‘On or about December 1910 human character changed’ Centenary reflections and contemporary debates: modernism and beyond

full name / name of organization: 
Dr Bryony Randall, University of Glasgow
contact email: 
snms@arts.gla.ac.uk

‘On or about December 1910 human character changed’
Centenary reflections and contemporary debates: modernism and beyond
10th-12th December 2010. University of Glasgow, U.K.

'[I]t would be impossible to live for a year without disaster unless one practiced character-reading and had some skill in the art. Our marriages, our friendships depend on it; our business largely depends on it; every day questions arise which can only be solved by its help. And now I will hazard a second assertion, which is more disputable perhaps, to the effect that on or about December, 1910, human character changed.
I am not saying that one went out, as one might into a garden, and there saw that a rose had flowered, or that a hen had laid an egg. The change was not sudden and definite like that. But a change there was, nevertheless; and, since one must be arbitrary, let us date it about the year 1910.' (Virginia Woolf, ‘Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown’, 1923)

This inaugural conference of the British Association of Modernist Studies and Scottish Network of Modernist Studies is based around Virginia Woolf’s famous and controversial statement in an essay of 1923, often taken as indicating a possible starting-point for modernity, that ‘on or about December 1910, human character changed.’

We invite scholars and practitioners from all disciplines to respond to any aspect of this statement. Relevant disciplines might include but are not restricted to literature, history of art, cultural history and the history of ideas. We do not want to limit participation to those who regard themselves as modernist scholars, and are keen to include the kind of oppositional and interrogative stances that the quotation implicitly encourages.

Confirmed plenary speakers:
- Professor Jean-Michel Rabaté (University of Pennsylvia)
- Professor Susan Manning (University of Edinburgh)
- Professor David Peters Corbett (University of York)
Introductory address: Professor Laura Marcus (University of Edinburgh)

Topics might include but are not restricted to:

- glossing the symptoms of change in 1910 that Woolf cites in her explanation of that slogan.
- broader contexts and tangents, literary, cultural, political, historical, which might include:
- death of the King; fall of the Asquith government; suffragettes and other political unrest;

- Post-Impressionist show; Dreadnought hoax;

- events beyond Britain in Europe, Mexico, Africa etc.;
- books published in 1910;
- activities of key cultural figures at that moment;
- 1910 diary entries.
- periodization and theories of change.
- theories and representations of ‘human character’.
- 1910 seen from the 1920s.
- ‘in or about’ or ‘on or about’?
- Prepositions and temporality.
- Versions of Woolf – Leonard Woolf as editor.
- accuracy and arbitrariness.
- philosophy on or about 1910 – idealism, pragmatism and beyond.

We have already received panel proposals in the following areas and would also welcome expressions of interest in these areas:

• Scotland 1910
• Film around 1910
• Modernism and Theory
• Women at 1910
• On or about December 2010: Human Character in the Age of Climate Change
• Politics 1910
• The periodical scene in 1910
• Literature and the visual arts
• The book in 1910
• 1910 and middlebrow culture
• Music and 1910
• Europe 1910
• 1910 and intermodernism
• Periodising the century
• Theatre and 1910

Proposals for panels, papers, round-tables, seminars, or other expressions of interest, should be sent to conference organizers Bryony Randall and Matthew Creasy via email at snms@arts.gla.ac.uk by 1st May 2010.

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