Matters of Taste (MSA 11, 5-8 November 2009, Montréal, Québec, Canada)

full name / name of organization: 
Mary Elizabeth Curtin (University of Toronto)

The modernists' innovations in art, literature, and design were not only aesthetic reactions to traditional forms—they were also critical responses to the idea of taste. Yet if the modernists were unable to endorse their predecessors' conceptions of "tastefulness," devising new models of taste proved equally difficult. This panel will explore the problems associated with articulating taste in the modern period. Rather than trying to capture a concrete "version" of modernist taste, however, the panel will focus on conceptualizing the process(es) of modernist tastes; in other words, how and why did various modernists arrive at their critical judgements? Questions to be addressed will include: What constitutes good/bad taste among the modernists? What (if anything) is the value of "tastefulness" in modernism? Can we distinguish changing tastes (fashion) from a change in taste (criticism)? Was taste relevant to modernism, or had modernism, in fact, moved beyond taste? Proposals from all disciplines are welcome. Possible topics could include but are not limited to:

-democracy and taste
-modernist disagreements on taste
-the effect of mass media and advertising on taste
-race/gender and taste
-highbrow vs. low/middlebrow taste
-fashions and fads
-value and valuation
-mass production and taste
-the role of bad taste
-conservative/reactionary tastes

Please send a 300-word abstract and a short biographical note to by May 6, 2009.