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The Language of Legitimacy: Modernist Justice and Justification


The Language of Legitimacy: Modernist Justice and Justification

One of the more astonishing developments in the wake of The Great War was the manner in which writers redefined the qualitative nature of political legitimacy. In 1919, a middle-aged and conservative Thomas Mann could, in his strange book Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man, still use “legitimacy” to refer to the natural, historical, and visible powers of justice. However, such traditional rationality did not satisfy emerging radical and revolutionary desires for a political legitimacy embodied, beyond rational or legal positivism, in an indefinable, elusive presence somehow found, variously, in a population’s will, beliefs, norms, or spirit. While the consequences of this new legitimacy were many and of different degrees, surely Carl Schmitt’s legal contortions of legitimacy in 1932, which ultimately justify enabling Hitler’s Nazi Party with dictatorial power and dissolving the Weimar Republic, ranks the most decisive.

This panel seeks to examine how early twentieth-century writers from all over the globe theorize legitimacy in political, aesthetic, legal, and literary ideologies, and how they exploit a new, distinctly modernist sense of legitimacy to represent and confer power. Possible topics could include:

-theorizing and representing emergency powers in modernist fiction (e.g. 1926 UK General Strike, 1916 Easter Uprising, etc.)
-insurrection, revolution, and Communist or populist literature
-the search for adequate literary and artistic reactions to political despair by authors, artists, and poets
-hellbent, crackpot modernist harangues and defenses (e.g. Pound’s Italian radio addresses, The Southern Agrarians’ I’ll Take My Stand, Wyndham Lewis’ The Jews, Are They Human?, etc.)
-justifying/condemning the avant-garde
-narratives of justification in nationalist literatures
-“scientific” racist and anti-Semitic tracts
-the relationship between legitimacy and totalizing form (of government, of art, etc.)
-work by any of the following writers: Carl Schmitt, CLR James, Samuel Weber, Georges Sorel, etc.
-theories of force and violence in the law
-Nazi cinema
-the “legitimate” appeals of the mass and the crowd

Please send a brief CV and abstracts of no more than 300 words to Dr. Adam Beardsworth (abeardsworth@swgc.mun.ca) by April 30, 2009.

Conference Location: Montreal, Canada
Conference Starts: November 05, 2009
Conference Ends: November 08, 2009

CFP Submission Deadline: April 30, 2009


Conference Location: Montreal, Canada
Conference Starts: November 05, 2009
Conference Ends: November 09, 2009

CFP Submission Deadline: April 30, 2009

For more information, contact: Adam Beardsworth

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