Modernism and the Child [MSA 16: Pittsburgh, PA: November 6-9]

full name / name of organization: 
Marcie Rovan
contact email: 

Modernist Studies Association Annual Conference, "Confluence and Division"
Nov. 6-9, 2014, Pittsburgh, PA

The early twentieth century was a fruitful period for examination of the relationship between the child and the literary. The critique that experimental modernist art and literature is "childish" or the famous assertion that "any child could do it" points to an important correlation between childhood and modernism. Many modernist authors and artists made use of the child's fresh perspective in their quest for new ways of seeing the world, drawing an association between childhood and primitivism. Changes in the material conditions and cultural formations of childhood in the modernist era contributed to a changing discourse of childhood and led to a new interest in the child subject. Advancements in the study of childhood, child welfare, early education, and child psychology all contributed to what has been termed "the cult of childhood" and a preoccupation with the ideal of "protected childhood."

This panel will examine what it means to think about modernism's complex relationship with "the child." We will explore the intersections between modernist art/literature/culture and the shifting construction of childhood in the modernist era. How do these conceptions of childhood/the child affect developments in modernist art or writing? What influences do we see between child art and modernist painting or between modernist literature and children's literature? What correlations exist between modernist experimentation and writing produced for children at this time? How does children's literature respond to the increasing industrialization and technological advancements of this period? How do psychological advancements affect constructions of childhood in modernist literature or in literature for children? Does children's literature at this time serve as an escape from the pressures of modernity or does it reflect a growing disillusionment with this escapism?

Please send abstracts of about 300 words along with a brief bio to Marcie Rovan at by April 15, 2014.

Contexts might include (but are not limited to):
- Developments in child psychology or child studies
- The "cult of childhood" in the modernist era
- The use of children's art and writing in Modernism
- Children's literature in the modernist era
- Children's texts written by modernist authors
- Modernist art and the picture book
- The child's perspective in modernist literature
- The relationship between the child and primitivism
- Child welfare reform in the modernist era
- The immigrant child in modernist art or literature
- The use of fairy tale conventions in modernism
- Children's literature's response to technology
- The child and the war (or postwar reactions)
- The child and the city