CFP: The Third Biennial Conference of the Australasian Modernist Studies Network

AMSN3: Modernist Work

The Third Biennial Conference of the Australasian Modernist Studies Network

Date: 29-31 March 2016

Venue: University of New South Wales, Sydney

Abstracts due: 1 October 2015

Notification of acceptance: 1 November 2015

This conference aims to explore the manifold intersections of modernist culture and the concept of “work”. Modernism emerged during a moment of rapid transformation in the conditions and meaning of labour. New jobs and professions proliferated with dizzying speed in the wake of the second industrial revolution, along with new techniques of “scientific management”. Under the influence of these and other changes, the kinds of work available to women changed markedly during the modernist period, while legal gender restrictions were abolished in a growing number of professions. At the same time, many strands of modernist culture involved a rethinking of the concept of “work” in literary and aesthetic domains, in often contradictory ways. Modernist writers and artists repeatedly interrogated the nature and function of an artistic career in an age of mass culture, and radical critiques of the notion of the art “work” itself—as organic, as self-contained, as a product of artistic skill—were launched from various sectors of the avant-garde. Numerous subsequent interventions in critical and aesthetic theory can be placed in the lineage of this initial modernist questioning of the work itself.

We are seeking papers on the relationship between modernism and work in any of its myriad configurations—formal, historical, empirical, theoretical, literal, metaphorical, textual, contextual, material and everything in between. We also welcome papers that test the boundaries of the concept of modernism itself, whether by extending its chronological scope, rethinking its traditional canon or questioning its privileged media.

How did modernist artists and writers respond to revolutions in the world of work? How did modernists construe the occupation of the artist and the category of the work of art? Which theoretical perspectives are best suited, today, to understanding the meaning of “work” in modernism? And what kinds of work are we doing, anyway, those of us who “work on modernism”? These and many others are the kinds of question that we will work on, through and over at this conference.

Possible topics include, but are by no means limited to:

– the office

– modernists’ day jobs

– networks and networking

– brainwork

– dreamwork

– facework

– women and work

– “Professions for Women”

– alienation/reification/rationalization

– professionalism/specialization

– mechanization/automatization

– the emergence of the concept of unemployment

– Marx and Marxist aesthetics

– trade unionism and Labour politics

– working-class writing and reading

– “the working of the work” (“die Wirklichkeit des Werkes”)

– “The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility”

– unworking/worklessness (“désoeuvrement”)

Confirmed keynote speaker: Professor Christopher Nealon (Johns Hopkins University); other keynote speakers to be advised.

Proposals are invited for 20 minute papers or panels of three papers examining any aspect of the conference theme. Proposals from postgraduate students are especially encouraged.

Please send 300 word abstracts and a brief biographical note to by Thursday 1 October 2015.

Registration and other information will be available through the AMSN website, at