Teaching Modernism in the Age of Brexit and Trump

deadline for submissions: 
June 15, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
MSA Conference/University of Amsterdam
contact email: 

This is a last minute extended call for papers.  The roundtable below has already been approved, but a panelist unexpectedly dropped out at the last minute and I would like to fill the spot.   

As Peter Gay explains in Modernism: The Lure of Heresy, “Fascists came into power legally . . . They freely resorted to naked physical assaults on politically inconvenient opponents; they labored to erase all traces of modern feminism and trade unionism; they put the making of a new, higher type of humanity on their program; they made increasingly exigent demands on ordinary citizens, invading their privacy whether it involved sports or music lessons, theatrical performances or art exhibitions” (Gay 433). Indeed, modernity’s increasingly cosmopolitan societies, which cultivated new ways of understanding the human condition, concurrently  produced fascist governments elected in part by a fear of change—whether that change was located in immigration, women’s roles, sexuality, etc.--and a growing nostalgia and nationalism in response to this change.  In short, the elements of fascism are a backlash against the more liberal tenets of modernity. 

While it is a reach to say the recent elections in Great Britain and the United States are products of fascism, the tensions in contemporary society regarding progress and nostalgia, truth and propaganda provide a rich opportunity for using modernist texts in the classroom.  Additionally, recent controversies regarding efforts by art and artists to critique the results of democratic elections and the attempts to censor these critiques remind academic scholars of modernism’s central position in larger debates between tradition and progress in society.   

The following roundtable, then, invites modernist scholars to analyze pedagogical intersections between themes of modernist texts and the tensions produced by modernity. How does the present political and rhetorical climate in the United States and Great Britain provide teachers and scholars with fresh opportunities to utilize modernist texts? Papers which examine intersections between fascism and immigration, technology, sexuality, disability and censorship are particularly welcome. Please email abstracts to Dotterman@Adelphi.edu by June 15th or earlier for consideration for Modernist Studies Association (MSA) Annual Conference in Amsterdam, August 10-13, 2017.