CFP: Modernism and the Frontier (5/4/07; MSA, 11/1/07-11/4/07)

full name / name of organization: 
David Tomkins
contact email: 

Modernism and the Frontier

Call for papers: Modernist Studies Association proposed panel
9th Annual Conference November 1-4, 2007 Long Beach, California

What does the figure of the rugged pioneer have to do with "effete" high modernism? To what extent does the modernism
of Americans at home and abroad engage with deeply entrenched pioneer myths? This panel seeks to explore
modernism's relationship to the enduring popularity of frontier mythology within the United States after the First World
War. Despite the global militaristic and industrial dominance of the post-war U.S., a mythology of provincial innocence
persisted in best-selling works by authors such as Zane Gray and Will James. While these frontier literatures appealed
broadly to post-war Americans longing for escapist fantasy, what of the subsequent modernist re-examination of frontier
mythology? Did figures such as Willa Cather (with her cowboys-turned-scientists), Ernest Hemingway (with his
expatriated descendants of Leatherstocking), or Hart Crane (with his mythopoetic synthesis of native American ritual and
industrial advancement) seek to reconcile the provincial wonderland rehearsed in popular literature with the world power
the United States had in fact become?

This panel invites paper submissions that engage with the question of how an ever-evolving post-war American
modernism responded to, interacted with, and often appropriated mythic modes of national understanding such as that
associated with the frontier. Interdisciplinary approaches are welcome, as are submissions that address the topic within
the context of the frontier as either a geological space or as a trope used in connection with social and/or industrial

Please send proposals (250 words), contact information, one page CV, and a 2-3 sentence scholarly biography to by Friday May 4th, 2007.

David Tomkins
Department of English
University of Southern California

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Received on Fri Apr 06 2007 - 17:57:41 EDT