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European Power Adapters

MSA 14: Modernism and Spectacle
We are looking for 1 or 2 other papers to complete our panel. We are especially interested in papers examining shifting power discourses in Italy, Spain, and elsewhere in Europe.

Send abstracts of 250-300 words and a brief biographical note by Wednesday April 4th to Philip Keel Geheber: geheberp@tcd.ie

Many of the major works of Anglo-American modernism explore the power shifts that took place in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. During the period many long-standing political and social power relations were dramatically altered. The traditional roles of the state and the church were revised, as well as fundamental changes to traditional understandings of class and gender. This panel will focus on the representations of power which emerged from continental Europe in the nineteenth century and which played such an important part in these power shifts. It will focus consideration on how these representations affected representations within early Anglo-American modernism. Submissions are welcome from any discipline and may treat a wide range of critical, historical, and/or theoretical concerns. We especially hope to see proposals for papers on the representation of power relations in gender discourse.

The two papers we already have are:

Philip Keel Geheber: Zola's Spectacles of Power

This paper will examine Emile Zola's depictions of state applied power through the public spectacles of theatre and modern warfare. Frequently cited as an important precursor to Modernism (or even proto-modernist writer as Gyorgy Lukacs' criticism implies), Zola's naturalist style predicated on highly pictorial representations begins to demonstrate this shift that will become increasingly foregrounded by later Modernist novelists. His prose style initially seems simply to develop standard realist representation to its logical extreme, but as I will demonstrate, it also begins problematizing the mastery of subject-character over object-image as well as earlier generally accepted power relations between reader and text.
The texts that this paper will primarily focus upon are Nana and La Debacle. The first novel's depiction of the Parisian theatre world is in many ways a precursor to Modernist depictions of prostitution. The juxtaposition of the theatre demimonde with brothels and prostitution intimately links these two public spheres as the theatre is most clearly a spectacle for public visual consumption while the filles publiques, who are often these same theatre actors and singers, are equally consumed and in the public eye. The state is implicated in these dissipations through Nana's relationship with Count Muffat, the Chamberlain of the Empress, and at the novel's close shown to be impotent as the Franco-Prussian war begins. La Debacle's portrayal of the Second Empire's fall to the Prussians at Sedan and the disaster of the Commune relies on theatrical analogies of the spectacle to describe the modern theatre of war. State power is problematized through both of these treatments of public spectacle, especially as it seeks to assert control over the women and lower orders of its own population and wishes to exert its ideals over other states to justify and expand its values and influence.


Robert Baines: Uber Manner und Frauen: Joyce, Nietzsche and the Gender of Power

The two most direct references to Nietzsche within Joyce's oeuvre occur in "A Painful Case" and the "Telemachus" episode of Ulysses. In the former, the narrator observes that "two volumes by Nietzsche" stand on Mr James Duffy's shelves: Thus Spake Zarathustra and The Gay Science. In the latter, Buck Mulligan describes himself as the 'Ubermensch,' labels Haines and himself "supermen," and concludes a mock-Biblical quote with the words "Thus spake Zarathustra." The references to Nietzsche in "A Painful Case" and Ulysses are connected by the fact that, on both occasions, Joyce references Nietzsche in order to illuminate a male character's attitude towards women. In "A Painful Case," Mr James Duffy asserts that "friendship between man and woman is impossible because there must be sexual intercourse." This assertion, which follows immediately after the narrator's mention of Duffy's "two volumes by Nietzsche," repeats Nietzsche's declaration that "woman is not yet capable of friendship" in Thus Spake Zarathustra. In Ulysses, Buck Mulligan's description of himself as the Ubermensch follows his observation that "redheaded women buck like goats" and his discovery that his "twelfth rib is gone." Mulligan's attitude towards women is quite the opposite of that of Duffy. Rather than regarding the male-female bond as an insoluble problem, he draws attention to his former sexual conquests. Yet, in asserting that his "twelfth rib is gone," he undermines the notion of sex as intercourse. Adam's missing rib will become Eve. Consequently, Mulligan's overmanliness is the product of the removal of the feminine from within him. Neither Duffy nor Mulligan is capable of a meaningful relationship with the opposite sex. This is because both, in their very different ways, regard themselves as supermen.
This paper will examine the relationship between Joyce's two most explicitly Nietzschean characters. It will consider how Duffy and Mulligan's understandings of power and control shape their relationships with women. It will explore how these two characters reflect Joyce's changing understanding of Nietzsche's ideas.


Conference Location: Las Vegas, US
Conference Starts: October 18, 2012
Conference Ends: October 21, 2012

CFP Submission Deadline: April 04, 2012

For more information, contact: Philip Keel Geheber

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