Modernism and Trust at MSA 11, Nov 5-7, 2009The aesthetic innovations of modernist art and literature radically changed the role of trust in the relationship between artists and their publics. The novelty and difficulty of much modernist writing left critics and readers with no reliable measure of authenticity, creating the permanent possibility of hoaxes like Witter Bynners fictitious Spectra school of poetry. This condition of doubt was exacerbated by a crisis of critical authority: as Virginia Woolf observed in 1923, there was no longer any centralising influence to counter the ungenerous distrust of contemporary genius. In the face of radical novelty and in the absence of unified canons of taste, such distrust was a common response. Some early readers of Ulysses, for example, were prone to conclude that a gigantic effort has been made to fool the world of readers, while Judge John M. Woolseys ruling on the novels decency insisted, on the contrary, on Joyces honesty and sincerity: I hold that Ulysses is a sincere and honest book. The very necessity of affirming such an opinion puts us in the realm of trust: Joyces sincerity could be the object of more or less judicious belief, but not of apodictic knowledge.
Lawrence Rainey has recently described the deep, quasi-religious or systemic trust requisite both to melodrama and modernity, trust independent of immediacies of context and inductive knowledge, but such direct considerations of the topic are rare in modernist studies. On the other hand, the territory demarcated by trust abuts several of the disciplines key concepts, such as sincerity, authority, cultural capital, advertising, professionalism and mass culture. Trust also articulates such concepts with recent work in modernist reception studies, by foregrounding the suspicious responses that modernism aroused, and the mechanisms by which modernist authors sought to authenticate their writings. And, turning to the content and concerns of modernist texts, the theme of trust also seems particularly pertinent to a literary movement so marked by existential isolation and epistemological doubt. Trust, then, suggests itself as a neglected tool in modernist scholarship and one that will shed light on some of the central concerns of the field.
For MSA 11 in Montreal (November 5-8, 2009), we are looking for paper proposals that address the issue of modernism and trust. Possible topics include:
distrust and suspicion in the reception of modernism
the circulation of trust in modernist periodicals and other institutions
honesty, sincerity, authenticity
strategies of authentication; the modernist imprimatur
expertise and certification
the rhetorical notion of ethos
trust and advertising
trust and the crisis of critical authority
trust and censorship
trust and distrust within artistic groups and networks
trust as theme: solipsism, scepticism, jealousy, doubt, etc.
300-word abstracts should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com by 1 May.
Conference Location: Montreal, Canada
Conference Starts: November 05, 2009
Conference Ends: November 08, 2009
CFP Submission Deadline: May 01, 2009
For more information, contact: Leonard Diepeveen or John Attriddge