Modernism, Transnationalism, and the Law (MSA 14: Las Vegas, Oct. 18-21, 2012)
The recent transnational turn in literary studies has revolutionized how we talk about many of the canonical objects of modernist studies: the manifesto, little magazines, immigration, urbanization, and cosmopolitanism. But to what extent can we "transnationalize" modernist engagements with the law? On the surface, the national exceptionalism encoded in the legal doctrine of citizenship would seem resistant to transnational reading strategies. And yet, the slow granting of autonomy to European colonies over the first half of the twentieth century raised significant questions about the scope and application of modern legal forms across national borders. Parliamentary devolution created spaces in which legal authority was uneven, split between metropolitan legislatures and their colonial counterparts; while the concept of imperial citizenship often provided colonial and diasporic communities with access to a rhetoric of equal rights absent from their day-to-day lives.
This panel seeks to reappraise modernists' engagement with the law, asking how individual authors, communities, and nations utilized particular legal statutes, or the idea of legality in general, to formulate citizenship claims within and across national borders. Through what generic forms did European and colonial writers attempt to harness legality to their own ends? Did modernist forms disrupt liberal proceduralism, or cultivate new forms of proceduralism more appropriate to a global arena? And in what ways did international laws governing copyright, national sovereignty, and financial exchange establish extra-national spaces for writers and migrants to inhabit?
Potential topics include (but are not limited to):
• The role of copyright in disseminating new forms of personhood (colonial, transnational, cosmopolitan, etc.)
• Contract law and the global spread of capitalist markets
• Visions of the public sphere in civil legislation
• Human rights before the Geneva Convention
• The treatment of transnational religions in the law
• Devolutionary governance and imperial federation
Interested parties should send a 300-word abstract and a brief CV to Matt Eatough (firstname.lastname@example.org) by April 2, 2012.
MSA conference details available at: