CFP: [American] MSAX Panel: Modernism and the Postwar South

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Jordan Dominy
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In After Southern Modernism (2000), Matthew Guinn notes that southern writers of the last thirty
years have made a decisive break with the traditions and politics of 1930s Southern Renascence
modernism. They are best understood, he argues, through their discontinuity rather than
continuity with the region and cultures labeled as the South. This description suggests that there
is no transitional moment between Renascence modernism and southern postmodernism. But
what of the intervening postwar generation of Southern writers and intellectuals? Of them, Guinn
says they exhibit “attenuated modernist techniques” that “tenuously” maintain the traditions of
the Renascence.

This panel seeks to investigate modernism(s) of the postwar South. Like the authors Guinn
addresses, key figures associated with the South were in some ways turning their interests
elsewhere during this period: John Crowe Ransom’s Kenyon Review became nationally and
internationally influential during this time. William Faulkner published A Fable (1954), which
takes place in World War I France and wins national critical acclaim in the form of his first
Pulitzer Prize. The New Criticism, driven by Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren among
others, took literature departments by storm. Moreover, the anti-communism common among
southern intellectuals became an asset to U.S. political interests in the early years of the Cold
War, and as Leigh Anne Duck explains in The Nation’s Region (2006), “the idea of a distinct
southern identity became popular among national elites as a ballast for an increasingly
conformist and progress-oriented nation.” Does this South, constructed as a rampart from which
to defend a national culture from consumerism and communism, comport with the Renascence
modernism? If the late 1940s and 1950s are not an extension of Renascence modernism, what
kind of modernism becomes prevalent, then? Are the formalist projects of the Agrarians-
turned-New Critics an indicator of late modernism? Could postwar modernism or Cold War
modernism be used to describe these developments in southern culture? And how could these
modernisms be helpful in understanding perceived “southern” influences in popular culture,
such as rock ‘n’ roll and country music, television, and film during this time?

Papers investigating modernism(s) in any aspect or form of postwar southern culture, especially
at its intersections with national or global cultures, are welcome.

Please send proposed paper titles, 350-word abstracts, and a brief (2-3 sentence) scholarly
biography to Jordan Dominy at by May 1, 2008. The annual conference of the
Modernist Studies Association takes place in Nashville, TN from 13-18 November 2008. The
conference website is

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Received on Thu Apr 10 2008 - 10:16:17 EDT