CFP: [Cultural-Historical] Modernism and the Dialogue Across Disciplines

full name / name of organization: 
Monika Gehlawat
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Modernism and the Dialogue across Disciplines –
Proposed Panel from MSA 2008
Nashville, TN (Nov 13-16)

The aim of this panel is to theorize the potential for thinking across
disciplines in the study of modernism. Specifically, the relationship
between literature and painting seems to intensify during this period,
but there are also interesting examples of the ways in which modernist
literature is influenced by or in dialogue with film, dance, music and
theater. Whether looking at Bloomsbury writers, painters and those
working in the decorative arts, or studying the avant-garde community in
Paris, most prominently identified by Gertrude Stein, Picasso and Braque,
Hemingway and Pound, or else focusing on the American art scene where
poets like Williams, Stevens and Moore were engaged as much with painters
at home like Charles Sheeler and Alfred Stieglitz as they were influenced
by the work of Cubists abroad, it is clear that Modernist innovation
flourished in part because of the stimulating relationships between
visual artists and writers. These coteries are well-known, as are the
anecdotes that serve to crystallize but all too often foreclose upon the
productive potential of these cross-disciplinary activities. Instead of
attending simply to biographical stories, I hope this panel will generate
new arguments about why our critical understanding of this period is
enriched when we attend to it in terms of its formal interdisciplinary-
ness. In particular, we seek papers that attempt to theorize (rather than
merely narrate) how Modernist art and literature breaks with expected
genres and conventional formal boundaries.

Some questions to consider: Does thinking across disciplines refine our
sense of the particularities of medium and therefore, the unique
contributions that poetry or film, for instance, can make in furthering
aesthetic experimentation? Inversely, what are the limits of medium and
what challenges do artists or writers face when developing techniques in
common or pursuing dialogue about their work? But more importantly, what
do we learn about the philosophical, historical and critical grounds upon
which so many Modernist experiments were based when we attend to the
mutual desire of writers and artists to engage one another? How does the
specificity of thinking about one art form in terms of (or against)
another provide a concrete vocabulary with which to approach the social
and theoretical concerns of the Modernist avant-garde? Was Modernism
simply a time of pervasive and manifold experimentalism, or can we
understand it as a richer and more complex network of cross-disciplinary
innovation, a uniquely dynamic period characterized by the relationships
that flourished between writers and artists?

Speaking about the development of Cubism, Braque famously explained that
he and Picasso “were guided by a common idea.... We saw each other every
day and talked a lot, and things were said between us that will never be
repeated ... that no one would understand now....We were like two
mountain climbers roped together.” Braque’s formulation may well speak
for Modernists working across disciplines who stimulated one another to
attend to shared aesthetic and philosophical problems. Moreover, this
panel seeks ways to imagine the critic’s role in the mountain-climbing of

Please submit 1 page abstracts for consideration to
by 4/1/08.

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Received on Sun Mar 09 2008 - 15:25:49 EST

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