London Modernism Seminar – 3 Oct 2015

The first London Modernism Seminar of 2014-15 will take place on Saturday 3 October at 11-1pm in Room 349 at Senate House, London. The theme of the seminar is Modernism and Science and we are very pleased to welcome as speakers Esther Leslie (Birkbeck, University of London) and Max Saunders (Kings College London). You can find abstracts and speaker biographies below. The titles of the papers are:

Esther Leslie, ‘Liquid Crystal Lives in Modernist Europe’

Max Saunders, ‘Human Sciences: the idea of science in C. K. Ogden’s “To-Day and To-Morrow” Book Series’

The seminar is open to everyone who is interested in modernism, and you can find directions to the venue on the Institute of English Studies website:

Best wishes,

The Seminar Organisers

Suzanne Hobson, Queen Mary, University of London,

Tim Armstrong, Royal Holloway, University of London,

David Ayers, University of Kent, David Ayers,

Rebecca Beasley, Queen’s College, Oxford,

Helen Carr, Goldsmiths, University of London,

Peter Fifield, Birkbeck, University of London,

Esther Leslie (Birkbeck), ‘Liquid Crystal Lives in Modernist Europe’

In 1933 Alfred Doeblin wrote a virtually unread book titled Unser Dasein, Our Existence. It was a compendium of scientific reflection, fiction, philosophy, philosophical pronouncement. It fell victim to political circumstances, but it also evades all the disciplinary certitudes and so slips through the cracks between disciplines. This paper explores it as a contribution to a ‘liquid crystal’ discourse that operates on the fringes of scientific and cultural analysis in Europe between the wars, a quest that was as significant politically as it would come to later be technologically.

ESTHER LESLIE is Professor of Political Aesthetics at Birkbeck, University of London, UK. Her first book was Walter Benjamin: Overpowering Conformism (Pluto, 2000). She has also written a biography of Benjamin (Reaktion, 2007). In 2002 she published Hollywood Flatlands:Animation, Critical Theory, and the Avant Garde (Verso). Synthetic Worlds: Nature, Art, and the Chemical Industry (Reaktion) appeared in 2005. Derelicts: Thought Worms from the Wreckage was published by Unkant in 2014.  She has translated and edited a collection of Walter Benjamin’s writings on photography (Reaktion, 2015) and a book on liquid crystals is forthcoming.

Max Saunders (KCL), ‘Human Sciences: the idea of science in C. K. Ogden’s “To-Day and To-Morrow” Book Series’

The  “To-Day and To-Morrow” series, edited by C. K. Ogden for Kegan Paul from 1923-31, included over 100 pithy volumes outlining the present state of the topic at issue, combined with a projection of its future. Some of the most influential volumes in the series were devoted to science, such as those by J. B. S. Haldane, Bertrand Russell, James Jeans and J. D. Bernal. Though the majority of the volumes (some 80%) were on other topics, this paper will argue for a scientific paradigm as a primary motivation of the series; and for an appreciation of the significance of the series as a contribution to thought about modernity and the future.

MAX SAUNDERS is Director of the Arts and Humanities Research Institute, Professor of English and Co-Director of the Centre for Life-Writing Research at King’s College London, where he teaches modern literature. He studied at the universities of Cambridge and Harvard, and was a Fellow of Selwyn College, Cambridge. He is the author of Ford Madox Ford: A Dual Life, 2 vols. (Oxford University Press, 1996) and Self Impression: Life-Writing, Autobiografiction, and the Forms of Modern Literature (Oxford University Press 2010); the editor of five volumes of Ford’s writing, including an annotated critical edition of Some Do Not . . . (Carcanet, 2010), and has published essays on Life-writing, on Impressionism, and on a number of modern writers. He was awarded a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship from 2008-10 to research the To-Day and To-Morrow book series; and in 2013 an Advanced Grant from the ERC for a 5-year collaborative project on Digital Life Writing called ‘Ego-Media’.