CFP for MSA 18: Regional Modernism Beyond the Nation

This panel seeks papers on the convergence of 20th-century American regionalism and modernism, especially in a transnational sense, for the MSA 18 conference, 17-20 November 2016, in Pasadena, California (https://msa.press.jhu.edu/conferences/msa18/).

In his essay for The Cambridge Companion to American Modernism entitled “Regionalism in American Modernism,” John N. Duvall concedes that efforts “to link regionalism to American modernism may seem, at first blush, a perverse enterprise” (242). Indeed, modernist studies scholars have commonly considered “modernist” and “regionalist” contradictory terms. Even as important efforts have been made recently to mediate these terms, including a special issue of Modern Fiction Studies devoted to “Regional Modernism,” scholarly work that brings the discourses of modernism and regionalism into closer conversation remains urgent. This panel seeks attempts to map out a space for early-20th-century American regionalist fiction within modernist studies while exploring the transnational possibilities of “regional modernism.” More than just the quaint local-color fiction of a previous generation, the regional modernist fiction of the early 20th century might be understood, like the more celebrated globe-trotting international modernism, as an attempt to reject the nation-state as the normative organizational unit for American community.

In the recent “spatial turn,” with its transnational aspirations, modernist studies have at times idealized the trans- without fully considering the national. Modernist fiction, as Jon Hegglund asserts, does not simply transcend this national attachment in the 20th century, rather it continually mediates the scale of the national. Instead of putting forward another spatial scale that outflanks the nation-state, what might be gained by turning to modernist writing that negotiates national attachment and seeks to think transnationally through the sub-national scale of the region? Can we understand “regional modernism” as an attempt to imagine America beyond the territorial nation-state, not through the globe-trotting internationalism more commonly associated with modernism, but according to its intra-national and sub-national distinctiveness? How might such a regional modernism connect local communities beyond national boundaries to non-US “American” spaces like those of the Caribbean, or Central and South America?

Please send abstracts of 500 words or less and a brief bio statement by March 15 to Jace Gatzemeyer (jpg224@psu.edu). (Note: this is a special session and not a guaranteed session).

Keywords: regional modernism, American regionalism, American modernism, transnationalism