Modernism, Consumerism, and Capitalism

deadline for submissions: 
March 26, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Katherine Sheldon, Cal State University, Stanislaus
contact email: 

This call invites proposals for papers to be presented at a panel during the 2021 Modernist Studies Association’s Annual Conference in Chicago, Illinois, November 4 -7, 2021.

Amidst the high life of the 1920s, subtle forces were brewing under the surface.  Thorstein Veblen’s publication of The Theory of the Leisure Class in 1899 reflected on “conspicuous consumption” and the growing practice of accumulation and potential for waste. The Russian Revolution was in a period of infancy with communism and socialism beginning to catch the attention of a weary populace looking for answers after a devastating war. Often described as the "Generation of 1914", the "(gun)fire generation" or the “lost generation”, many looked to “reinvention” as a response to post-war disillusionment. Was the American Dream under assault or still being defined?

This panel reflects upon the dynamics of those early decades of the 20th century and the myriad of approaches to self-reinvention. Potential topics include:

  • Veblen, Theory of the Leisure Class
  • Consumerism and decadence
  • Implications of WWI
  • Lost Generation literature (Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Stein, Eliot, Pound, etc.)
  • Harlem Renaissance and implications across all forms of artistic expressions (poetry and literature, drama, music, cinema, and painting)
  • Rising interest in Communism and Socialism
  • Russian Revolution
  • Women’s Suffrage Movement
  • The American Dream under assault