theory enable a better understanding of literary and artistic innovation? Are innovative gestures bound in any ways to network structures? Are there occasions when the idea of network itself become the locus of avant-garde innovation? This seminar welcomes especially welcomes papers that seek to construe networks and innovations beyond disciplinary boundaries.