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MSA 12: Modernist Revivals and the Politics of Appropriation

This panel seeks to re-evaluate practices of Modernist appropriation, from the primitivisms of the African Interior and American South to performances of the music hall and the troubadours of Provence. Harlem holidays and mornings in Mexico, Celtic revivals and Smithsonian folkways, Modernist occultisms, ritualisms and ventriloquisms - such exercises in spatial and temporal tourism signal the familiar recourse of literary modernity to cultural forms perceived as anterior, antithetical or elsewhere, for the means wherewith to renew itself. On both sides of the Atlantic, and in ways that we have long been able to critique, these antiquarian and anthropological detours return with interest on the metropolitan subject and the Modernist artwork. Such romances of the primitive, the non-commercial and the naïve, traffic in a complex play of intention and irony, love and theft, inseparable from unequal structures of power and (cultural) capital.

The papers gathered here will re-examine the cultural work attempted in Modernist and mid-century projects of appropriation and revival, declining to side with either the consolations of aesthetic innovation or with the insights of ideological critique. Attentive rather to more compromised forms of commodified authenticity, awkward identification and impossible intimacy, we propose to explore the equivocal politics of Modernist affiliation. We will ask how incorporative aesthetic strategies engineer new communities of feeling, new social imaginaries, be they utopian or nostalgic, emancipatory or exclusionary. How might modernist writers position vernacular forms and histories to both challenge and shore up the redemptive agency of the state and the normalizing discourses of national belonging? How, for example, might performances of racial masquerade encode forms of affective solidarity and fantasies of liberal universalism that complicate and exceed erotic investments in the racialized other? How might the cultural work undertaken in the name of imagined community and invented tradition, the national popular and the labour metaphysic, still afford progressive possibilities? Alternatively, how might the failures of these projects of appropriative allegiance still help us read the history of Modernism within, across and beyond the limits of the metropolitan nation state?

Please submit a brief abstract and title by noon of May 3rd to Todd Carmody (carmodyt@sas.upenn.edu) or John Connor (jtconnor@sas.upenn.edu). The completed panel will be submitted for consideration to the MSA that same day.



Conference Location: Victoria, Canada
Conference Starts: November 11, 2010
Conference Ends: November 14, 2010

CFP Submission Deadline: May 03, 2010

For more information, contact: John Connor

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