MSA 11: Boxing and Modernism

full name / name of organization: 
Evan Rhodes
contact email: 

This panel seeks to explore the historical and aesthetic connections between boxing and modernism, or early 20th century arts more broadly conceived. From Gene Tunney's Alpine hikes with George Bernard Shaw to Jack Johnson's 1916 fight with poet Arthur Cravan, or Djuna Barnes' early boxing reportage to Hemingway's stints as a sparring partner for professional heavyweights in Paris, many modern writers and artists evinced not only a delight in boxing, but a deep situation in sporting circles such that the distinction between modern art as an aesthetic formation and boxing as popular sport becomes productively fuzzy. Boxing's relationship to modern art and literature is so potent in part because of these historical connections, but also because the sport necessarily subtends many familiar aesthetic preoccupations of the period such as form, technique, violence, and the "new" with conversations about race, class, and the relationship between "high" art and popular culture. What remains to be explored are not only the aesthetic valences of boxing itself, but also the mutual information of boxing and the many other forms of early 20th century artistic practice: the plastic arts, film, dance, literature, drama, etc. We seek submissions on an array of issues and topics, which could possibly include meditations on boxing as a vernacular modernism, the cultural history of boxing, the intersection of aesthetics and racial discourse, and boxing and modernism's shared vocabularies of form and technique.

Please send a 300-400 word abstract and a brief biographical statement to Evan Rhodes,, by May 10th.