The Modernist Long Poem and Its Discontents

deadline for submissions: 
April 15, 2024
full name / name of organization: 
NYU Paris, CY Cergy Paris, École Normale Supérieure

The Modernist Long Poem and Its Discontents

19-20 September 2024

Venue: École Normale Supérieure & NYU Paris


Keynote Speaker: Virginia Jackson (University of California, Irvine)

                    Rachel Blau DuPlessis (Temple University)


Organizers: Richard Aldersley (NYU), Mantra Mukim (CYU Paris/CNRS), Samantha Lemeunier  (ENS)


Poets, critics, and scholars have tended to conceive of the long poem in ambiguous terms: sometimes as an epic verse narrative, sometimes as a lyrical sequence, and sometimes even as a sign of the writer’s accession to a realm of freedom and truth. In modernist literature, this ambivalence about the nature and the function of the long poem corresponds to the considerable increase in the use of this genre, making it a site of poetic innovation as well as critical preoccupation. From The Waste Land and The Cantos, through The Bridge and Cahier d’un retour au pays natal, to Paterson and Harlem Gallery (to name but a few examples), the modernist long poem expresses a range of attitudes toward poetic form and function and poses a variety of compositional and theoretical challenges which articulate many of the problematics of modernist movements and their critical reception. Yet the inadequacy of our concepts and definitions of the lyric invites us to reconsider our understanding of the modernist long poem as somehow “representative” and to inquire, instead, into the ways in which the long poem facilitated debates about poiesis itself. 

This conference is as interested in the ontology of the modernist long poem as cultural ideas about it, and aims to address how iterations of the genre revised antecedents through a practice of poetical and political discontent. While we emphasize modernism in our title, we also wish to invite participants to investigate the afterlives of modernisms and the conditions of existence or global system that the modernist long poem required to sustain and reproduce itself across the “long” twentieth century. Why, we ask, was there a resurgence in the production of long poems among modernist movements? What makes the modernist long poem particularly “modernist”? How might we reconcile competing definitions of the long poem? What formal and cultural parallels exist between the long poem as genre and modernism as cultural and artistic movement? In what ways does the modernist long poem serve as a mode of inquiry or a model of (self-)reflection within modernity? How does the writing and the reading of modernist long poems generate community, indeed “interpretive communities”? 

To answer these and other questions, this conference encourages participants to consider such themes as: 

  • Modernisms and the Long Poem 
  • The Long Poem in the “Long” Twentieth Century
  • Globalization, World Literature, and the Long Poem
  • Encyclopedism and the Long Poem
  • Genre, Sub-Genre, and Form
  • Periodising the Long Poem / Periodising Modernity
  • Postcolonial, Anti-Colonial, Decolonial Long Poems
  • Little Magazines, Long Form, and the Problems of Publishing Long Poems
  • Ecology of/in the Long Poem
  • Epic, Lyric, and the Long Poem
  • Digitising and Archiving the Long Poem
  • Music, Aurality, and the Long Poem 

Please send abstracts (300-350 words) and brief autobiographical statements to by 15th April 2024. Acceptances will be sent out by May 1, 2024.