Seminars for MSA 18

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1. Cruel Modernism

Organizer: Josh Epstein (Portland State)

This (warmly collegial) seminar will investigate modernist cruelty and mean-spiritedness–not just as disorderly affective symptoms of modernity, but as structural features of it. All topics welcome: cruelty and genre (roman à clef, Theatres of Cruelty); gendered/raced/queer embodiments of cruelty; cruelty and pleasure; cruel optimism; or affects of “bad”/”cold” modernism.

2. Not Quite Left or Right

Organizers: Charles Andrews (Whitworth), Erica Gene Delsandro (Bucknell)

Invited Participants: Phyllis Lassner (Northwestern University)

The binary of right wing, fascist, modernist twenties writers versus left wing, communist, documentary thirties writers remains a pervasive assumption in interwar scholarship. Our seminar troubles this binary by examining figures who do not fit comfortably in the left-right duality and by considering new approaches to writers/works that have been fixed on the political poles.

3. The Place of Performance in Modernist Studies

Organizers: Katherine Fusco (University of Nevada), Will Scheibel (Syracuse)

Modernist studies has turned to performance to consider extra-linguistic articulations of the crisis of modernity. This seminar encourages papers that discuss methodological and pedagogical concerns at stake in learning about the performance of modernism across media and artistic contexts as we convene at the epicenter of mediated performance: Southern California.

4. Modernist Mimeography

Organizer: Michael Thurston (Smith College)

Focusing on an under-studied part of twentieth-century print culture, the mimeograph, this seminar will consider the construction of literary community through mimeograph “newsletter”-style publications (e.g. The English Intelligencer, Floating Bear), blurring of boundaries between literary and political purposes in ‘zines (e.g. Fuck You, a Magazine of the Arts), and possibilities for visual as well as verbal experimentation in a range of publications.

5. Modernist Performance and Global Transmission

Organizers: Claire Warden (De Montfort), Kevin Riordan (Nanyang Technologica), Rebecca Kastleman (Harvard)

Invited Participant: Carrie Preston (Boston University

This seminar welcomes projects on modernist performance and its migrations around the globe. New modes of transmission enabled modernist theater and dance to travel across media and national borders. How did these pathways of performance interact with global culture industries? And how did local contexts influence these circulating performances?

6. Hotel Cultures: New Approaches to Literary and Material Hetertopias

Organizers: Shawna Ross (Texas A&M), Randi Saloman (Wake Forest)

This seminar will examine hotels as spaces outside of the everyday spaces of home and work. Do hotels, as gendered, classed, and raced spaces, provide an alternative to normative modernity, or do they reinscribe it? Papers may discuss literary representations or modern hotels themselves as part of the culture industry.

7. Modern Poetry, Archives, and Estates

Organizers: Bethany Hicok (Westminster College), Anita Helle (Oregon State)

Invited Participants: Robert Spoo

Literary estates as cultural industries have played a key role in the promulgation, recreation, and surveillance of cultural value for modern poetry. This seminar invites narratives of research and speculation in which the historically specific space and problem of the literary estate–at the nexus of archives, editing, publishing, copyright, and literary theory—shapes authorial legacies, aesthetics, and politics. Rather than considering the estate solely as a disciplining mechanism, the seminar also welcomes new methodological and theoretical approaches to estates and archives as re-creative and generative forces.

8. Isms

Organizer: Jed Rasula (University of Georgia)

Ism: both the organization of collectives and stimulus to fantasy. How do isms swell into that nomenclature of periodization, modernism? What tensions were created between collectivities and individualism? How distinguish isms from self-promotion and public relations? What is the spectrum of isms ranging from the self-parodic to the deadly serious?

9. Cultures of the Mind

Organizers: Chris Coffman (Alaska Fairbanks), Octavio R. González (Wellesley College)

Invited Participants: Judith Roof (Rice University), Janet Lyon (Pennsylvania State University)

This seminar focuses on Modernist “cultures of the mind,” brought together through a shared interest in mental phenomena—whether psychic or psychoanalytic, poetic or therapeutic, scientific or pseudoscientific. We invite papers that examine fictional or factual depictions of such “cultures” and their idiosyncratic understandings of the mind, the brain, the ego, or the psyche.

10. Modernist Sitings in Southern California: Alternative Cultural Industries and Institutions Beyond the Silver Screen

Organizers: Steven Yao (Hamilton College), Colleen Jaurretche (UCLA)

Though Los Angeles has been called the archetypal postmodern city, Modernist artists, technologies, and aesthetics have left their collective mark on the city and surrounding areas. This legacy goes beyond the realm of Hollywood and the film industry, joining disparate neighborhoods, demographics, and artistic traditions into a distinctive cultural region.

11. Modernism and Religion: Theory and Practice

Organizers: Gregory Erickson (NYU), Suzanne Hobson (Queen Mary University of London), Mimi Winick (Rutgers University), Jenny Hyest (Lehigh University)

Invited Participant: Amy Hollywood

This seminar explores recent shifts in modernism and religious studies. We invite contributions engaging race, empire, gender, queer studies, feminist theology, lived religion, occultism, and secularism. We especially welcome papers that consider non-canonical figures, and a full range of the religious traditions and practices that proliferated in modernity and influenced works of art, performance, and literature.

12. Modernism and the DIY Ethic

Organizer: Adam Hammond (San Diego State)

Invited Participant: Riley Wilson

While the origins of DIY ethic are usually traced to punk culture, this seminar investigates modernism as an incubator of the DIY strategy of social change through self-publication. Papers are invited on modernist DIY theory and practice and on correspondences between modernism, punk, Riot Grrrl, zine culture, and independent videogames.

13. Industrious Women: The Feminist Work of Modern Culture-Making

Organizers: Genevieve Brassard (University of Portland), Sarah Cornish (University of Northern Colorado)

Invited Participants: Julie Vandivere, Janine Utell

This seminar will foster discussion about the cultural and feminist work women performed, especially those perhaps flying under our radars: writers, editors, reviewers, entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, filmmakers, designers, activists, etc. We welcome papers on less-canonical figures, as well as papers that reframe or remix narratives about well-known modern women.

14. Women in Modern Periodical Culture

Organizers: Carey Snyder (Ohio University), Barbara Green (Notre Dame)

This seminar explores women’s multifaceted contributions to modern periodical culture. Participants are encouraged to consider women’s involvement in periodical communities, publishing networks, and Correspondence columns, as well as to recover neglected authors, artists, and editors. We welcome papers that highlight women’s participation in the whole gamut of modern(ist) periodicals.

15. Anarchist Cultures and Culture Industries

Organizers: James Gifford (Fairleigh Dickinson), Michael O’Bryan (Washington University)

Invited Participants: Stephen Ross (University of Victoria), Eric Keenaghan (SUNY Albany)

Adorno and unorthodox Marxist critics found political resistance in modernism. Anarchist theory, similarly unorthodox, was fraught yet foundational for modernist cultures. Can anarchism engage cultural theory and/or revise Marxian cultural readings from Adorno to Žižek? We welcome interpretive work or critical projects negotiating any part of this theoretical terrain.

16. Modernism v. Modernity

Organizer: Kristin Bluemel (Monmouth)

Invited Participant: Michael McCluskey (University College London)

When do our discourses about modernism limit, contradict, or foreclose our investigations of modernity? This seminar questions the pairing “modernism/modernity,” seeking papers that examine the critical, theoretical, historical, and institutional contexts that can obstruct navigation across the modest slash uniting/dividing the terms that define our Society’s activities.

17. Speculative Fiction, Dystopia, and the Weird

Organizers: Jonathan Greenberg (Montclair State University), Keith Leslie Johnson (Augusta University)

Invited Participant: Laura Frost (The New School)

Between Kingsley Amis’ New Maps of Hell (1960) and Fredric Jameson’s Archaeologies of the Future (2005) runs the gamut of science fiction’s political meanings: Amis’s deflationary and satirical worldliness gives way to Jameson’s emancipatory and utopian hopes. But can we articulate other, orthogonal possibilities, both for SF and the larger family of speculative genres—dystopia, urban fantasy, alternative history, Weird tale, comic inferno?

18. Modernism’s Physiological Aesthetics

Organizers: Robin Veder (Penn State), Robert Michael Brain (University of British Columbia)

Invited Participant: Fae Brauer (University of East London)

We invite investigations into how “physiological aesthetics”—derived from nineteenth-century physiological psychology—informed proto-modern, modern, and anti-modern production and reception of multiple media, varied geographically, and evolved chronologically, as well as when and why it was repressed in both culture-industry critiques and the postwar historiography of modernism.

19. Modernist Energy Regimes

Organizers: Michael Rubenstein (Stony Brook University), Justin Neuman (Yale)

How is energy made apparent in modernist cultural artifacts? How is the concept of the “energy regime” applicable to modernism, particularly given our present awareness of the global climatic effects of petromodernity? How, in other words, might the Anthropocene map in modernist art with “the general energizing of the world”?

20. Rethinking Standardization

Organizer: Ben Nichols (University of Edinburgh)

Invited Participant: Jonathan Grossman (UCLA)

Scholars of modernism are familiar with figures who have opposed standardization: Wyndham Lewis maligns the concept in Blast’s opening manifesto, for example. But this seminar asks participants to consider how standardization was seen by modernists as valuable in work, social life, sexual life or in other aspects of human activity.

21. Tracking Modern Anxieties

Organizers: Sarah Keller (University of Massachusetts-Boston), Leah Flack (Marquette)

Foundational aspects of modern aesthetics (e.g., fragmentation, discontinuity, displacement) are shaped by and evoke apprehension, suggesting the crucial role anxiety has played in the formation and reception of modernist art. Scholars from multiple disciplines are invited to investigate intersections between anxious feelings and artworks that express them in any modernist medium.

22. Modernism and Political Institutions

Organizer: Matthew Stratton (UC Davis)

Invited Participants: Benjamin Kohlmann (U of Freiburg), Janice Ho (U of Colorado-Boulder), and Lisi Schoenbach (U of Tennessee-Knoxville)

This seminar invites attention to a wide range of modernist engagements with a wide variety of political institutions: from anarchist to authoritarian and beyond. Principal focus is on modernist cultural responses to political authority and aesthetic engagements with the institutional forms of political ideology among state, non-state, or interstate actors.

23. Modernism and Fascism

Organizers: Sara Marzioli (Penn State), Franco Baldasso (Bard College)

Invited Participants: Prof. Jennifer Scappettone (University of Chicago), Laura Wittman (Stanford)

The seminar investigates the nexus between modernism and fascism. The main trajectories of inquiry are: the allure of modernist ideologies of regeneration between the two World Wars; artists’ role in fascist cultural industries; the conundrum of aesthetics, technology, and violence that characterized fascist practices, and their afterlives in the global arena.

24. Speaking Through the Archive: Global Modernism and Postcolonial Networks

Organizers: Sejal Sutaria (King’s College London), Dan Morse (University of Nevada, Reno)

This seminar seeks to theorize radio, personal recording, and film archives that document exchanges within modernist international networks. We will explore how cross-fertilization influenced the circulation of modernism in and out of the colonies. In turn, we will consider how modernists deployed media archives to meet literary and political aims.

25. Poetics of Information Exchange

Organizers: Matthew Hofer (University of New Mexico), Scarlett Higgins (University of New Mexico)

Invited Participants: Marjorie Perloff (Stanford, USC), Peter Middleton (NYU)

This seminar will analyze technologies that facilitate new modes of composition, distribution, and reception. We are interested in the implications of modern modes of information sharing. We invite essays that focus on poetry/poetics, the visual arts, and thinking–from the modern post, through telephony, audio/visual recording, and beyond.

26. Dada at 100

Organizer: Marius Hentea (University of Gothenburg)

Invited Participants: Sarah Posman (Ghent University), Cosana Eram (University of the Pacific)

100 years after Dada was founded, the questions it raised about art and literature remain just as pertinent today. This seminar will cover such topics as Dada’s emergence, its place in the modernist landscape and its historical legacy. Historical or theoretical contributions on any aspect of Dada welcome.

27. Follow the Yellow Brick Road: Hollywood Genres and the Discourses of Capitalism

Organizer: Garry Leonard (University of Toronto)

Invited Participants: Deirdre Flynn (University of Toronto)

Melodrama, Film Noir, the Musical, the Western, the Romance, Science Fiction: What do all their plot structures have in common? Money. And yet not at all in the same way. Lovers in a romance must prove to themselves and each other their love is apart from the manipulations of financial interactions. The Western tirelessly rehearses the dawn of capitalism as it pertains to the present day; Science Fiction does the same thing for the technological mode of thinking. Melodrama struggles to put spiritual matters before financial ones. This seminar explores how various Hollywood genres function as a type of discourse (“discourse” as theorized by any number of thinkers– Lacan, Foucault, Butler, de Certeau, Jameson, Fanon, Spivak, etc.) instrumental in sending the consumer subject “down the yellow brick road” toward the “Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz.”

28. Black Modernist Movements and Localities

Organizers: Adam McKible (John Jay College), Jeanne Scheper (UC Irvine)

Invited Participants: Marne L. Campbell (Loyola Marymount University), Darryl Dickson-Carr (Southern Methodist University)

“The Harlem Renaissance” has come to stand in for a specific moment of black cultural productivity, including cultivation of black literature, arts, theater, and the black press, yet the renaissance flourished and expanded in many cities and was gaining momentum well before the 1920s. As an immediately recognizable marker, “The Harlem Renaissance” signals the manufacture of this global city and its cultural production as destination and export. And while the designation collects a wide variety of practices and participants, it enshrines this one locality at the expense of others. In this respect, the Harlem Renaissance is, indeed, a product of the American culture industry. The goal of this seminar is to examine black modernism’s other movements (i.e., the New Negro movement, the Negro Renaissance, negritude) and other localities (Los Angeles, Paris, Washington, D.C.). Participants are encouraged to explore the Harlem Renaissance as one node in a much larger constellation of eras, practices, and locations and to expand the interdisciplinary work in the field.

29. The Aesthetics of Modernism

Organizer: Robert S. Lehman (Boston College)

Invited Participants: Todd Cronan (Emory University), Jason E. Smith (Art Center College of Design)

How does modernism fit into the history of philosophical aesthetics? Are modernism’s own aesthetic categories—novelty, difficulty, impersonality—still a part of this history? In this seminar, we will understand modernism’s “aesthetics” broadly: as the theoretical discourse on art occasioned by modernist art objects; as the practice of art and literary criticism specific to the modernist period; and as a reimagining of the forms of sensible experience in modernist works themselves.

30. MSA Digital Exhibition Workshop, sponsored by ModNets (Works-in-Progress) CLOSED


Organizers: Suzanne W. Churchill (Davidson College), Nikolaus Wasmoen (University at Buffalo)

This workshops is sponsored by ModNets. The Digital Showcase at MSA 2015 in Boston was a great success: it was so well attended that exhibitors did nothave a chance to visit with each other and learn about the other DH projects. This seminar brings exhibitors together, allowing them to offer project updates and discuss salient issues related to database structures, data visualization, pedagogical applications, and peer review. The seminar will be organized around a set of demos and hands-on exercises, in which participants will sample one another's technology and share feedback, possibly leading up to a white paper or collaborative report. The seminar is designed to allow MSA members already deeply engaged in digital projects to form a community of practice in modernist digital humanities.