CFP: [American] Modernism and Democratic Aesthetics (4/19/08; MSA X 11/13-16/08)

full name / name of organization: 
Patrick Redding
contact email: 

Abstracts are sought for a proposed panel for the Modernist Studies
Association's 10th Annual Conference in Nashville, TN, Nov. 13 - Nov. 16,

For more information, see the conference website at:

“Modernism and Democratic Aesthetics”

It is a longstanding critical commonplace that the artistic experiments of
modernism are linked to innovative political ideologies of an authoritarian
or fascistic complexion. In _The Liberal Imagination_, Lionel Trilling
famously lamented this contradiction: “the modern European literature to
which we can have an active reciprocal relationship . . . has been written
by men who are indifferent to, or even hostile to, the tradition of
democratic liberalism as we know it. Yeats and Eliot, Proust and Joyce,
Lawrence and Gideâ€"these men do not seem to confirm us in the social and
political ideals which we hold.”

Yet, as several recent scholars have suggested (Pericles Lewis, Rachel
Potter, Michael Szalay, and Douglas Mao, among others), there is another
story to be told about modernism’s relation to liberal democracy. This
panel seeks to explore what it might mean to think of modernism’s aesthetic
innovations in relation to democratic politics. What are the formal
criteria by which a modernist work of art might be deemed “democratic”?
Does it consist in the use of dialect, slang, or local vernacular? In the
use of free verse? In the depiction of the masses, “the people,” or the
working conditions of the average citizen? In an appeal to popular taste?
In articulating sentiments of liberty and equality? In the coverage of
emblematic episodes from political history? What might it mean to address
democratic representation in modes of artistic expression we have come to
describe as "abstract" or "non-representational"? How do democratic
perspectives in modernism depend on or defy the concept of the nation
state? How might this year’s conference theme, “Global Media,” bear on the
question of democratic form and content?

This panel hopes to bring together papers from across the full spectrum of
modernist artistic practices, including but not limited to: the relation of
modernist (Williams, Stevens, Moore, etc.) and non-modernist (Sandburg,
Lindsay, Masters, etc.) American poetry, the New Negro movement, Abstract
expressionism, modernisms in a colonial or diasporic setting, relations
between communism and democracy, and new textual, visual, and aural media
as agents of democratic social change.

Please send abstracts of no more than 500 words and a brief scholarly bio
(2-3 sentences) to by April 19th.

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Received on Tue Mar 18 2008 - 00:16:32 EST