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 energies of migrant communities and social movements that stake their claims at street level. MSA 2023 will consider the modernist street as a place where demands for new worlds have become legible in countless creative ways.
MSA 2023 will be held in downtown Brooklyn, at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge, which inspired the painter Joseph Stella, photographer Walker Evans, and poets ranging from Hart Crane and Marianne Moore to Vladimir Mayakovsky and Federico García Lorca. Brooklyn's streets were trod by such diverse modernist luminaries as Richard Wright, W.H. Auden, Djuna Barnes, Lotte Lenya and Kurt Weil, Paul Robeson, and Mae West.
A separate city until 1898, Brooklyn’s relations with the other four New York City boroughs invite renewed reflection on questions of development–and neglect–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.
In addition to being understood as material, populated places where people meet and pass one another, "Streets" can be envisioned as sites of overlapping chronologies and temporalities, zones of resistance and control, and networks of information dispersal and consumption. The conference will foster discussion of modernisms that have sought to remake the streets and those that have arisen from them, and to bring the study of global modernism to bear on the streets of one of the most global of contemporary cities.
The 2023 conference will feature a keynote lecture event, a keynote roundtable presentation, and five streams of interrelated interdisciplinary panels. Each stream solicits proposals for individual papers and aims to draw speakers and audience members from constituencies historically underrepresented within MSA.
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.
[Check this page for the link to submit individual paper proposals for panel streams when submissions are open.] Please include an abstract of the paper that is no more than 300 words and a professional biography of no more than 100 words.
Environmentality In and Beyond the Modern
This stream will feature papers and panels addressing such topics as energy; the representation of climate and weather in modern culture; concepts and practices of resilience; environmental racism, especially in urban environments such as Brooklyn; land art and modernist aesthetics; planning and the modernist impulse in development; the water-food-energy nexus; the animal; the “viral”; the human; the anti-human; and pollution as an idea and event.
Harlem as Hub
Even for those who did not call Harlem home, this neighborhood was unquestionably an artistic hub for Black modernists on the East Coast. This stream will feature scholarship that captures the vibrancy, precarity, diversity, and collaborative spirit of this vital space. Panels might examine Harlem’s cabarets, whose seedy allure fired the imaginations of artists of many races, working in the full range of the arts—literature, painting, music, performance among them; its rent parties, which birthed sociality from dire financial need; the differing effects of race, gender, sexuality, and class on its denizens; the circuits connecting Harlem with other artistic hubs and connecting the various spheres of art with one another; the fraught and fruitful interracial connections enabled by this neighborhood; or the afterlife of Harlem once its status as cultural hub became less sure. In focusing on one of modernism’s most artistically and demographically diverse sites, this stream aims to attract scholars whose research and backgrounds, taken together, parallel this rich variety.
Modernism Across the Disciplines
This stream will bring together papers that assess reactions to modernism across humanistic and social-scientific disciplines concerned with the study of ethnicity and race. How do scholars working in (and between) fields such as Black Diaspora Studies, Caribbean Studies, Latinx Studies, and Asian American Studies conceive of modernism from the vantage of their disciplines? Is it a useful term? An object of critique? A minor term within a wider cultural or disciplinary history? Do we even share a common object of study?
Precarity and Public Life
Just as the streets of American cities have been transformed by gentrification and economic displacement, so too have neoliberal market forces and austerity measures greatly increased the precarity of previously secure forms of employment. As a result, precarity has become normalized as both a cultural phenomenon and a professional one. This stream invites papers that explore modernism’s historical engagements with precarity as a condition of modern experience. How has modernism imagined, and been shaped by, precarity? What can modernist cultures teach us about precarious existence, including mechanisms of redress and response? How might the precarity of modernist studies as an academic hiring field galvanize new fronts for action or forms of organizing?
This stream will feature papers that investigate the intersection of disability studies, critical race studies, and street activism. We invite papers that address any combination of these intersections. While street actions remain a primary form of public activism, these demonstrations are often inaccessible to disabled activists. What alternative modes of resistance have been available to disabled activists, writers, and artists and how might the history of modernism help us understand new possibilities for resistance? What bodies, historically, have been granted the right of access to the streets? How do modernist cultures help us understand the intersection of race, disability, and activism?
Seminars are among the unique features of the MSA conference. Participants write brief position papers (5-7 pages) that are circulated prior to the conference. Each seminar is limited to 15 participants. Seminars generate lively exchanges 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. Because seminars led solely by graduate students are not likely to draw many participants, we encourage interested graduate students to invite a faculty member to lead the seminar with them.
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.
[Check this page for the link to submit seminar proposals for panel streams when submissions are open.] Please include a description of the seminar purpose and format that is no more than 300 words and a professional biography of each seminar leader that is no more than 100 words each.
Workshops focus on topics related to professional life, such as publishing, teaching, the job market, academic precarity, mid-career challenges and opportunities, and research and the liberal arts college. Popular workshops in previous years have been on topics such as “What Do Presses Want from a First Book?,” “Teaching Modernism,” and “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.
[Check this page for the link to submit workshop proposals for panel streams when submissions are open.] Include a description of the workshop purpose and format that is no more than 300 words and a professional bio of each leader that is no more than 100 words each.
Successful panel proposals will 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.
● We encourage interdisciplinary panels and strongly discourage panels on single authors.
● In order to allow for discussion, preference will be given to panels with three participants (20 minutes each), though panels of four will be considered (15 minutes each).
● Panels composed entirely of participants from a single department at a single institution are not likely to be accepted.
● The MSA encourages panels comprising scholars from a diverse range of institutions and of various ranks, including graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, contingent faculty, and independent scholars.
● Please elect an appropriate chair for your panel if possible and include this information as part of your proposal. Otherwise, the program committee will recruit a chair for you.
[Check this page for the link to submit panel proposals for panel streams when submissions are open.] Please include an abstract of no more than 500 words and a professional biography of each presenter that is no more than 100 words.
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 chair.
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:
● Roundtables may feature as many as 6 speakers but are more likely to be accepted if they include 4 or 5.
● Roundtable organizers should discourage participants from writing formal papers or from speaking for longer than 10 minutes.
● We particularly welcome roundtables that include participants from multiple disciplines, and we discourage roundtables on single authors.
● Roundtables composed entirely of participants from a single department at a single institution are not likely to be accepted.
● The MSA encourages roundtables comprising scholars from a diverse range of institutions and of various ranks, including graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, contingent faculty, and independent scholars.
[Check this page for the link to submit roundtable proposals for panel streams when submissions are open.] Please include an abstract of no more than 500 words and a professional biography of each presenter that is no more than 100 words.
Reflecting the growing role of the digital humanities in modernist studies and the proliferation of innovative work that does not lend itself to presentation in the form of a scholarly paper, we invite proposals for digital exhibits and posters. Please address:
The nature, design, and purpose of the project;
How the project advances modernist studies; and
How the presenters propose 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.
[Check this page for the link to submit digital exhibit and poster proposals for panel streams when submissions are open.] Include an abstract of no more than 500 words and a professional bio of each presenter that is no more than 100 words.
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 write to MSA2023Brooklyn@gmail.com.
The Modernist Studies Association supports the rights and dignity of all persons associated with our organization and conference. We hold that inclusivity, diversity, access, and equality are critical to the strength of our organization and the effectiveness of our academic mission. In the spirit of maintaining a welcoming and inclusive organization, we urge our participants to use individuals' preferred names and pronouns when introducing speakers and in citing their work or ideas.
MSA Brooklyn 2023 acknowledges that it is located in ancestral Lenape homelands, and it recognizes the longstanding significance of these lands for Lenape nations past and present. We are also conscious that New York City has the largest urban Native population in the United States. We believe that historical awareness of Indigenous exclusion and erasure is critically important and are committed to working to overcome their effects in our own educational institutions.
So as to involve as many people as possible as active participants, the MSA limits multiple appearances on the program. You may participate once in each of the following categories:
● Seminar, either as leader or as participant
● Panel or roundtable, as participant (you may also chair a different panel or roundtable)
● “What Are You Reading?” session
● Digital Exhibit or Poster
Thus, you may lead a seminar, present a paper on a panel, share a digital exhibit, 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 making substantive remarks in the session; the session chair must be someone who is otherwise not presenting.
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.
All those who attend the MSA conference must be members of the organization with dues paid for 2023-24 (MSA membership runs from July 1 until June 30 each year) and with any past dues paid in full. For information on MSA, please check the Association website.
Speakers are expected to present in person, rather than remotely.