MSA 19 Panel: Fascist Rebirth, Modernist Resistance
Today we witness a resurgence of fascist rhetoric from parties offering various “alternatives” to the multicultural states that have come to characterize Europe and North America. Modernism, of course, is famously entangled with the rise of fascism, these xenophobic movements’ most notorious antecedent, and there is a new urgency to the questions that Griffin (2007), Ravetto (2007), Antliff (2007), and Ben Ghiat (2015) broached in their scholarly work. As Griffin suggests, fascism cannot only be understood as a reaction against modernism, but as a “political variant” of modernism—an insight that resonates with the current manifestation of variants or alternatives, some of which even include the term “alternative” in their moniker, such as the “Alt-Right” or “Alternative for Germany.”
This panel looks to the earlier moment of fascism’s rise within the context of Modernism to try to better understand the contemporary appeal of fascist rhetoric as well as the possibilities for resistance to it. It centers around the question: how does fascism make its promise of palingenesis? Building upon Frank Kermode’s Sense of an Ending, where Kermode notes, “correlation between early modernist literature and authoritarianism which is more often noticed than explained: totalitarian theories of form matched or reflected by totalitarian politics,” Griffin argues that there is an ideological continuum where the animating myths of art made their way into the political realm; in particular Griffin suggests that none of the myths marked both modernism and fascism as strongly as the promise of palingenesis, rebirth—a new art for Modernism and the “new man” for fascism. How do fascist aesthetics strive to create this “new man”? What are fascism’s aesthetic modes of indoctrination and inculcation?
The panel, though, is also deeply interested in the possibility of refusing this appeal: how does anti-fascist modernist literature resist fascism without endorsing its palingenetic logic? What are the techniques of dissent and resistance that modernist literature offers? And, echoing the question of Mira Spiro (2013), does it matter—“Can literary figures and their work be effective in political resistance?”
Some suggested topics might include: the pedagogy of (proto)fascist youth groups; the formal as well as ideological work of bildungsroman; the aesthetics of fascist as well as antifascist propaganda; the role of technology in the fascist appeal as well as antifascist resistance; biographical and fictional accounts of resistance. Transnational work is encouraged.
Please submit an abstract of 300 words, along with a brief bio, to email@example.com by January 11. Feel free to contact me with any questions as well.
This proposal is for MSA 19 Amsterdam ("Modernism Today").
August 10-13, 2017