Museum Engagements in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Literature; NeMLA 2016; Hartford, CT; March 17-20, 2016

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The rise of the modern museum was (and remains) a global event that resonates across literary cultures. Germain Bazin termed the nineteenth century the "Museum Age" for the myriad ways the new phenomenon of the public museum redefined the social status of art. This session investigates how this development was received by nineteenth- and twentieth-century Anglophone authors writing during and immediately following the rise of the modern museum.

The museum's social, pedagogical, and ideological significance was widely debated by writers across these centuries – including John Ruskin, William Hazlitt, and Ezra Pound – who were uncertain or hesitant about the effects museums would have on art, aesthetic experience, and public education. Museums enabled modernist interests in classical and so-called primitive aesthetics and elicited the distrust of postmodern writers skeptical of the cultural unities that museum collections imply. This session aims to develop a critical discourse about the ways museums contributed to the shaping of nineteenth- and twentieth-century literatures, and invites papers that approach this issue within any germane theoretical or disciplinary framework.

How does the museum contour how we experience, think about, and value works of art? How did museums affect literary engagements with the visual arts, including ekphrastic writing? How do museums signify differently to writers of different genders, sexualities, or races? What influence did the museological drive to taxonomize art in historical narratives have on literary ideas of the artistic tradition? In what ways does a postmodern suspicion of grand narratives resist the institutionalization of culture in museum galleries?

Please submit 300 word abstracts by September 30, 2015 to NEMLA's online submission system: