deadline for submissions: 
May 1, 2024
full name / name of organization: 
Saint Louis University Madrid
contact email: 

“Modern?” CFP


Saint Louis University—Madrid, June 7-8, 2024


The OED defines “modern” as “being in existence at this time; current, present,” but also as something that is “opposed to the remote past.” Given that the concepts of “past,” “present” and “future” are not fixed, but, to paraphrase Einstein, illusory, the meaning of “modern” itself is hard to pin down. 

Most recently, Emily Watson’s English translation of The Odyssey has been criticized for making Homer’s text “too modern.” As a defense, Watson explains that her use of contemporary language is meant to remind readers that The Odyssey “can engage us in a direct way, and also that it is genuinely ancient.” In other words, modern is both that which is (the present) and that which is not (the past). 

And then there is the late Bruno Latour’s titular We Have Never Been Modern which challenges the very notion that we can ever arrive at a static present. What does it mean to refer to the periods with labels such as Early modern, modern, or postmodern when we have such a loose understanding of how we employ the term as a synonym for contemporary? What do we mean when we refer to a play like Hamlet as the location of the birth of the modern subject in art?

Of course, the meaning of “modern” varies across disciplines as well as cultures and schools of thought. Historically, “modern” has been associated with ideas of progress and development, but also with colonization and cultural imperialism. This prompts us to ask: what commonalities can be drawn from the various uses of "modern," and how do they differ? We suggest that the term "modern" is most compelling not when used to categorize and differentiate, but rather when it underscores the intersections and overlaps between categories, emphasizing both their potential value and their inherent fragility.

While the term “modern” shows no sign of disappearing any time soon, we hope that a productive conversation about its multifaceted uses and abuses across disciplines and timelines will breathe fresh life into the ongoing discourse. 

Possible topics include:

The meaning of “modern”

Modern and the myth of progress

Modern translations

Modern takes on classical texts

Environmental perspectives on Modernity

Technology and the Modern from Chaplin to Lyotard and beyond

Modern art as a paradigm for other modernities/Modernity and the avant-garde

Modern decay/ the aesthetics of ruin

Modern vs Contemporary

Periodization in Modernity- early/late/advanced

 Teleology of the modern

 Queer and transgender perspectives on the modern or modernity

 Myth of the modern subject

Racialized modernity/modern

Deep time and the modern


DEADLINE EXTENDED: Please send abstracts of 250 words plus a bio in the body of an email by May 1st, 2024 to olivia.badoi@slu.edu and timothy.day@slu.edu