The Long Modernist Novel: A Comparative Conference
23-24 April 2014
Birkbeck College, London.
Confirmed speakers: Michael Bell (Warwick), Eveline Kilian (Humboldt), Laura Marcus (Oxford), Jeremy Tambling (Manchester).
Deadline for Abstracts Extended to 27 January
Call for Papers
One of the most remarkable events in the history of early twentieth-century literature was the almost simultaneous emergence in different national cultures of a new form: the long modernist novel. Characterised by a wholesale rejection of the conventions of the nineteenth-century novel, the long modernist novel opened itself up to narrative experiments with impressionism, point of view, and alternative states of consciousness, from fugue, to dream, to the banality of the everyday. Both a response to and an intervention into the conflicting temporalities of early twentieth-century modernity, the long modernist novel sought to bring all the resources of earlier narrative forms to bear on the present, stretching the conventions of representation to their limits and beyond. Not excluding early precursors by Henry James or Romain Rolland, a non-exhaustive list would include:
Marcel Proust A la recherche du temps perdu (1913-1927)
James Joyce, Ulysses, Finnegans Wake (1914-1939)
Dorothy Richardson, Pilgrimage (1915-1938/1967)
Thomas Mann, Der Zauberberg (1924)
Gertrude Stein, The Making of Americans (1911/1924)
Alexander Döblin, Berlin Alexanderplatz (1929)
Robert Musil, Ein Mann ohne Eigenschaften (1930-1943/1978)
John Dos Passos, USA (1930-1936)
Virginia Woolf, The Years (1937)
While all these novels have received individual attention and authors such as Proust and Joyce have attracted a wealth of criticism, very little work has been done on the long modernist novel as a form in itself. Equally, and perhaps understandably given the demands each text makes on the reader, comparative work has been limited. The purpose of this conference is to begin the critical work of defining the long modernist novel and to initiate comparative studies of the form. The organisers hope that this conference the volume of essays that will follow will stimulate new critical discussion of this unique literary form.
Comparative papers that address at least two long modernist novels are invited. Topics of discussion might include.
Structuring duration: the long modernist novel’s use and reconfiguration of a variety of pre-existing narrative forms – epic, Bildungs/Künstleroman, memoir, historical narratives; and its incorporation of new popular forms – genre fiction, headlines, advertising – to create a new kind of fiction.
The long modernist novel and the 1914-1918 war. Many long modernist novels (Mann, Proust, Richardson) were begun before the First World War and finished or published afterwards. The war appears sometimes directly (Proust), sometimes marginally (Mann), and sometimes implicitly (Musil), but it is almost always an acknowledged or unacknowledged point of reference.
The long modernist novel’s reconfigurations of narrative chronologies to represent brevity at length, and duration in abbreviated form (the day in the life, the life in the day), the uses of digression, flashback, epiphany, and mémoire involuntaire.
Works or work? Many long modernist novels are sub-divided, often appearing in instalments. Should the individual parts, e.g. Richardson’s ‘Chapter-Volumes’ such as Pointed Roofs or Proust’s De côté de chez Swann (or even Combray) be treated as individual works or parts of a larger whole? Should all Joyce’s prose fictions, from Dubliners to Finnegans Wake be treated as separate or as one work? How far does the long modernist novel rewrite the conventions of what a literary work is?
In addition to these topics, we would also welcome papers on cultural geography, gender, queer theory, the city, empire, popular culture, early twentieth-century new media technologies
Titles and short abstracts should be sent to Scott McCracken at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Conference is organised by the Dorothy Richardson Society, www.dorothyrichardson.org with the with the support of the Northern Modernism Seminar and the British Association of Modernist Studies.