Member Services

Thirties Modernism?

In spite of a recent resurgence in scholarship on British writing of the thirties it is still difficult to place the thirties with regard to modernism. The choice seems to be between charting a progressive history according to which transitional texts reveal the evolution of modernism into postmodernism, and separating the thirties out as a recessive literary moment devoid of pretensions to largeness or expansion (more devoted to social and political change than developments in literary form). This panel asks applicants to address the question of how we might reconcile these two competing approaches to the thirties. In a period that witnessed the extreme formalism of the little magazine _transition_, the strange realism of Christopher Isherwood, and the explicitly political writings of George Orwell, is any unified approach possible? Or, might we read the thirties alongside Fredric Jameson’s assessment of the twentieth century in _A Singular Modernity_ – he writes of “a dependence of the postmodern on what remain essentially modernist categories of the new”(5) – as a period whose established breaks should be reimagined as continuities? If it is productive to consider the twentieth century outside of the narrative of development from modernism to postmodernism, can we consider the strangeness of thirties literature as a particular object lesson, as a critique of modernism’s insistence on “the new,” instead of reading the thirties outside modernist paradigms in a way that implicitly devalues the thirties and privileges modernism?

I welcome papers that treat the thirties context broadly in these terms, as well as those that offer readings of particular texts written in the thirties. Please send a 300 word abstract and a brief bio to Liz Kuhn at ehk113@psu.edu by May 4.


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

CFP Submission Deadline: May 04, 2009

For more information, contact: Liz Kuhn

Back to Main Index