Tradition and / or Modernity: Literary and Cultural Perspectives (1660 – 1940)

International conference, Radboud University (The Netherlands)

26-27 May 2016

Call for papers

What did it mean to define oneself as ‘modern’ in Europe during the period extending from Enlightenment ‘modernity’ to the early 20th-century modernist movement in the arts? How were national self-definitions in Europe linked during this period to (perceived) modernity, most often in opposition to (perceived) tradition? In other words, what is modernity, when and how did it begin (and has it already ended)? Have we in fact ever been modern?  Is there one modernity, or are there  multiple modernities?

Modernity is without a doubt one of the most vexed concepts in present-day scholarship. Yet it continues to be used across the humanities, in philosophy, political theory and in a variety of other fields as well. Since the beginning of the introduction of the term ‘modernity’, the category of the modern has been used variously to polemically denote a decisive break with the past, the new superseding the old, and a linear view of historical progress onward and upward that succeeded in replacing older, cyclical views. Historically, the role of science, religion, the Enlightenment and political economy add further degrees of complexity to any deployment of the concept.

As scholars in the humanities, understanding and interrogating the concept of modernity is therefore of critical importance for our work. Changing concepts of modernity help us capture and define elements of the past in changing ways, as well as modify the way historians relate to the past. Heritage studies have sharpened our sense of the extent to which the past and its traditions can haunt even the most ‘modern’ societies. Perhaps the most radical change has occurred in the way historians understand the relationship between religion and the modern: a clear dichotomy between past and present has yielded to a fascinatingly complex history of interrelated developments.  Even in the history of philosophy, the evolution of what it means to be modern has changed: calling Spinoza modern does not mean today what it did thirty years ago. Lastly, the subject of modernity has important implications for the humanities at the epistemological level: is there a specifically post/meta/late modern epistemology for the humanities?

The Radboud University Faculty of Arts is pleased to present a conference that will address these questions related to the concept of modernity from the Enlightenment to the early 20th century. Bringing together international scholars, the purpose of this conference is to take stock of the latest developments in the discussions on modernity, and examine their implications for our understanding of history, religion, national identities and literature.

We invite 20-minute papers or (interdisciplinary) panel proposals (three papers and panel chair) that explore one or more of the following themes:

  • the New and the Old, from theology to history
  • classic narratives of modernity, and their related concepts: pre-modern versus modern, Dark Ages versus Enlightenment, modernity versus tradition, etc.
  • modernity and national identities in Europe
  • the problem of continuities: how do narratives of modernity deal with historical continuities?
  • modernity and secularization: how does recent work on the religious Enlightenment, among others, render problematic the traditional identification of modernity with secularization?
  • modernity and artistic and / or literary avant-gardes: how has the concept of modernity contributed to the (self-)representations of avant-garde cultural movements?
  • anti-modernity and national or cultural conservatism: how have the proponents of modernity defined their own movement in relation to other movements, and how have anti-modern movements conversely positioned themselves in the socio-political field?

Authors of papers presented at the conference will be invited to submit a revised version of their paper for publication in a peer-reviewed essay collection.

Please submit your 300-word paper proposal, accompanied by a brief bio-bibliographical statement listing your position and institutional affiliation, by November 10, 2015.

The conference is scheduled to take place in May 2016.

Conference organizers:

Dr. Marguerite Corporaal

Jordy Geerlings, MA

Prof. Dr. Maarten DePourcq

Prof. dr. Alicia C. Montoya

Dr. Mathijs Sanders