CFP for the Modernist Studies Association’s Annual Conference


Brooklyn, NY, October 22-25, 2020

New York City has long been a stage for what Marshall Berman called “modernism in the streets,” a modernism that encompasses not only the speed and scale of modernity at large, but also the democratic energies of diasporas, migrant communities, and social movements that stake their claims at street level. MSA 2020 will consider the modernist street as a site of movement where the demand for new worlds has become legible in countless creative ways.

MSA 2020 will be held in downtown Brooklyn, at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge, itself an inspiration for the painter Joseph Stella, photographer Walker Evans, and poets ranging from Hart Crane and Marianne Moore to Vladimir Mayakovsky and Federico García Lorca. A separate city until 1898, Brooklyn’s relations with the other four New York boroughs invite renewed reflection on questions of development at street level. In particular, Brooklyn, whose “ample hills” Walt Whitman extolled, has undergone a dramatic population shift in the new millennium. Though people of color still make up the majority of Brooklyn’s residents, gentrification has not only made parts of the borough financially out of reach for many, it has also turned a borough famous for its working class and ethnic neighborhoods into an international brand.

“Streets” is a capacious rubric, inviting new perspectives on modernist cultural production at a local and global scale. Streets can be imagined as a way of thinking; as sites of overlapping temporalities; as networks; and as material, populated places.

As part of the MSA’s initiative to promote a more diverse Association, the 2020 conference will feature five streams of interrelated interdisciplinary panels, more than any previous MSA conference. Each stream solicits proposals for individual papers and aims to draw speakers and audience members from constituencies historically underrepresented within MSA.

Keynote events will include a presentation by novelist Zadie Smith and a plenary roundtable on “The New York Sound,” featuring Daphne Brooks (Yale), Brent Edwards (Columbia), Sara Marcus (USC), and Elena Martinez (Bronx Music Heritage Center).


So as to involve as many people as possible as active participants, the MSA limits multiple appearances on the program. Thus, you may participate once in each of the following categories:

Thus, you may lead a seminar, present a paper on a panel, register for a workshop, and participate in a “What Are You Reading” session, but you may not present two papers.

MSA rules do not allow panel or roundtable organizers to chair their own session if they are also presenting a paper or substantive remarks in the session; the session chair must be someone who is otherwise not presenting. You may chair as many sessions as you like, so long as you observe this rule.

Panel organizers are encouraged to identify a chair and include this information with their proposals; the MSA Program Committee can also ask another conference attendee to serve as a chair. Participation in a workshop or in a digital exhibition does not limit other forms of participation.

All those who attend the MSA conference must be members of the organization with dues paid for 2020-2021 (MSA membership runs from July 1 until June 30 each year) and any past dues paid in full. For information on MSA, please check the Association website. Unless approved by the program committee, speakers are expected to present in person, rather than remotely.

Call for Seminar Proposals

Deadline: 7 February, 2020 (Friday)

Seminars are among the unique features of the MSA conference. Participants write brief position papers (5-7 pages) that are circulated and read prior to the conference. Each seminar is limited to 15 participants. Seminars generate lively exchange and often facilitate future collaborations. The format also allows a larger number of conference attendees to seek financial support from their institutions as they educate themselves and their colleagues on subjects of mutual interest. Seminars are two hours in length. The MSA encourages seminars comprising scholars from a diverse range of institutions and of various ranks, including graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, contingent faculty, and independent scholars. Please note that this is the call for seminar leaders. Sign-up for seminar participants will take place on a first-come, first-served basis coinciding with registration for the conference.

Seminar Topics: There are no limits on topics, but past experience has shown that the more clearly defined the topic and the more guidance provided by the leader, the more productive the discussion. “Clearly defined” should not be confused with “narrow,” as extremely narrow seminar topics tend to exclude many potential participants. To scan past seminar topics, go to the Conference Archives on the MSA website, click the link to a prior conference, and then click on “Conference Schedule” or “Conference Program.” You will find seminars listed along with panels and other events.

Please include a brief (500 word) description of seminar purpose and format. Author bios are limited to 500 words.

Submit seminar proposals by Friday 7 February 2020 at

Call for Individual Paper Proposals for MSA Panel Streams

Deadline: 10 April, 2020 (Friday)

Individual paper proposals must speak directly to one of this year’s specially selected streams, which link several panels or roundtables that will take place on different days of the conference. Successful proposals will demonstrate the promise to advance new research or ideas relative to those topics. Members of the MSA Program Committee will vet these individual proposals and organize them into panels and roundtables as appropriate. Conference organizers may also solicit papers and groups of papers for streams.

Please include a 500 word abstract of the paper. Author bios are limited to 500 words.

Submit individual paper proposals for panel streams by Friday 10 April 2020 at

Stream Topics

Call for Panel Proposals

Deadline: 10 April, 2020 (Friday)

Successful panel proposals will introduce topics that promise to expand research and debate on a topic and will present a clear rationale for the papers’ collective goal. Panel proposals that engage recent contentious research, exciting new approaches, or theoretical interventions into the field are encouraged. Topics are not limited to the conference theme. Please be sure to characterize in your proposal what each paper contributes individually to the session as well as how they fit together into a cohesive session.

Please include a 500 word abstract of the session. Author bios are limited to 500 words.

Submit panel proposals by Friday 10 April 2020 at

Call for Roundtable Proposals

Deadline: 10 April, 2020 (Friday)

All topics will be considered for roundtables. Unlike panels, which generally feature a sequence of 15-20-minute talks followed by discussion, roundtables gather a small group of participants around a shared concern in order to generate discussion among the participants and with the audience. To this end, instead of delivering full-length papers, participants are asked to deliver short position statements of no more than 10 minutes in response to questions distributed in advance by the organizer, or to take turns responding to prompts from the moderator. The bulk of the session should be devoted to discussion. No paper titles are listed in the program, only the names of participants.

Please bear in mind these guidelines:

Please include a 500 word abstract of the session. Author bios are limited to 500 words.

Submit roundtable proposals by Friday 10 April 2020 at

Call for Workshop Proposals

Deadline: 24 April, 2020 (Friday)

Workshops focus on topics related to professional life, such as publishing, teaching, the job market, mid-career challenges and opportunities, research and the liberal arts college, and alternative/non-academic jobs. Popular workshops in previous years have been on topics such as “What Do Presses Want from a First Book?,” “Digital Approaches to Modernism,” and “Critical Writing.” Participation in a workshop does not limit participation in other aspects of the conference.

Workshops should be participatory in format and can be either 90 or 120 minutes in length. They may be entirely led by one person or may include a panel of experts. Please note that this call is for workshop leaders. Registration for workshops will occur at the same time as conference registration.

Please include a brief (200 word) description of workshop purpose and format. Author bios are limited to 500 words.

Submit workshop proposals by Friday 24 April 2020 at

Call for Digital Exhibits and Posters

Deadline: 24 April, 2020 (Friday) Reflecting the growing role of the digital humanities in modernist studies and the proliferation of work that does not lend itself to presentation in the form of a scholarly paper, we invite proposals that provide a short overview (including web links) of 1) the nature, design, and purpose of a digital project; 2) how the project advances modernist studies; and 3) how the presenters would want to exhibit and explain the project at the conference. Be sure to list all participants and institutions involved in the project, and specify who among these would attend the conference.

Please include a 500 word abstract. Author bios are limited to 500 words.

Submit digital exhibit and poster session proposals by Friday 24 April 2020 at

Conference Access

The MSA is committed to ensuring that all conference registrants will be able to participate in conference events.

We ask that all conference attendees give thought to questions of access and work with the conference organizers to create an event that is welcoming to the entire community of participants. All speakers should bring a least two paper copies of their presentation for distribution to attendees who would benefit from a reading copy.

If you would benefit from individual accommodations including, but not limited to, ASL translation, paper copies of session presentations, or large type documents, please contact the conference organizers.

Statement on Transgender Inclusion

The Modernist Studies Association affirms and stands in support of the rights and dignity of our transgender and gender non-binary members and all other persons associated with our organization and conference. We believe that inclusivity, diversity, access, and equality are critical to the strength of our organization and the effectiveness of our academic mission. We are committed to maintaining a welcoming and inclusive organization where everyone can be their full self. This goal includes the practice of using individuals’ preferred name and pronoun reference when introducing speakers or citing their work or ideas.