Modernist Studies Association: Modernist Afterlives and the Politics of Literary Inheritance

deadline for submissions: 
March 1, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Alec Pollak
contact email: 

Modernist Afterlives and the Politics of Literary Inheritance

Panel proposal for MSA Toronto, 17-20 October 2019


This panel investigates how the decisions of literary heirs and estates, the management of archives, the dissemination of permissions, and/or the movement of surviving manuscripts influenced the literary afterlives of those modernist authors who, before their “reclamation” and “rediscovery” in the 1970s, had all but slipped out of public and scholarly consciousness. What happens to the work of the woman writer who has been writing “ahead of her time” in a world where the inheritor of her papers and the disseminator of her legacy is, say, a disapproving husband, son, or nephew? Or to the work of the woman writer who lacks the financial means or legal status to formalize a literary estate, whose works are “orphaned” after her death and locked in copyright limbo for decades to come? This panel will pay special attention to the racial and gender underpinnings of intergenerational inheritance, copyright management, and publishing and to how these factors have influenced our understanding of the landscape of literary modernism today.

We welcome proposals that draw on interdisciplinary methods including, but not limited to, feminist, gender, and sexuality studies; critical race/ethnic studies; disability studies; law and literature; material/cultural history; and book history. Submissions are encouraged, but not required, to engage with the following areas, as they pertain to a specific author or set of authors: the growth and management of archives; archival discoveries and access; literary estates and executors; copyright management and publishing permissions; legalities of inheritance; and print and publication history. Submissions might also consider how these factors and questions bear upon the evolution of literary studies, revisions of “canon,” and disciplinary, institutional, or departmental priorities, and reflect upon the methodological implications for literary studies that follow from these questions. Papers focusing on authors who lived and wrote outside the interwar period, and for whom these questions are relevant, are welcome as well.


Please submit a 300-word paper proposal and brief bio to by March 1.