Race, Perception, and Modernist Spectacle (MSA 14, October 18-21, 2012)

full name / name of organization: 
Joshua Lam / University at Buffalo (SUNY)
contact email: 

"Race, Perception, and Modernist Spectacle"

Gertrude Stein once wrote, "I believe in reality as Cezanne or Caliban believe in it." While scholars have exhaustively analyzed the relationship between modernist literature and modern painting, they have been more reluctant to take up the second reference. How does the modernist enterprise exploit Caliban's fraught and subjugated relation to reality? How, in turn, does the sexually threatening, "primitive," and racialized figure inform modernism's preoccupations with perception and spectacle? This proposed panel seeks papers that examine the intersections of race, perception, and modernism. From W.E.B. DuBois's "double consciousness" and the primitivism of Stein, Picasso, and Carl Van Vechten to the spectacular entertainments of the Harlem Renaissance and the "cinematic" modernisms of Claude McKay and Jean Toomer, modernists frequently represent race and perception as intertwined phenomena. How do philosophical, psychological, and scientific modernisms instrumentalize or neglect race in their discussions of mind and body? For what uses—questionable, laudable, ideological—do modernists mobilize racial spectacles in their art? This panel seeks papers dealing with any aspect of race, psychology, and perception in the modernist era.

Please send 300-word abstracts to Joshua Lam at jdlam@buffalo.edu by April 1, 2012. This is a proposed panel, pending acceptance by the MSA. Please visit the MSA website for more details about the 2012 conference (October 18-21, Las Vegas):