Impersonality beyond "Tradition" (MSA, Oct. 6-9, Buffalo, NY)

full name / name of organization: 
Claire Laville/Modernist Studies Association
contact email: 

Impersonality is usually linked to "Tradition and the Individual Talent," in which T.S. Eliot famously declares, "The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality." For this panel, I am seeking papers that dislodge the impersonal from Eliot's vision of a cohesive European canon. This may mean sidestepping Eliot and his legacy entirely or reconsidering its premises. Where can modernists find an account of the "process of depersonalization"? Could it be narrated in the first person? Does the impersonal have a history? a future?

Recent work by Sharon Cameron, Tim Dean, and Denise Riley has used the term to convey effects very different from individual genius: the autonomy of language, the limits of agency and responsibility, and the centrality of erotic and religious ecstasy to intellectual life. These and other theoretical ventures raise new questions and new textual entrance points. Were immigrant, regional, African American, and women modernists excluded from the Eliotic ideal by their time-bound commitments? Conversely, can we now identify counter-traditions in which even the impersonal is estranged from itself? Is it appropriate to label the abdication of self inherently conservative, transgressive, ethical, or modern?

Possible topics include:
Modernist experiments with voice and subjectivity
Competing or complementary discourses of personality
Psychoanalytic theory and the impersonal
Impersonality and/as systems theory
The impersonal and the inhuman

Submit abstracts of 200-300 words and brief biographies to by Feb. 1, 2011.

This panel is subject to official approval by the MSA.