MSA 11: Modernist Languages of Feeling

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Brandon Gordon
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Modernist Languages of Feeling

In Death in the Afternoon, Hemingway depicts the ideal writer as one able to "put down what really happened in action; what the actual things were which produced the emotion that you experienced." Writing, he continues, should capture the "real thing, the sequence of motion and fact, which made the emotion." Hemingway's desire to locate form and technique as the locus of an art work's emotional impact articulates a crucial tenet of modernism's aesthetic ideology. Rejecting a Romantic view of emotion as somehow in excess of or beyond language, modernist writers sought to subject feeling to formal organization and particularize it within specific linguistic techniques. While this project took many forms - Eliot's objective correlative, Pound's Image, Ford's Vortex - its various manifestations can be understood as a concerted effort to establish new literary forms and strategies for the evocation of emotion.

This panel invites papers that examine modernism's attitude towards and understanding of emotion and strategies for emotional expression. Some possible questions the panel could consider include: what is the connection between modernism's artistic innovations and its attitudes surrounding the expression of emotion? Does modernism's "Revolution of the Word" signal the emergence of new forms of feeling? Does it point to a concomitant transformation in how emotion is experienced? Or does modernism's effort to "Make it new" belie an underlying connection with past structures of feeling and forms of expression? How do innovations in the representational "languages" of other media - cinema, photography, painting etc. - transform the ways in which they seek to express emotion? These topics are, of course, only suggestions. This panel hopes to solicit a broad array of approaches to understanding the relationship between modernism's aesthetic practices and theories of affect.

Please send abstracts of no more than 500 words and a brief biographical statement to Brandon Gordon at by May 7, 2009.

This panel must still be approved by the MSA.