MSA '18: Modernist Women, War, and the Graphic
From state-sponsored propaganda to cartoons, photography, and cinema newsreels, the cultural and political work done in service of modern warfare is significantly visual. At the same time (and despite considerable efforts to also subdue this aspect of war), much of the material reality depicted is inescapably explicit and brutal: broken bodies, destroyed cities, devastated natural environments.
As scholars like Trudi Tate and Marina MacKay have established, the traumatic nature of modern warfare, which is at once intensely visual and violently explicit, elicits a preoccupation with the act of bearing witness in much modernist fiction and poetry. While significant work has been done to re-evaluate the work of female artists working during and after war in terms of such a preoccupation, we want to invite papers that further explore the relationship between women’s unique experience of war and their perceptions of the graphic.
Questions for consideration may include but are not limited to the following:
How do elements of the graphic, broadly defined, feature in the writing of women about war?
How do female artists examine the explicit nature of war, particularly when they were often considered unsuited to do so because they had not fought?
How do female artists negotiate attempts to shield themselves from the horrors of war? How do they depict the imperative to restore the nation to physical and moral health? How might they explore or communicate their resistance or disillusion with such a project?
How do women interrogate or remix propaganda?
How does the violent or graphic become imposed on domestic scenes?
How do racial, ethnic, cultural, economic contexts intersect with gender in the portrayal of the graphic? How are female artists’ portrayals of the graphic informed by their individual or collective backgrounds and identities?