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Teaching Modernism in the Age of Brexit and Trump

As Peter Gay explains in Modernism: The Lure of Heresy, “Fascists came into power legally . . . They freely resorted to naked physical assaults on politically inconvenient opponents; they labored to erase all traces of modern feminism and trade unionism; they put the making of a new, higher type of humanity on their program; they made increasingly exigent demands on ordinary citizens, invading their privacy whether it involved sports or music lessons, theatrical performances or art exhibitions” (Gay 433). Indeed, modernity’s increasingly cosmopolitan societies, which cultivated new ways of understanding the human condition, concurrently produced fascist governments elected in part by a fear of change—whether that change was located in immigration, women’s roles, sexuality, etc.--and a growing nostalgia and nationalism in response to this change. In short, the elements of fascism are a backlash against the more liberal tenets of modernity.

While comparisons between historical fascism and contemporary political issues are ideologically fraught affairs, often argued too hastily and unreflectively, the tensions in contemporary society regarding progress and nostalgia, truth and propaganda provide a rich opportunity for using modernist texts in the classroom. Additionally, recent controversies regarding efforts by elite art and artists to critique the results of democratic elections in Britain and the United States, and the sporadic attempts to censor these critiques, remind modernist scholars of the prior tensions between “mass cultural consumers [who] were seen to demonstrate passive consumptive habits” and “defenders of high culture,” who equated their aesthetic attitudes with “ethical culture, as they saw it” (Pease 168).

The following roundtable, then, invites modernist scholars to analyze pedagogical intersections between themes of modernist texts and the tensions produced by modernity. How does the present political and rhetorical climate in the United States and Great Britain provide teachers and scholars with fresh opportunities to utilize modernist texts? How might the historical and aesthetic distance provided by modernist texts foster classroom dialogue regarding the issues above rather than enabling its own type of implicit academic censorship? Papers which examine intersections between fascism and immigration, technology, sexuality, disability and censorship are particularly welcome. Please email abstracts, along with short bio, to Anthony Dotterman (Dotterman@Adelphi.edu) by


Conference Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Conference Starts: August 10, 2017
Conference Ends: August 13, 2017

CFP Submission Deadline: January 26, 2017

For more information, contact: anthony dotterman

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