MSA 14: Modernism and Spectacle

October 18-21, 2012
The Flamingo Hotel, Las Vegas, NV


Click on a title to see expanded description (listed in alphabetical order)

1. Antipodal Modernisms: Angry Penguins, Jindyworobaks and Others
Erin G. Carlston
Other than Katherine Mansfield, interwar artists, filmmakers and writers from New Zealand and Australia are rarely discussed in much of the literature on modernism, or in the American academy. The goal of this seminar is to expand that conversation and to consider how the works of Australians, New Zealanders and other (trans) Pacific modernists might allow us to think newly, and differently, about the connections among internationalism, nationalism, and colonialism; the drive towards the modern and the fascination with the primitive; the emphasis on mobility and rootlessness and the romanticization of place; the relation between province and metropole. Essays on all genres welcome.


Architectural Modernism
Eric Bulson and Catherine Flynn

Among interdisciplinary approaches to modernist studies, the dialogue between literature and architecture has yet to be properly addressed. This seminar invites papers that examine aspects of modernist textual and spatial production. Essays may explore: representations of architecture in modernist literature; formal analogies between textual and built form; transnational modernism and the International School; the cultivation of public profiles by modernist writers and architects; shared aesthetics, such as futurism or constructivism; shared political influences, such as fascism or socialism; conceptions of the city; the questioning of the boundary between public and private; reconfigurations of the domestic; spectacle and the practice of space.


Bergson, Deleuze and Modernism
S.E. Gontarski and Laci Mattison

This interdisciplinary seminar engages with the intersection between Henri Bergson and Gilles Deleuze, as we pose the question of not only how modernist writers, artists, and thinkers were influenced by or revised Bergsonian philosophy, but also how the twenty-first century has been affected by Bergsonism via Deleuze, and how Deleuze’s Bergson might also offer productive re-interpretations of modernism.  We invite papers that explore the many ways in which Bergson’s notions of durée, intuition, the image, evolution, language, art, and so forth innovated modernism and, furthermore, how artists and thinkers since the twentieth-century have creatively engaged and revised Bergsonism. Invited participants: John Mullarkey, Kingston University, London; Paul Ardoin, Florida State University. Invited Participants: John Mullarkey, Kingston University, London; Paul Ardoin, Florida State University.


Colonial/Anticolonial Modernism
Keguro Macharia and Aarthi Vadde

This seminar seeks to understand the diverse forms of political and aesthetic experimentation that characterized modernism in the colonies. We begin by questioning the assumption that colonial writers were primarily concerned with imagining the postcolonial nation or that anticolonial resistance necessarily took the form of nationalism. We invite contributors to consider other forms of collaboration and collectivity imagined by colonial and anticolonial modernists, other modes of realizing freedom and belonging than simply the nation. We welcome papers that theorize the relationship between colonial dissidence and modernist aesthetics; that consider modes of belonging larger and smaller than the nation (based on aesthetics, ethics, race, religion, erotics, etc.); that confront uncomfortable political positions (from colonial loyalism to anticolonial radicalism).
5. Digital Curiosities: Developing Your Own Modernist Project
Jennifer Guiliano and Lisa Rhody
The digital humanities offer for scholars of 20th century literature, art, history, and culture opportunities to select, curate, and display their work. Whether creating editions, presenting arguments, analyzing data, or building tools, scholars’ use of digital technologies can change their relationship to the production and dissemination of their work, much like Marcel Duchamp’s miniature spectacle the Boîte-en-valise did for his.  Designed for neophyte digital humanities scholars, this seminar encourages participants to explore best practices, standards, models, and potential audiences for their projects and to consider each other’s technical, administrative, budgetary, and publicity needs.


Fantastic Spectacles: Magic, Monsters and Modernism
Phyllis Lassner and Mia Spiro

For the past century of modernist cultural production, utopian and violent images of monsters and fantastic creatures have represented political and cultural crisis and change, including the experiences and memories of war.  Historically real and imaginative worlds collide in such modernist aesthetic forms as dystopian fiction, magic realism, the fantastic, Expressionist art and film, and neo-Gothic horror. This seminar will focus on creative and revisionary ideas and aesthetic emanations of the monstrous or other spectacular or marvelous creatures in relation to race, gender, and global transitions.  We invite discussion of the monstrous and magical as spectacles in modernist narratives of such genres as fiction, poetry, film, theater, and the visual arts. 


Generation M: Experiential/Experimental Time
Lois Cucullu, Rudolph Glitz, and Aaron Jaffe

Modernists demonstrably had “time” on their minds: Simmel's 1903 psychological study of modern cities, Benjamin’s 1940 “homogeneous, empty time,” and, in between, Pound’s trumpeting of his generation as a “grrrreat littttterary period.” This seminar asks what inherited conceptions of time have we scholars assumed, ignored, or discounted, and with what consequences? To re-examine time and those in the vanguard of marking it in new ways, we invite papers treating such temporal formations as imperial chronology (the imposition of GMT, WWI’s daylight savings time), manufactured time (pocket watches, timetables, efficiency models, cinematic “embalmed” time), subjective time (Bergson’s durée, Richardson’s stream-of-consciousness), periodization (bounded time of historical, anthropological, and literary periods), and, not least, generational time.


Harlem Renaissance Studies Now
Adam McKible and Suzanne Churchill

The Harlem Renaissance was spectacular: people of all hues were dazzled by the sounds, sights, and stimulations of the New Negro vogue. Recent studies of the Harlem Renaissance have focused on aspects of visual culture, celebrity, performance and the performing arts, and print culture. How do these scholarly trends advance our understanding of the Harlem Renaissance? This seminar seeks to understand the status of the Harlem Renaissance today, not only in relation to modernism and modernity, but also in regards to Modernism/modernity and the MSA, where it is a "spectral" presence, barely visible in the journal and conference program. 


The (In)Visible Spectacle: Dance, Modernism and Visual Culture
Gustav Frank and Juliet Bellow

This seminar examines three interconnected phenomena: the invention of modern dance forms; the development of modernist artistic idioms; and the expansion of visual culture into the realm of spectacle.  Between 1890 and 1930, dance became visible in new ways on the stage, page, canvas and screen.  Modern dance – by definition ephemeral, kinesthetic, idiosyncratic – depended upon other media for its transcription and dissemination, yet this process rendered some aspects of dance invisible.  What could only the spectacle of modern dance make visible?  How did artworks, advertisements, photographs, and films bring dance into visibility?  What in dance exceeded or resisted visual inscription? Invited Participants: Nell Andrew, University of Georgia;
S. Elise Archias, California State University, Chico.


Major Minor Modernism
Sarah Cole

This seminar conceives a new category of writers and writing in the modernist period: major minor modernism. I propose that we look carefully at figures who are not normally afforded the same critical appraisal as the recognized modernists, and yet were, (a) influential and widely read, not only in their moment but beyond (b) taken seriously and indeed worried over by modernists, and (c) engaged with many of the same issues, at thematic and even formal levels, as the canonical modernists. It is a bigger category than one might suppose (notable English examples include Kipling, Wells, and Orwell), and I encourage submissions focusing on writers from any national tradition whose combination of importance and marginality invites renewed appraisal. The concept of major minor modernism is not about recovery, since these were and are central voices; it is, rather, about rethinking the modernist moment itself. Invited Participants: Laura Frost, The New School; Jesse Matz, Kenyon College.
11. Modernism and Addiction
Jason P. Doiron and John D. McIntyre

Prone at times to excess, modernism frequently exhibits and examines addictive behaviors. Led by a practicing clinician and academic, this seminar will read the visual and verbal cues of a range of addictions as they surface within a variety of modernist texts. Whether behavioral, psychological, chemical, or textual, addictions are themselves symptomatic of modernism’s fraught relationship to its social and cultural contexts. Often modernist texts can constitute a particularly performative means through which addiction is regulated, transmitted, and enabled even as it is both condoned and criminalized. Indeed, contemporary clinical approaches to addictive behaviors suggest that individual instances of modernist addiction can often be viewed as a kind of performance.


Modernism and Efficiency
Suzanne Raitt

The efficiency movement in all its various forms is often seen as key to the development of modernity, and scholars such as Evelyn Cobley have recently argued that cultural modernisms engage in complex and profound ways with the idea of a perfectly efficient world. This seminar will explore ways in which efficiency and associated concepts and antonyms (waste, muddle etc) shape modernist cultural production, both formally and thematically. Invited participants: Jennifer Alexander, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Minnesota; Evelyn Cobley, University of Victoria.
13. Modernism at Sea
Heather Waldroup
Around 1910, an elegantly-designed brochure for the Oceanic Steamship Company described its fleet as “ocean palaces... fully efficient and beautiful” and stressed that one of its key destinations, New Zealand, was “only 17 days away!” from San Francisco. Developments in steamship technologies in the last decades of the 19th century significantly facilitated movement across the globe, enabling leisured travelers to explore ever more distant lands. Vessel-based experiences such as Teddy Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet, the scientific explorations of the USFC Albatross, and the sinking of the Titanic – jewel of the White Star Line – highlighted both the desires and anxieties of modernism. This panel will interrogate and elaborate the relationships between sea travel, modernism, and various forms of cultural production. Case studies could include sea literature, travelogues and memoirs, photographs, food, film, postcards, scientific apparatus, ship architecture and design, deck performances, yarns and songs, object collections, menus, and fashion.
14. Modernism, Contagion, and Spectacle
Jane Fisher
Contagion, defined as the uncontrollable transmission of disease and its accompanying disorder, haunted the modern urban landscape, constantly challenging new systems and technologies as they emerged. In this seminar we will consider how modern writers both represented and repressed this on-going threat of contagion in their works. How did contagion become visible during this period, either through literary texts, private diaries or letters, World War I posters, advertisements, artistic works or other kinds of material culture? Which writers and artists welcomed the chaos and innovation associated with contagion and which sought to avoid it? What do we still have to learn about the impact of contagion on modern culture?
15. Modernist Operas, from Gertrude Stein's Three Lives to Charles Bernstein's Shadowtime
Hélène Aji and Clement Oudart
What made Modernist poets interested in the opera? Why did they find the need to put their words to music? In what way was music considered as something poetry could aspire to? Were there theories at the time that linked communication to music?
This seminar will examine the hypothesis of a modernist musical poetics, namely by revisiting the idea of the musicality of words in poetry, by inquiring into the uses of poetic texts by composers, as with Debussy’s “reading” of Mallarmé or Elliott Carter’s setting of John Ashbery’s poetry to music. More crucially, the operatic mode will be tackled as a way of putting poetry on the stage before the advent of poetic performance. As exemplified by Stein’s Three Lives, Pound’s Villon, or Bernstein’s libretto on Walter Benjamin, the didactic dimension of the opera also raises the question of a link between Modernist operas and biography. Invited Participants: Nancy Perloff, Getty Research Institute; Robert Zamsky, New College of Florida.


Modernist Poetics / Hemispheric Contexts
Rachel Galvin and Harris Feinsod

This seminar welcomes papers working at the nexus of modernist studies, comparative poetics, and the growing field of Hemispheric American Studies. How can we understand modern poetries of the Americas in conversation with one another? How do New World interludes including modernismo, modernism, and vanguardismo converge or diverge? How must we recalibrate questions about the relation of poetic modernism to language, technological modernization, and socio-political change when we read in trans-American terms? To what extent can we identify a singular modernist "poetics of the Americas"? We invite readings of trans-American reception and exchange, and inquiries into the terms of hemispheric comparison. Invited Participants: Anita Haya Patterson; Rachel L. Price, Princeton University.


Modernist Poetics and Visual Culture: Strategies for Sensory Spectacle
Demetres P. Tryphonopoulos and Sara Dunton

Two avant-garde art exhibits—the Armory Show of 1913 and the Independents’ Exhibition of 1917—were bona-fide spectacles of early twentieth-century visual culture. In terms of content and public impact, the Cubist images and “ready-mades” exemplified a dramatic fragmentation of traditional modes of representation. For the poets who were newly engaged in just such a process, the spectacular aspects of both exhibits affirmed and inspired their own impressive re-workings of poetic form. In some cases poets responded directly to visual art with ekphrastic tributes to artists or artworks; in other instances, poets manipulated typology and blank space to design the poem as a visual entity. Are there cultural implications in these strategies? Are there gender distinctions evident in the designs of poetic space? Does modernist prosody aspire to be a sensory spectacle, offering as much for the ear as for the eye? This seminar discussion invites considerations of the tactics deployed by modernist poets that reflected and perhaps, in turn, incited the strategies of visual artists. Invited Partcipant: Dr. Ira B. Nadel, University of British Columbia.


Modernist Publishing Networks
John K. Young

This seminar asks both what was distinctly modernist about the British and American publishing industries in the 1920s and ’30s, and, simultaneously, how we might read modernism through the lens of publishing networks. What would it mean to consider, for instance, Freud’s works in English alongside other publications of the Hogarth Press, or Cane alongside The Waste Land on the Boni & Liveright list (as George Bornstein notes in The Colors of Zion), or to consider modernist magazines as their own networks? Seminar participants might approach such questions from the vantage point of individual works and their relationship to their place of publication and/or republication, or might consider a publisher as a whole and situate that body of works as the frame through which to investigate specific aspects of modernist literature.
19. Multilingualism and the Transnational Circuits of Modernism
Allison Schachter and Josh Miller
This seminar will consider the intersections between the transnational aspirations of modernist literatures and the multilingualism of modernist writers. Rather than focusing on how modernist writers embrace transnational themes, ideologies, or influences, we want to think comparatively about how writers position themselves globally in relationship to languages (national, intra-national, and international). We’ll consider how modernism’s global reach relates to its hyper-attention to language, enabling and disabling writers exploring such critical concerns as the politics of language choice, language mixing, and the hegemony of imperial languages. We’ll ask how modernism and world literatures come to bear on each other in multiple linguistic and international contexts.
20. Poetry as Muse: Poetic Influence on the Other Arts
Stephen Fredman and Daniel Kane

There is a relatively large body of criticism dedicated to examining the influence painting, music, dance, and, more recently, film have exerted over modern poetry.  But what about looking in the other direction, probing the profound impact poetry and poetics have had on the other arts? We are seeking contributions that explore and analyze the various effects of poetry and poetics upon other artistic practices, including but not necessarily limited to music, dance, film, visual arts, theater, and architecture. We are interested both in individual influences and, more broadly speaking, in poetry’s cultural impact on the other arts.

21. Reading Aloud
Julia Bloch and Marit MacArthur
This seminar seeks to explore the spectacle of reading and hearing poetry aloud, from the near-ubiquity of the live poetry reading to the increasing digitization of sound recordings to other kinds of spoken and heard texts, including their uses in the classroom. We invite case studies, historical inquiries, and methodological discussions that ask such questions as: What can the performative qualities of the poetry reading teach us about subjectivity and poetry? How do contrasting reading styles illustrate not just aesthetic difference but also cultural and ideological distinctions between poetic communities? What are the politics of space and transmission for certain forms of reading aloud, from slam to sound poetry? What is the significance of the poetry reading for new studies in lyric, sound, and performance?


Recoiling from Spectacle 
Martin Harries and John Muse

What happens if we imagine modernism not as spectacular advance but as a strategic retreat from spectacle? This seminar will explore how resistance to spectacle shaped modernist invention. How did artists recoil against spectacles of industrialization, against the hyper-theatricality of Wagner or Marinetti or Pirandello, the histrionics of the avant-garde, displays of state power, or the mass spectacles made possible by film, radio, and television? Where might the retreat from spectacle lead? What happens when anti-spectacular impulses fuel new spectacles? We welcome papers from a variety of perspectives and about a range of media.


Rethinking Late Modernism and Imperialism
Lara Vetter, Celena E. Kusch, and Rebecca Walsh

This seminar explores the engagement of late modernism (roughly 1930s-1950s), with imperialism and the underlying mechanisms of Empire formation.  What kind of aesthetic demands emerge in this period that might be different from early or "high" modernism, and how do they frame and/or how are they shaped by questions of imperialism?  This seminar welcomes papers that challenge recent conceptions of imperialism and late modernism by investigating issues of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, and nation. How might writings by women, people of color, non-English citizens, or gays and lesbians complicate our understanding of the relationship between imperialism and late modernism? Invited Participants: Sonita Sarker, Macalester College; Michael Valdez Moses, Duke University.


Sex and Sexual Modernity
Benjamin Kahan

This seminar will focus on historiographic methods and theoretical difficulties with imagining the long durée of sexuality, exploring continuities and differences across a 1000 year period. The seminar will ask whether writing such a long history of something we might tentatively call "sexual modernity" is indeed possible, while also interrogating the uses to which such a history could be put. In the last ten years, historians of sexuality have shifted from microhistorical frames to much longer views often encompassing over a thousand years (Alan Bray's The Friend, Anna Clark's Desire, David Halperin's How to Do the History of Homosexuality, Monica Miller's Slaves to Fashion, Kim Phillips and Barry Reay's Sex Before Sexuality). What shapes does this sexual modernity or set of modernities take? What are the historical, chronological, and geographical parameters of such a modernity? We will place these diachronically sweeping histories in conversation with chronologically shorter histories in order to attempt to suture together the ambitious project of narrating sexual modernity. We will pay particular attention to the gaps, fissures, and harmonies both between these micro and macrohistories as well as between chronologically adjacent microhistories. In addition, we will read across this historical terrain to track the recurrence of sexual figures or patterns, attempting to see continuities and differences across time. We will ask how this wide-angle lens might recast distinctly modernist phenomenon like the invention of sexuality and the rise of sexology. Invited Participant: Christopher Looby, UCLA.
25. Spectacle in German Visual Culture
Thomas O. Haakenson
The seminar “Spectacle in German Visual Culture” seeks to highlight specific and spectacular manifestations of visual culture in German-speaking contexts. Proposals that deal with spectacle in historical, contemporary, theoretical, or empirical terms are welcome. Panelists are encouraged to consider how the visual nature of spectacle informs the citizenry, destabilizes the political, challenges aesthetic convention, and celebrate cultural creativity. From art exhibitions to designed objects, from political posturing to (pre)virtual environments, the seminar examines the possibilities and the limits—aesthetic, political, social, cultural, economic—of the spectacle in its German-specific manifestations.


Spectacles of Nothing
Julian Murphet

Not nearly enough has been made of the fact that, due to the mechanism of projection, the better part of any film screening is constituted of nothingness: black intervals between flashes of illuminated projection. What is flashy is also what flickers, and what flickers is always on the verge of yielding to the nothingness that undergirds it. This seminar proposes to analyse the constitutive relationship of modern cinematic 'spectacle' to its occluded and necessary other—nothing (the blank, the uneventful, the void). It will consider (a) the nature of an image that is not just not present, but literally 'impresent' to itself; (b) the physiology and affective infrastructure of filmic vision; (c) the capacity of film to 'project' and allegorise its own emptiness; and (d) the metaphorical application of such spectacular nothingness to other media of modernism, including music, theatre and literature.
27. Surrealism and Spectacle
Meryl Altman and Katharine Conley

From its inception, surrealism brought together intimate private experience and public display, in ways exploratory and/or explosive. We’re conceiving “surrealism” very broadly, to include all sorts of texts, performances, and visual culture, including work produced by surrealist dissidents or under surrealist influence.

Topics might include
--uneasy borders/ fruitful interchanges between art and consumer culture,  art  and ethnography, Western and non-Western, human and non-human, high and low;
--the spectacle of the body, both self-exploited and (more problematically) appropriated from (O)thers;
--fetish, scandal and taboo, and the receding horizon of shock-value;
--reception and the archive.

28. Transatlantic Perspectives on High and Low
Will Norman
How did transatlantic exchange shape the cultural stratification upon which modernism has depended for its identity? The model of a dissonant and difficult European aesthetic defining itself against a monolithic American culture industry has been persistent since the 1940s. However, alternative critical narratives are suggested by the elevation of American hardboiled fiction to high culture by French existentialists, the varied careers of émigré film-makers in Hollywood, or the middlebrow cosmopolitanism developed by transatlantic figures at The New Yorker. Our sense of high and low has often been mediated through transatlantic cultural economies, so what do such trajectories have to tell us about how modernism constituted itself?


Using Digital Humanities Tools to Consider the Spectacle of Modernist Scholarship
Tanya Clement and J. Matthew Huculak

In the spirit of MSA 14, this seminar considers visualization methodologies in the Digital Humanities that engage “the spectacle” or performance of scholarship in modernism. Computing seems to distill the many-layered four-dimensional space of reading “text” into two-dimensional bits of data. Even though, like a musical score, a graphical representation of this data is one not only based on interpretations but meant to be “played” or spatialized in time and embodied by voices in the performance that is scholarship. Before the seminar, participants will create and read visualizations of the entire run of Modernism/Modernity by using the text visualization tool Voyant. Pre-seminar access to this data and consultation on using the tool will be facilitated by the instructors. Invited Participants: Brian Shaw, University of Texas; Stephen Ross, University of Victoria.
30. 90 Years of Writing Back to The Waste Land
Alan Golding
This seminar uses the occasion of The Waste Land's 90th. anniversary to re-examine how writers have incorporated, torqued and riffed on Eliot's text--from his contemporaries Hart Crane and Louis Zukofsky to mid-century poets like Charles Olson to our own contemporaries such as Rachel  Blau DuPlessis, Martin Rowson and John Beer.  Emphasis in seminar papers should fall on writers’ (especially, but not exclusively, poets’) explicit and sustained engagement with Eliot’s poem in literary work that openly writes back to that poem. The larger point is to reconsider questions of the relationship between high modernist poetics and later practice, questions of literary and cultural genealogy, of a dialogic poetics, through the lens of this recurring tendency in twentieth-century and contemporary practice.