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Inspired by examples such as Samuel Beckett’s injunction in Westward Ho to “fail better," Gertrude Stein’s inability to complete her “history of the whole world” in The Making of Americans, and Ezra Pound’s lament in "Canto CXVI" that he could not “make it cohere,” this panel seeks papers exploring the relationship between modernism and failure. In their varied and frequent embraces of utopian politics, incomplete narratives, and pure abstraction, many modernist writers and artists engaged in a wide range of aesthetic and political projects doomed to fail, while others embraced failure as a means of escaping the progressive, normative, or otherwise limiting aesthetic, political, and cultural models they inherited.
Panelists are invited to consider the various ways in which failure inspires or undermines modernist art and literature. Topics may include, but are not limited to: the futility of modernism's totalizing ambitions, as found in a number of twentieth-century revivals of the epic; the role of unfinished, or unfinishable, projects in modernist studies; thwarted utopian politics; failed promises to escape history or nature; the inability to overcome aesthetic traditions, or inherited gender, racial, or class-based identities; and the role of failure in shaping alternative identities.

Please send an abstract of 250-300 words and a brief bio by April 1 to Stephen Pasqualina (

Conference Location: Pasadena, CA
Conference Starts: November 17, 2016
Conference Ends: November 20, 2016

CFP Submission Deadline: April 01, 2016

For more information, contact: Stephen Pasqualina