full name / name of organization:
ECOLE NORMALE SUPERIEURE, Paris, France
“H.D. AND MODERNITY”
5-7 December 2013
Université Paris Ouest Nanterre,
Université Toulouse II-Le Mirail
& École Normale Supérieure
Deadline for paper proposals: 3 June 2013
Notifications from the committee: by 30 June 2013
Plenary speakers: Professor Antoine CAZÉ (Université Paris-Diderot), Professor Susan McCABE (University of Southern California), Professor Cristanne MILLER (SUNY Buffalo/ Tocqueville-Fulbright Chair 2013-2014 at Université Paris-Diderot)
Call for papers
In 1912, at Ezra Pound’s instigation, Hilda Doolittle became “H.D. Imagiste,” her name forever tied to one of the crucial, albeit short-lived aesthetic movements adumbrating High Modernism. Yet H.D. subsequently produced a rich and varied body of work comprising poetry, essays, translations, fiction and autobiographical writings, spanning an exceptionally chaotic half-century, from her first poems published in the January 1913 issue of Poetry until her death in 1961.
How should one appraise the ambivalence lying in H.D.’s fascination for ancient cultures and her daily struggle with a baffling, at times even deeply unsettling modernity? In The H.D. Book, Robert Duncan writes: “They were—Pound or H.D. or Joyce—most modern in their appropriation of the past” (229). Actually, in similar fashion as several other figures of Anglo-American modernism (like Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Wyndham Lewis, T.S. Eliot), through works drawing on primitivism as well as aesthetic experimentation, H.D. raises the fundamental question of the modernity of modernism.
In La Pénultième est morte, Jean-Michel Rabaté contends that the high modernists are concerned with primitivism in ways unequaled by the European avant-gardes: “the modernity of high modernism lies above all in its main proponents’ heightened awareness of the primitive nature of ritual (…). Their ‘modernity’ remains caught in the dialectics of the avant-garde, with its load of culturalist, pedagogical and exhibitionistic impulses attempting to make up for its failure to think the archaic” (199-200). It seems striking that, while wary about the avant-garde strategies of “Patriarchal Poetry” (Gertrude Stein), H.D.’s lifelong project might precisely have consisted in taking up this challenge of rethinking the archaic.
This feature is also key to Walter Benjamin’s definition of Baudelairean modernity: “As spleen, it fractures the ideal (…). But precisely, modernity is also citing primal history” (The Arcades Project, “Exposé of 1935,” 10). Benjamin returns to this key notion in his “Exposé of 1939”: “for him the proof of modernity seems to be this: it is marked with the fatality of being one day antiquity, and it reveals this to whoever witnesses its birth. (…) The face of modernity itself blasts us with its immemorial gaze. Such was the gaze of Medusa for the Greeks” (22-23).
A gifted classicist and translator of Euripides with a passion for religions and mythologies, H.D. places her whole literary production under the sign of Hermes, the cryptic god messenger. From “Hermes of the Ways” (1913) to Hermetic Definition and Helen in Egypt (1961), H.D. produces a whole range of complex writings, where modernity emerges between the lines (between the signs) of her atavistic archaism, thereby offering a new hermeneutics, both revelatory and mesmerizing.
We are inviting paper proposals focusing on this broad question in any of H.D.’s works. Potential angles of analysis could be among the following:
- filiations and literary influence(s)
- modernism and women’s writing
- imagism and the materiality of language
- archaism and innovation
- lyricism and modernity
- (auto)biographical writings
- (re)writing history
- poetic archeology and revelation
- poetry and hermeneutics
Written in French or in English, 300-word proposals should be sent to all members of the organizing committee by 3 June 2013.
- Hélène Aji (Université Paris Ouest Nanterre) : firstname.lastname@example.org
- Antoine Cazé (Université Paris-Diderot) : email@example.com
- Agnès Derail (Université Paris-Sorbonne / ENS-Ulm) : firstname.lastname@example.org
- Clément Oudart (Université Toulouse II-Le Mirail) : email@example.com
Conference venue: École Normale Supérieure, 45 rue d’Ulm, Paris, France.