'After the Modern' Postgraduate Symposium, 16-17 April 2010

full name / name of organization: 
University of Malta

University of Malta
Department of English
Postgraduate Symposium
After the Modern: Language, Literature, Culture

Valletta Campus,
Old University Building,
St Paul Street,
16-17 April 2010

If, as Virginia Woolf suggested, human nature changed in 1910, how do matters stand now, a century later?

The question is timely. It calls for us to define our own era or episteme, and invites an understanding of two key periods. If we follow Woolf's chronology, then we are dealing with that before 1910 as well as the contemporary situation which succeeds it. While Woolf's observation is studiedly flippant, the statement in question has also come to act as shorthand for a particular shift: that of industrialised modernity's self-recognition. In this regard, its implications lay down a challenge to which this conference seeks to respond. After all, what constitutes that which we have come to call the Modern? Can we take for granted that in relation to which we seek to define our own era? And, in all the transformations that coincide with the Modern, what is it that has really changed, if anything?

However defined, the implication that the Modern coincides with profound changes in the human condition and that the very nature of humanity is transformed as a result, is an outlook that continues to drive constructions of whatever it was that comes after the Modern. Studies of modernism, modernity, postmodernism, postmodernity and posthumanism appear at some level to accept that there is a specificity to the Modern that makes it possible to discern ruptures and paradigm shifts. At the same time, much in contemporary thought that investigates what Fredric Jameson refers to as a 'singular modernity' resists easy constructions of successiveness or breaks. That resistance ranges from Jean-François Lyotard's problematising of the distinctions between the modern and the postmodern, through to the discussion in Jürgen Habermas and others of Modernism's relation to 'the project of Enlightenment', and further to Bruno Latour's claim that 'we have never been modern'.

So how, in fact, do things stand a hundred years after 1910, after the Modern appears to announce its own coming? How do we continue to define and redefine the idea of humanity and the human, as well as the very idea of modernity? And how are these issues played out in various discourses and media, such as: art, language, popular culture, literature, theatre, music, philosophy, religion, linguistics, anthropology, criticism, theory? This last list leaves room for the word "etc."

Abstracts of between 200 and 500 words

should reach the organisers by 25 March, 2010

The conference organisers are interested in receiving abstracts for papers that respond to one or more of these questions. Papers may also consider, but need not be limited to, one of the following topics:

* Modernity, Modernism and Change
* Modernist Narratives
* Modernist Poetries
* Languages of the Modern
* Modernism and Human Nature
* The Linguistic Turn after the Modern
* After the 'After': The Modern and the Idea of Progress
* Modern Art after Modernism
* Disenchantment and Re-Enchantment
* Truth, Representation and Realism after the Modern
* Senses of an Ending: Apocalypticism and 'End-ism' after the Modern
* Modern movements: Futurism, Dadaism, Surrealism … and More
* 'Faux' Modernities, 'Retro' Modernisms
* After Saussure: Linguistics after the Modern
* Difference, Politics and the Modern: Constructions of Class, Gender and Race after 1910
* Modernism and Popular Culture
* Fantasies of the Modern
* Cultures of the Modern
* Modernism and the Imagination
* Modernism and Science
* Technologies of the Modern
* Anarchies of the Modern
* What's In a Suffix?: Morphologies of Modernism and Modernity

The organisers will also be glad to respond to questions about the conference.