City Science and City Craft -- MMLA 2014 (Nov. 13-16)

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Midwest Modern Languages Association
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Finding a coin in a street gutter, the protagonist of Charles Reznikoff's 1930 novel "By the Waters of Manhattan" concludes, "If there was woodcraft . . . he was master of a new science, citycraft." Though his sense of mastery is short-lived, the language of his expression points toward a method of grappling with the economic realities of modern city life that aligns with what Tim Armstrong identifies as a conflict between the modern and the inherited. But the relationship between modern science and inherited craft is complex: at times dialectical, at times intertwined, at times synthetic, artists, workers, and scholars still inquire after the intersecting skills, practices, and perspectives of modern science, social science, artisanal trade, and literary craftsmanship.

This panel seeks papers that explore the ways in which writers in the 20th and 21st centuries have utilized concepts of science, craft, and art in their attempts to understand, depict, and make life livable in the modern and contemporary city. How, for example, do family trades inform artwork? How do contemporary (or past) postulates of social scientists affect depictions of city life? Where do the discoveries—and the fears—of modern science and medicine appear? Can one use such crafts to foster the development of true individuality? Keywords for papers on this panel might be as diverse as contagion, labor, rail, electricity, mass/masses, and circulation—but they will all be united by the common conceptual network of "citycraft."

Abstracts of approximately 250 words should be sent to by June 15, 2014.