Modernism, Blackness, and Futurity

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Modernist Studies Association (MSA) 16: Confluence & Division (November 6-9, 2014)

This panel speaks to long-standing modernist questions about the individual's relationship with time. High modernist writers from James Joyce, to T.S. Eliot, to Virginia Woolf rightfully urge us to reconsider the role time plays in our conceptions of identity. Such authors experiment with an illegible and/or insecure future, which, consequently, opens up the present as a spatio-temporal dimension to be thoroughly explored and excavated. Virginia Woolf's novel, Mrs. Dalloway, famously illustrates the notion of an incomprehensible future and how one lives his or her life under these conditions.

The papers given at this panel on the intersection of modernism, blackness, and futurity examine how modernist writers take up "blackness" as a framework in thinking about modes of living that do not necessarily revolve around a guarantee of life's continuation. What these papers reconsider is how the absence of a legible future informs identity. Black diasporic peoples have historically been denied the certainty of a future, forced to move through history amidst this uncertainty. What is of critical importance is an investigation into how writers and artists aesthetically represent the tension between black presentism/imagined futurity.

A key question this panel explores is this: How does the modernist aesthetic address the endangered futures of black diasporic peoples? What are the literary devices and modes of narration that figure prominently in works on black (non)futurity? As the terminology in this panel description makes apparent, theorists such as Lee Edelman, José E Muñoz, and Jack Halberstam may offer useful tools in conceptualizing the intersection of identity formations, modernism, and futurity. However, papers are not limited to these scholars.

This panel openly welcomes interdisciplinary work (film, digital, literature, visual art, music, etc) and would also favor papers that deal with intersectionality (simultaneous discussions on race, gender, sexuality, and class). Possible themes that can be connected to black futurity discourses include:

The death/life binary
Aesthetic representations of risk, chance, or luck
Spatiality and futurity
Gender and futurity
Black/white binary
Side by side comparison of different mediums addressing black futurity
Authorship and Textuality
Print Culture

Questions are welcome. Please send a 250-word abstract and a brief scholarly biography by May 1st to Lucy Mensah:

Conference Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Conference Starts: November 06, 2014
Conference Ends: November 09, 2014

CFP Submission Deadline: May 01, 2014