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CFP: Modernism's Constraining Forms
Proposed Panel for MSA 20
November 8-11, 2018; Columbus, Ohio

In a recent issue of PMLA, Caroline Levine reiterates her stance from Forms: Whole, Rhythm, Hierarchy, Network (2015), saying "agency is dramatically constrained by shapes and arrangements -- from built spaces to racial hierarchies to our body‚??s rhythms." While, for her, one cannot work outside such arrangements, she insists that "people can wield agency within and by way of constraining forms," frequently using other forms to unsettle hierarchies and interrupt routines. This panel proposes tracking the ways in which modernist writers, and contemporary writers in modernism's wake, have registered constraining forms, done things with them (subversively, ironically, transformatively), and interrogated the possibility of transcending them. If, as Levine contends, forms can be, at once, containing, plural, overlapping, portable, and situated, how have artists and critics diagnosed, "graphed," and harnessed their productive capacities, particularly in ways that reconfigure relations in and among such spheres as aesthetics, politics, epistemology, ethics, and history?

Like Levine's, our understanding of "forms" is capacious and contextually variable, shaping practices that range from poetics and criticism to curation and teaching, from urban design to social formation -- though this is hardly exhaustive. We thus welcome proposals that address modernism's constraining forms in a variety of contexts and registers. Topics might include (but are not limited to) forms such as: literary genre, formal techniques, and tradition; literary reading, reception, and criticism; pedagogy, epistemology, ethics; urban spaces, social forms and hierarchies, nationhood; affect and the everyday. We especially seek papers that examine such forms in a way that speaks to modernism's ongoing struggle with its own constraints or the complex legacies of modernism's work with and through constraining forms -- both then and now, both in creative production and criticism.

Please send an abstract of 200-250 words and a brief bio to Michael Subialka ( and Kelly Walsh ( by April 5, 2018.

Conference Location: Columbus, OH, USA
Conference Starts: November 08, 2018
Conference Ends: November 11, 2018

CFP Submission Deadline: April 05, 2018

For more information, contact: Kelly Walsh