sussexMSA 15: Sussex

Everydayness and the Event
QueenMaryAugust 29-September 1, 2013


DEADLINE FOR SEMINAR REGISTRATION: JULY 1, 2013. Members may sign up for one seminar during the registration process.

You MUST provide three choices for seminars (you will be placed in one seminar based on a first-come, first-serve basis). The organizers will do their best to place you in your top choice.

1. CLOSED Modernism and Religion

Leader: Elizabeth Anderson

Recent books including Pericles Lewis’s Religious Experience and the Modernist Novel and Suzanne Hobson’s Angels of Modernism: Religion, Culture, Aesthetics 1910-1960 indicate a growing interest in the relationship between religion and modernist discourse. This seminar will explore the role of spirituality and religion within modernism, considering questions such as: How does Modernism’s concern to make it new take form in spiritual terms? What is the relationship between heterodox religious movements (occult practices, spiritualism, theosophy, etc.) and mainstream religion? Does the boundary between secular and sacred erode in modernity? What kind of relationship between domesticity and religion inheres in modernist work?

2. CLOSED Narrating the everyday: Ethical risks and rewards

Leaders: Derek Attridge & Saikat Majumdar

Some of the sharpest polemics in twentieth century narrative theory have centered on the ethical implications of narrating the everyday. Is the experimental fictionalization of the everyday an indulgent articulation of bourgeois identity (as Lukács argued in the 1930’s), or is it an ethically nuanced way of understanding varieties of pain and oppression missed out by narratives whose primary concern is the spectacle (as Njabulo Ndebele claimed in the 1980’s)? Do narratives of quotidian life offer an epistemologically sensitive way of representing social history as a process of slow change as opposed to the “brief, rapid, nervous fluctuations” of the spectacular event (as argued by Fernand Braudel), or do they play into the hands of quietists and reactionaries? Is the narration of the everyday an ethically irresponsible act, especially in the midst of political turmoil and oppression? Invited Participants: Douglas Mao and David James. Auditors welcome.

3. Cold War Culture

Leaders: Greg Barnhisel & Peter Kalliney

This seminar will explore the question, "how were modernist aesthetic practices and cultural networks destroyed, preserved, or developed in the context of the Cold War?"  We seek a wide variety of contributions, including: historical scholarship that discusses modernists as cultural diplomats; analyses of the persistence (or disappearance) of modernist techniques in Anglo-American culture; theoretical considerations of the Cold War's role in the "paradigm shift" from modernism to postmodernism; comparative frameworks that consider social realism and other forms of "official culture" in the Eastern Bloc; or reflections on how the emergence of postcolonial aesthetics relates to Bandung and the non-aligned movement.

4. Modern Women's Public and Private Labors

Leader: Genevieve Brassard

Taking its cue from the conference’s theme of everydayness and the call for papers describing possible topics such as ‘political questions about private versus public’ and ‘domesticity, objects, food, [and] fashion,’ among others, this seminar will explore modern women’s experiences of work broadly defined, both within and beyond literary productions. Possible questions to investigate include: How did the modern woman labor, and to what extent did her work blur or break boundaries between private and public spheres? Which aspects of women’s work were routine and which ones were unusual and worthy of notice? What value did women attach to the work they performed, and how was their productivity or performance received? Which workplace environments were especially congenial to developing networks and professional exchanges among women? Possible representations of ‘labor’ could include motherhood and housekeeping as well as newly emerging careers. Also welcome are critical examinations of the work women did to shape and develop Modernism such as editing, publishing, and reviewing.

This seminar invites feminist scholars who study the modern period through a range of lenses and approaches, including, but not limited to: archival, periodical, and publication studies; domesticity and the middlebrow; autobiography and life writing; transnational and global studies; feeling, affect, and the body. Attention to marginalized authors and artists, as well as representations within popular texts from any and all media, are especially encouraged. One main goal of this seminar is to offer a space for feminist scholars of the modern period to continue and extend critical conversations about feminism and Modernism fostered by recent Feminist Roundtable sessions at MSA.

5. Harlem Renaissance and Europe

Leaders: Rachel Farebrother & Adam McKible

Since Paul Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic (1993), a transnational and intercultural perspective has transformed conceptions of the Harlem Renaissance, thus revealing a global movement. Mapping Paris as a transcultural capital of black modernism, Brent Hayes Edwards and Tyler Stovall survey the interplay between African American cultural expression, European fascination with African art, and Négritude. This seminar examines how these trends might be extended to advance our understanding of the Harlem Renaissance by exploring constructions of ‘Europe’ in African American expression, the figure of the African American in European thought and writing, and responses to colonialism and its legacies. Invited participant: Mark Whalan

6. The Politics of Recuperation

Leader: Jane Garrity

This seminar seeks to build upon the recent Literature Compass cluster on modernist women’s writing by inviting papers that address the politics of recuperation. Essays may engage directly with the specific issues raised by the cluster (e.g. transnational approaches, interdisciplinary inquiry, and digital projects), or they may venture beyond the topics and authors addressed by the contributors. A key question this seminar seeks to answer is:  how do we even invoke the category of gender in a post-identitarian age? Particularly welcome are papers on ‘unknown’ modernists such as Olive Moore, who today is scandalously under-read.
How would we use Moore (or any neglected modernist) as a test case to discuss the politics of recuperation? What is the rationale for recuperating such a figure? On what basis can we formulate an approach to his or her work that is relevant to contemporary concerns within modernist studies? How might the following categories help us to situate the writing of neglected writers: new historicism, feminist aesthetics, disability studies, queer theory, and the politics of affect? Invited participants: Anne Fernald and Barbara Green

7. The Everyday Versus the Event: Magazines, Fashionability, and the Digital Turn

Leaders: Faye Hammill & Paul Hjartarson & Hannah McGregor

Literary history is generally written as a series of extraordinary events. Magazine scholarship often reinforces this – seeking out landmark issues, telling examples, and canonical authors. This seminar attends, instead, to the repeating structures of periodical publishing. How do literary histories look when the everyday as fashionability (what is new this month) and repetition (the regular column, the consistently designed page) are placed centrally? How might digital remediation, markup, and other technologies of enhanced searchability, allow us to reinterpret aspects of print, visual, and cultural history? We invite responses to either or both questions, in relation to mass-market, middlebrow, or little magazines.

8. CLOSED Modernism as Pedagogy

Leader : Peter Howarth

This seminar is intended to gather interested contributors to a volume / journal issue on the topic, co-edited by myself and Becky Beasley (Oxford).
As MSA members, we are all aware of the effect of pedagogy on modernism (canons, New Modernist Studies). But can we see modernism itself as a kind of pedagogy? How did the experience of teaching / having works taught affect modernists’ imaginations? Are works interventions in the feedback loops between reputation and the academy (performance works which resist close reading, for instance)? Conversely, can we think about modernist pedagogies; institutions or ideas which embed modernist aesthetics into teaching, intentionally or not (Montessori, progressive education, Bauhaus, the Anti-University)? This seminar aims to stimulate thought and further collaboration, with eventual published results. Invited participants: Rebecca Beasley and Benjamin Poore

9. Modernist Women’s Poetry: Preserving and Transforming the Everyday

Leaders: Stacey Hubbard & Melissa Zeiger

This seminar will consider the following questions: What do we mean by the everyday in poetic contexts, and to what extent is this concept gendered? Are there distinctive relations to the everyday to be found in the works of women poets? How do women poets negotiate the feminine’s traditional associations with, as Rita Felski puts it, “repetition, home and habit”? To what extent are everyday details in women’s poems preserved as ordinary or made epiphanic? Is it possible for poetry to represent or valorize the everyday without necessarily attempting to transcend it?
We welcome papers on poets working in various traditions, including those working in languages other than English.

10. CLOSED Modernist Reformations and Reactivations

Leaders: David James & Urmila Seshagiri

The novelist Tom McCarthy recently insisted that “the task for contemporary literature is to deal with the legacy of modernism.” This seminar invites papers about modernism’s numerous afterlives and continuities. We welcome perspectives ranging from the movement’s late phase in the 1930s and 1940s, to postwar dialogues with modernism's influence, to contemporary attitudes toward innovation. In the wake of disillusionment with postmodernism’s vocabularies and frameworks, how might modernism’s persistence in the late 20th- and early 21st-centuries inspire alternative critical practices? Does modernism operate today as a new generative force or a self-reinforcing phenomenon? We invite an array of historical and theoretical approaches to modernism’s myriad legacies in visual, literary, and multi-media arts.

11. CLOSED Modernist Cities

Leader: Tamar Katz

This seminar asks how modernist understandings of the everyday and the event are linked to the urban contexts in which they took shape. How do urban forces, behaviors, and structures in the period—from immigration to coterie production, from aesthetic happenings to commuting—bring together the habitual with the exceptional? The seminar welcomes papers on the city as the site of modernist aesthetic collisions as well mundane habits. It also invites papers on the way modernist theories (literary, philosophical, political) of the everyday or the event are themselves formed by an account of urban life.

12. Modernist Rhopography

Leader: Leena Kore Schroder

Taking its title from the Greek rhopos—trivial and mundane things—this seminar examines the still life as rhopography’s most eloquent genre. The vase; the pot; the dish: these invoke habitual daily existence that forms the very stuff of narrative, even as they also resist the world of change in which the story needs must move. Still life, thus, deals in a sense of the commonplace that is absent of story or plot, as everydayness always is. ‘Listless is the air in an empty room, just swelling the curtain; the flowers in the jar shift. One fibre in the wicker arm-chair creaks, though no one sits there’: Woolf’s rhopographic method in Jacob’s Room reveals the fundamentally anti-narrative impulse of still life. It is hoped that this seminar will attract an interdisciplinary discussion of still life as a kind of poetics of the everyday, by which to read forms that are now acknowledged as incontrovertibly modernist: the epiphany; the Image; the enigmatic fragment and open-ended tableau.

13. Ulysses

Leader: Michael Levenson

“Don't mope over it all day,” is Buck Mulligan’s brisk advice to Stephen Dedalus at the opening of Ulysses, words which bring the figure and concept of the ‘day’ into immediate question. Papers are invited for a seminar on “daily-ness,” in Joyce’s novel, including problems of quotidian unity (what makes a day?), temporal intersection (history/eternity and the day), alternations of day and night, hourly rhythms of the body, projections of time onto space, the passage between 16th and 17th of June, daily public ceremony, the relationship between tropes of the ‘day’ and the ‘everyday,’ and countless other possibilities.

14. Daily Bread and Forbidden Fruit: The Modernist Meal

Leader: Hervé Picherit

From Woolfian banquets, to Joycean devourers and Proustian pastries, the act of eating in modernist literature marks the point of articulation between the everyday and the event, between the expression of a desired continuity with the past, and of the modernist break.  Does modernism imagine a “daily bread” at the heart of a personal and collective quotidian?  In what ways does it unveil eating as a mechanism for individual conversion and collective reinvention?  Why does Jarry choose his voracious monster as a figure of social catastrophe?  How does Pruforck’s peach become forbidden fruit?  How is it that Chaplin can unveil what is “behind the screen” with a pie-fight?

15. Seeing with Clothes: The Extra-Ordinary Event

Leaders: Guy Jonathan Reynolds & Celia Marshik

This seminar focuses on moments, in play/performance/fancy dress/opera/ballet, where modernist artists (working alone and in collaboration) stepped out of the everyday to find the vital strangeness of modernity. We will examine moments where ‘dress’ and ‘event’ decisively intersect, where la vie quotidienne momentarily dissolves through sartorial display. The seminar seeks papers that explore representations in literature, film and photography, along with the creative praxis of stage set, costume and film design. Among other questions, seminar participants will ask: to what extent can dress construct event? What types of dress/material emerge as “eventful”? What types of performances animate extra-ordinary clothing? When and why might dress complicate or frustrate ‘event’? We invite readings of individual texts or types of events/ dress, as well as papers that theorize the relationship between clothing and “special” events. Invited participants: Caroline Edwards and Ilya Parkins

16. Art and Everydayness

Leader: Wood Roberdeau

‘As long as art is conceived as something different from our daily affairs, even if  it is meant to illuminate or emulate some aspects of our everyday life, it has already acquired a special status, not shared by our everyday life itself.’
Can aesthetics of the commonplace register at the site of visual art? Guided by Yuriko Saito's book Everyday Aesthetics (2007), this seminar explores the dialectic between the lived and represented, or, function and form alongside the history of modern art's autonomy, as compared and contrasted with mundane objects and rituals. Moving beyond the artistic model, categories of nature, consumerism, ambience, transience, and morality will be explored alongside notions of consciousness, perception, and eventfulness.  

17. Everyday Trust, Commonplace Confidence

Leader: Rod Rosenquist

Sociologist Niklas Luhmann first pointed out that ‘a complete absence of trust would prevent [one] even from getting up in the morning’. More recently, modernist scholarship has begun to recognise the centrality of social and cultural forms of trust in emergent twentieth-century modernity, considering a range of topics from engagement with new technologies to explorations of new techniques in the arts, from economic policies to political movements, from mass media to elitist individualism.  The seminar will invite papers on commonplace forms of trust, belief or confidence relating to the modernist aesthetic and its reception, but also modernist engagements with trust in sociological, political, economic or religio-philosophical frameworks.

18. Modernist Episodes

Leader: Nicholas Royle

What is an ‘episode’? How might we think about Modernist works in relation to the episodic? Is there something singular and perhaps new about the way Modernist writers work with episodes? For Conrad, for example, the episode seems to have special force in interweaving history, life and the everyday, on the one hand, and fiction and the uncanny, on the other. Thus he observes in his ‘Appreciation’ of James in 1904: ‘One is never set at rest by Mr. Henry James’s novels. His books end as an episode in life ends.’ What of episodes in Lawrence, Joyce, Woolf and others? Invited participants: Andrew Bennet and Jemma Deer

19. The ‘To-Day and To-Morrow’ series: Everydayness and the Future

Leader: Max Saunders

This brilliant series of 105 short books was published from 1924-31, edited by maverick polymath C. K. Ogden. Its contributors – including Vernon Lee, Vera Brittain, Robert Graves, Hugh MacDiarmid, Bertrand and Dora Russell, J. B. S. Haldane, John Rodker, Winifred Holtby — were asked to describe the present state of their field, and imagine its future.

The seminar will focus on the group of volumes dealing particularly with everyday life topics as well as contemporary events and debates. The series (reissued by Routledge in 2008) remains one of the great undiscovered resources for Modernist Studies.

For a full listing see:

20. Modernism and the New Woman

Leader: Carey Snyder

The “New Woman” who defied the Victorian domestic ideal and sought wider economic, sexual, or personal opportunities has long been considered an important fin de siècle phenomenon, both celebrated and satirized in periodicals and fiction.  Yet recent scholarship suggests that the New Woman endured as a cultural icon well into the twentieth century.  This seminar explores the usefulness of the concept of the New Woman for Modernist Studies.  Questions that seminar participants might pursue include:  How do twentieth century texts—visual, literary, filmic, musical, or otherwise—engage, continue, and/or reconfigure fin de siècle debates about the New Woman?  How do such texts challenge conventional period boundaries?  What is the relationship between the New Woman and such entities as the freewoman, the flapper, the lesbian, and the New Negro woman?  What aesthetic or ideological continuities or discontinuities are there between Victorian New Woman discourse and its modern descendants?  

21. Adolescent Modernisms

Leader: Pam Thurschwell

This seminar will bring together critics working on adolescence and modernism from any number of angles. At around the same time as psychologists such as G. Stanley Hall are constructing influential representations of the modern adolescent, experimental writers harness the figure of the adolescent to explore modernism’s own temporal and aesthetic preoccupations. Some possible questions: What connections can we find between the polemics of Anglo-American and European modernisms and the creation of the sulky, rebellious teenager, who attempts to discard the past for a self-created future? If the 20th century adolescent is often represented as disrupting and destabilising narrative, when then happens to the traditional bildungsroman to which he or she is so central?  Could the epiphany be described as an adolescent narrative form? Does ‘Make it New’ imply ‘Make it Young’?  Other possible topics: “Adolescent” poetry and poetic forms; Juvenile delinquency and modernism; Adolescence as modernist event; representations of adolescents (Stephen Dedalus, Elizabeth Dalloway, etc, etc); school stories; Adolescence and anthropology; adolescent temporalites/queer temporalities; Adolescent sexualities; Adolescence and/in manifestoes; theorizing adolescence and war(s); The rise of teenager and modernism; modernism and everyday youth, etc. etc. Invited Participants: Geoff Gilbert and Jed Esty

22. Modernism and Technology: Reading and e-Reading Modernist Poetry

Leaders: Demetres Tryphonopoulos & Trevor Sawler

Modernist and many postmodernist poetic texts are notoriously difficult—to the point that both neophyte and seasoned readers sometimes (often?) find them opaque and bewildering. Intertextuality—the possibility of a text’s reference, allusion, citation, quotation, borrowing, echo, textual or phraseological appropriation, influence to/of/from another text(s)—is often at the root of such readerly bafflement and sense of inadequacy. Nonetheless, coming to terms with a text’s intertextuality may be a precondition to discovering the key to its form and/or meaning. To paraphrase Derrida, “A [modernist] text is not a [modernist] text unless it hides from the first comer (le premier venu), from the first glance (le premier regard), the law of its composition and the rules of its game” (“Plato’s Pharmacy” Dissemination 63).

Since the rise of the World Wide Web, it has been thought by some readers and scholars that intertextual difficulty could be easily resolved. Indeed, the potential value that hypertext might have when applied to difficult modernist poetry—like that of Ezra Pound, H.D., T.S. Eliot, and a host of others—seems self-evident. For instance, Ezra Pound’s Canto I is a translation of a translation of a passage from Book XI of Homer’s The Odyssey that imitates the rhythms and cadences of Anglo-Saxon poetry. The technology of hypertext offers an alternative to reading the original and the Latin translation Pound has used since one can now read a brief summary of Homer’s text and thus get sufficient information about what Pound is trying to achieve in Canto I. However, is this the kind of reader and the kind of reading that Pound may have had in mind in composing the opening of his “poem including history? Focusing on several modernist and postmodernist poets (for example, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, W.C. Williams, Marianne Moore, H.D., Gertrude Stein, Hart Crane, George Oppen, Susan Howe, and so on) and some of their major long poems or poetic sequences, this seminar contemplates intertextuality as a hermeneutic tool and asks whether modernist elusive allusiveness can be taught or whether and how it is meant to be used as a teaching device. More specifically, the seminar's focus is the way the hypertext may both aid but also hinder the reader of  modernist poetry. We will examine the (in some cases assumed) advantages that hypertext offers to readers, as well as the drawbacks that the technology brings to approaching difficult modernist poems.

23. Modernism, Interest, Uninterest

Leader: Jeff Wallace

“Perhaps one’s interest is dead.” D.H. Lawrence’s Twilight in Italy issues persistent reminders of the need to snap out of an ‘everyday trance’ if experience is ever to take place. This seminar asks: beyond the official modernist gesture of defamiliarisation, how far is modernism also a revelation of the everyday failure of interest? In what ways does it enable a questioning of such categories as experience, attention, the event and the real? Envisaged approaches to the seminar might emerge from: travel and place; tourism and banality; boredom; having done with writing/expression; the idler and the truant; modernism and depression.     

24. Modernist Fantasy

Leaders: Glenn Willmott & Leif Sorensen

Many genres of fantastic writing flourished in the pulps, comics, children's literature and film in the early twentieth century.  Although horror, fantasy and SF were important to the everyday culture of the modernist era, high modernism and the fantastic are rarely studied together.  How does the popularity of fantastic writing complicate existing narratives of modernist reading and writing practices?  Are certain ontologies, aesthetic strategies, approaches to character and subjectivity, ethical situations, or political concerns peculiar to modernism and fantasy?  We welcome participants who wish to discuss the significance of fantasy writing as a cross current in elite and popular cultural production.

25. CLOSED Modernism and Work

Leaders: Bryony Randall & Wilson, Mary

This seminar will explore the relationship between modernism and the concept of work encouraging a broad understanding of the possible intersections of those two categories. Interdisciplinary perspectives are encouraged.  Contributors might like to consider:

  • The depiction of work and workers in modernist art and literature;
  • the temporality of work;
  • modernist thinkers’ conceptualisation of their creative activity (writing, painting, thinking?) as ‘work’, or otherwise;
  • the significance of other kinds of work undertaken by those who produced modernist art and literature;
  • the relationship between early twentieth century working practices and the aesthetic forms of modernism;
  • the usefulness of distinctions such as work/leisure, work/pleasure, work/labour, and so on, in modernist literature and for modernist studies;
  • relationships between work and the everyday;
  • the work of reading and interpretation.