Reminder: Considering Modernist Confusion (NeMLA 2018 Pittsburgh)

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Northeastern Modern Language Association
contact email: 

This panel reflects on the place of confusion in British and American modernism. Confusion has not been traditionally considered a proper scholarly response to textual analysis; critics are supposed to interpret a text rather than allow themselves to experience its uncertainties. What happens when we explore the confusion we feel when reading not as something to be worked through, but as something to be worked with? Building on affect theorists’ work on how our feelings can influence the way we read, such as Eve Sedgwick’s reparative reading and Rita Felski’s reflective and post-critical reading, how can considering confusion change both our experience of reading and our critical practices? Modernism, with its canon of ‘unreadable’ novels such as The Waves and Ulysses and ‘difficult’ poetry like that of T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, especially lends itself to exploring readerly confusion. Considering confusion to be a valid response to modernism makes these challenging texts more approachable for both the critic and the “common reader,” thus expanding our understanding of both modernist studies and literary criticism as a whole. 

In keeping with the 2018 NEMLA theme, proposals about confusing spaces, blurry borders, and perplexing imagined worlds in modernist texts are especially welcome. Please submit 300-word abstracts by September 30, 2017 through the NeMLA online submission system using the following URL: If you have any questions, please contact me at