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The Modernism of Politics

MSA 17: The Modernism of Politics

The modernist period, as the theme of this year’s conference suggests, was a period marked by revolutions of various stripes: aesthetic, social, cultural, and political. Among these, political revolutions often occupied center stage, both in terms of public awareness but also in terms of modernist praxis. Many modernists participated in radical political actions even as they experimented or facilitated experimentation with radical aesthetics.

Taking the title of Raymond Williams’ canonical collection of essays, The Politics of Modernism, as its starting point, this panel reverses the formulation to ask what might be gained by attending to the “modernism of politics.” How might we rethink our approach to political events of the period if we consider them as influenced by modernism? In what ways might we imagine political struggle and revolution deriving tactics or rhetorics from the experiments of modernism? In what ways might we reconsider political activists drawing on their knowledge of modernism to further their political projects?

Events such as the Paterson Strike Pageant, designed to draw attention to the plight of workers by the Industrial Workers of the World and organized by Mabel Dodge who also helped organize the Armory Show the same year, suggest there are fruitful ways to re-conceptualize political events of the period as modernistic in themselves. Rather than asking what political beliefs some modernists may have had, successful papers will investigate how modernist ideas may have influenced political radicals, how modernism may have contributed to political struggles of the period, or how the aesthetics of modernism were repurposed for political struggles.

I am accepting abstracts of 300-500 words. Please email them as a word document along with a short bio or CV to Matthew Hannah, mhannah@uoregon.edu, by April 10th. Interdisciplinary approaches are especially welcome, and some fruitful areas of study might include:

Periodical studies
Digital humanities
Historical approaches
Salon studies
Marxism as/against modernism
Socialism or anarchism
Propaganda and modernism
Colonial or Postcolonial contexts for modernism


Conference Location: Boston, USA
Conference Starts: November 19, 2015
Conference Ends: November 22, 2015

CFP Submission Deadline: April 10, 2015

For more information, contact: Matthew Hannah

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