deadline for submissions: 
December 15, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Centro Studi “Arti della Modernità”



1922/2022 – TOTAL MODERNISM:



Centro Studi “Arti della Modernità”

18-19-20 May 2022 – Torino (Italy)




The year 1922 signals neither the birth of modernism nor its comprehensive scope, but it can certainly point to a decisive divide marking ends and beginnings. Some key works of literary High Modernism were conceived, written, or completed in that year—T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, James Joyce’s Ulysses, Alban Berg’s Wozzeck, Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duineser Elegien, Kafka’s The Castle, Proust’s Sodome et Gomorrhe, just to name the most obvious ones. On the theoretical side, Arnold Schönberg published his Theory of Harmony, Viktor Shklovsky expanded on his idea of defamiliarization (“art as device”) in the direction of a theory of prose, Clive Bell and Roger Fry elaborated on “significant form”. Just as importantly, the year 1922 saw the emergence of other crucial cultural productions that the canon of modernism has been slow—or reluctant—to incorporate, such as cinema, cabaret, dance, popular music.


A Dialogue between High and Low?


Recent scholarship has drawn attention to explicit connections between high-brow modernist masterpieces and a host of other “low-brow” cultural forms, as the new arts were deemed then, which demand their inclusion into the canon of modernism, just as Benjamin, Kracauer and others were soon to point out. The year 1922 seems to highlight a historical watershed where traditional binary oppositions of high and low, old and new, order and chaos appear to be disrupted by the formation of more complex hierarchies.

How did “high culture” uptake the popular arts and what was the meaning and outcome of such cross-fertilization? On the other hand, in what ways and to what results did the popular arts absorb modernist experimentation? Are those transformations, connections, and turns still of some interest to us today? What differentiates the high and the low? How do we define them? If we contrast the 2010s artistic productions and those ground-breaking experiments, do we find continuities or discontinuities and in what sense? Thinking back to 1922 from today, can we still talk of experimental art? Can a past revolution be inherited and in what way?



The Centro Studi Arti della Modernità (http://centroartidellamodernita.it/) is organizing an International Conference on 1922/2022 – Total Modernism: Continuity, Discontinuity, and the Experimental Turn to be held in Turin in May 2022. The conference will be held in person unless circumstances change. We will keep updating should problems arise for international travel. This conference seeks contributions addressing these decisive aspects of modernism in its golden year of 1922, a year in which, as Jean-Michel Rabaté has suggested, “one might be tempted to replace ‘high modernism’ with ‘total modernism’” or argue that the main problematic “object of high modernism is totality just before it turns into totalitarianism” (Rabaté 2015). It is this claim for high modernism as “total modernism”, and its reverberations today, that this conference is committed to examine, exploring the ways in which “one sees a metamorphosis of the Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk into an artistic totality that combines all media (music, poetry, painting, staging, dancing, and film) and, moreover, superimposes the most experimental and the most popular” (Rabaté 2015).


Academic Advisors: Alexander Etkind (European University, Florence), Marie-Laure Ryan (Independent Scholar), Jens Brockmeier (American University, Paris), Andrei Bronnikov (Independent Scholar), Roxana Preda (University of Edinburgh), Ann Banfield (University of California, Berkeley).

Conveners: Franca Bruera (University of Turin), Giuliana Ferreccio (University of Turin), Roberto Gilodi (University of Turin), Luigi Marfè (University of Padova), Daniela Nelva (University of Turin), Massimiliano Tortora (University of Turin).

Keynote Speakers: Jean-Michel Rabaté (University of Pennsylvania), Ann Banfield (University of California, Berkeley, possibly on zoom), Peter Nicholls (New York University), Thomas Macho (Humboldt, IFK Wien), Guido Mazzoni (University of Siena), Raffaele Donnarumma (University of Pisa), Hubert Roland (Université Catholique de Louvain), Sigrid Weigel (Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Berlin).


The Conference Advisory Board will consider proposals for papers addressing, but not limited to, the following topics:

  • Form vs. Performance
  • Ends and Beginnings
  • The relation between words, things and ideas in literature and philosophy
  • Aesthetic autonomy / aesthetic totality
  • Citation, displacement, fragmentation
  • Plurilingual, Transnational modernism
  • Subjectivity and anti-subjectivism
  • Gesamtkunstwerk as the expression of an epoch
  • International Style: The Bauhaus, the Vhkutemas and others
  • Architecture: Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright
  • Classicism old and new
  • New music and the new visual arts
  • Photography and Cinema
  • Ballet, cabaret, popular music
  • Dada vs. Surrealism
  • Cosmopolitan diaspora
  • Conservative revolutions
  • East European Modernism
  • American vs. European Modernism
  • Expatriates in Paris, London, Berlin, Vienna
  • The city as total space


Proposals of about 250 words may be submitted to convenors through centrostudiartimodernita@gmail.com, by 15 December 2021, together with a bio-bibliographical profile. Proposals will be read and evaluated by 15 January 2022. The time of delivery for each paper should be no more than 20 minutes. Registration fee for Participants: 70 euros; Graduate Students and PhDs: 40 euros. The conference languages will be English, French and Italian.

A number of conference presentations will be selected for publication in Cosmo: Comparative Studies in Modernism (ISSN 2281-6658, http://www.ojs.unito.it/index.php/COSMO) the digital international, peer-reviewed journal of the Centro Studi Arti della Modernità. Accepted contributions will be published in Cosmo’s June 2023 issue.



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