Modernism and the Historical Novel (MSA October 18-21, Las Vegas)

full name / name of organization: 
Seamus O'Malley
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Scholarship on the historical novel needs to reassess the role of modernism, and the field of modernism needs to consider the role of the historical novel. Histories of the historical novel often fast-forward the years between the dawn of the twentieth century and the second world war. Assuming that modernism's attention to subjectivity and states of consciousness make it incompatible with the historical novel, studies have focused mainly on the classical historical novels of the nineteenth century (Scott, Balzac, Tolstoy), and then trace the postmodern and postcolonial return of the genre (Salman Rushdie, Garbriel Garcia Marquez, Umberto Eco). But what about the modernist historical novel? Did it exist?

This panel will attempt to answer the question by considering possible examples from the modernist era. Topics might include:

-The role of female writers in what was primarily a male-dominated genre (H.D., Mary Butts, May Sinclair)
-The link between the novel and the ever-changing definitions of nationality and statehood
-The historical novel and empire
-Historical novels that have been mostly neglected by criticism but deserve to be reevaluated (like those by Sylvia Townsend Warner or Robert Graves)
-Canonical novels that we can resituate as historical novels (Conrad's Nostromo; Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!)

Please send 300-word abstracts and a brief bio to by March 31.