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Midcentury Monstrosities

The new modernist studies have been hard at work dissolving the tidy binaries of twentieth-century periodization (modernism vs. postmodernism, modern vs. contemporary, pre-1945 vs. post-1945). In part, this process has involved attending with seriousness to the literary production of the midcentury. Yet as the underexplored decades of the 1930s, 40s, 50s, and 60s take their place in these richer accounts of twentieth-century literary history, the focus tends to be on their orderly and earnest aspects: the documentary and life-writing of the postwar years; the abundance of middlebrow narrative forms, including genre fiction; the clean, functional lines of mid-century modern architecture; the miniaturization and familiarization of the world in LIFE Magazine. Sandwiched between what literary history typically tells us are the experimental extremes of the modern and the contemporary, the midcentury remains, in many critical accounts, an unadventurous moment in an otherwise tumultuous century.

This panel seeks papers that challenge this account of the midcentury by addressing “midcentury monstrosities”: midcentury texts that do not conform to critical consensus or moments of monstrosity in midcentury texts. The category of the “monstrous” invites attention to the messy, the shocking, the outrageous, the atrocious. What work does the monstrous do in the midcentury’s responses to modernism and world war? What counts as formal monstrosity in the midcentury, and how might midcentury monstrous forms be situated in broader accounts of twentieth-century experimental aesthetics? How does the monstrous challenge our understanding of the midcentury and literary history more broadly?

Possible topics include:

Disability, debility, and disfigurement at the levels of character or form
Mutation, cyborgs, and the erosion of distinctions between nature/culture, human/animal, or human/machine
Gargantuan forms or scales
Bad politics and their monstrous outcomes
Insidious institutions (e.g., military, finance, intelligence)
The horrors of capitalism

Submit abstracts of 250 words and brief bios to Rebecah Pulsifer at pulsife2@illinois.edu by January 9, 2017.

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

CFP Submission Deadline: January 09, 2017

For more information, contact: Rebecah Pulsifer

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