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A Harmonizing Assignment: Affective Labor and Modernist Writing by and about Women (November 6-9)
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Modernist Studies Association
A Harmonizing Assignment: Affective Labor and Modernist Writing by and about Women
This proposed panel for MSA 16 (Pittsburgh, PA November 6-9) seeks papers that take up “affective labor” as a heuristic device for exploring modernist literary representations by and about women. Considered a subset of “Immaterial Labor,” the term “Affective Labor” has come into currency in the last two decades and names how the production of feelings became a specific and dominant form of work in the wake of Post-Fordist de-industrialization. Deploying the connection between body and mind, “Affective Labor” broadly characterizes the multiple forms of work constituting current service economies, in which senses, feelings, and comforts are the primary outcomes or products. Affective labor provides the ground of human contact; it is the harmonizing element that creates a sense of connectedness and community, and is often assigned to women or those considered proximate to feminization in the worlds of work. This panel is interested in pursuing whether the assignment of affective labor is not limited to the recent emergence of the service economy, but can be transported back to the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries and understood as an accompaniment to modern industrialization and therefore a phenomenon to which modernist writing by women responds. Can “Affective Labor,” be brought to bear on modernist literary representations by and about women? Can it help us re-read and re-animate the various articulations of feminism in the work of women writers? Does it further our understanding of how and why modernist strategies of defamiliarization had liberatory appeals for women writers? Can it inflect our understanding of the particular ways in which modernist women writers approached artistic practice and aesthetic form, both “high” and “low”? What sorts of analyses emerge when the work of Dorothy Richardson, Gertrude Stein, Nella Larsen, Mina Loy, Jessie Fauset, and Virginia Woolf (to name just a few) are interpreted through “Affective Labor”?