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Anne A. Cheng

Anne Anlin Cheng, Professor of English and of the Center for African American Studies at Princeton University, specializes in race studies, aesthetic theory, film, psychoanalytic approaches, and Asian American and African American literatures. She is the author of The Melancholy of Race: Assimilation, Psychoanalysis, and Hidden Grief (2001), and Second Skin: Josephine Baker and the Modern Surface (2013), which was awarded Honorable Mention by the Modernist Studies Association for their annual Book Prize. She is currently working on two projects: one on Race Studies at the intersection of Food and Animal Studies; the other on the politics behind “ornament” as an aesthetic and philosophic discourse in the early 20th century.

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Professor Cheng’s keynote, “Ornamentalism, Aesthetic Being: Revolution at the Periphery,” asks, “How does retrieving the ornamental logic of Orientalism impact how we think about race, personhood, and modernism? She offers a historiography of the minute and suggests that the great modernist revolution is not about de-ornamentation but about the unseen revolutions at the detrital but supplemental edges of erased bodies. Professor Cheng argues that the superfluous ornament is often the site where the stakes of modern personhood get negotiated. This talk thus tracks the critical labor of ornament at the intersection of beauty and terror, immateriality and corporeality, life and privation across a wide range of domains.

Martin Puchner

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Martin Puchner holds the Byron and Anita Wien Chair of Drama and of English and Comparative Literature at Harvard University, and he is the founding director of the Mellon School of Theater and Performance Research. Puchner addresses modernism, particularly the relation between literary genres and the political upheavals of the time, in Poetry of the Revolution: Marx, Manifestos, and the Avant-Gardes (2006), which won the MLA’s James Russell Lowell Award and honorable mention in the MSA Book Prize. Puchner has also published Stage Fright: Modernism, Anti-theatricality and Drama (2002) and The Drama of Ideas: Platonic Provocations in Theater and Philosophy (2010). His work as an editor includes the third edition of The Norton Anthology of World Literature (2013), The Norton Anthology of Drama (2009), Modern Drama: Critical Concepts (2007), Against Theatre: Creative Destructions on the Modernist Stage (2006), Karl Marx: The Communist Manifesto and Other Writings (2005), and Six Plays by Henrik Ibsen (2003).

Professor Puchner’s keynote for MSA 17 will reconsider modernist revolutionary texts, especially manifestos, from the perspective of world literature. What happens when we look at these texts from the perspective of 4000 years of literature. That is, what is the world literature view of modernist revolution?