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Modernism and the Queer Ordinary (MSA 15)
full name / name of organization:
Mary Wilson / Christopher Newport University
“Queer” has become a familiar modifier of “modernism,” to the point that Heather Love could argue in PMLA that “of all the forms of marginal modernism that have surfaced in the past couple of decades, queer modernism seems particularly likely to merge into modernism proper.” The etymological history of the term “queer” shows that it has always signaled deviance, with its connotations of strangeness, oddity, and peculiarity, whether or not the term has been used as a weapon or embraced as an identity. That legacy perhaps clarifies why queer seems to fit so well with the new modernist studies, which has enabled us to understand anew modernism’s multiplicitous, challenging engagements with modernity.
Perhaps less of an obvious fit, but with much potential for modernist studies, is the “ordinary,” which has also come into its own as a “major conceptual category in literary studies,” as Benjamin Madden notes in his review of Liesl Olson’s Modernism and the Ordinary. Olson’s claim that “ordinary experience” is the central subject of literary modernism offers another possible way of rethinking traditional modernist histories.
But the possible union of these terms, a “queer ordinary,” still seems somehow extraordinary; queerness continues to have a conflicted relationship to the ordinary and the everyday. How do, or should, we understand queerness in relation to the ordinary? Is that relationship always oppositional, or can there be a “queer ordinary” that doesn’t tame queer’s dynamic oppositionality?
This proposed panel invites papers that investigate the intersections of modernism, queerness, and the ordinary and the everyday. How do queer modernisms depict everyday life? In what ways are queerness and/or modernism themselves ordinary? How might queer modernisms help us to reinvestigate conceptions of the everyday, possibly disrupting the equivalence between ordinary/everyday and normal/normative? Interdisciplinary papers are welcome.
Send a 250-word abstract and CV to Mary Wilson (mary.wilson[@]cnu.edu) by March 1, 2013. Please remember to remove the [ ] from the email address.
See the MSA 15 website for further information on the conference: