Hospitable Modernism


One-Day Conference

May 27th 2016

University of Sussex

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Kate McLoughlin (Oxford)

This conference invites participants to think broadly about the term “hospitable” and the different ways that hospitality could be at work in modernist texts.

Existing scholarship into “modernist parties” invites further consideration of hospitality as the gracious welcoming of guests, usually within the home of the host or hostess. Food, drink, and entertainment are all suitable topics of discussion for this conference. Thinking about the environment in which hosting occurs could motivate explorations of the hospitable places that exist beyond the private home, such as the varying salons of modernism. Discussion of the figure of the host or hostess, aristocratic or otherwise, could generate literary, social, or economic discussions of hosting and of hospitality. More generally, the bodies that appear within modernist texts could be examined in the ways that they function as hospitable spaces.

Derrida’s work on l’hospitalité in the context of l’étranger extends the idea of hospitality across new thresholds. In this light, hospitality can lead into discussions of nationalism and of “host” countries. Xenophobia, fascism, or patriarchy could all be regarded as inhospitable applications of the laws of hospitality. War might be considered as a catalyst for hospitable or inhospitable relations. The slipperiness of the terms host / guest may generate discussions of the uncanniness and / or the reversibility at the centre of hospitality. “The guest (hôte) becomes the host (hôte) of the host (hôte). These substitutions make everyone into everyone else’s hostage. Such are the laws of hospitality”.

Finally modernism itself may be considered as hospitable or inhospitable in terms of the relationships that appear between modernist texts and writers. Subjects that may be considered in this vein include: to whom does modernism extend its cordial invitation? What could be defined as the hospitable spaces of modernism? Who is turned away from the modernist party and why?

Subjects to be considered may include but are not limited to:

  • Modernist party-going and party-giving
  • Literary and artistic salons
  • Food and drink in modernism
  • Dancing / musical modernism
  • Hosts / guests in modernist literature
  • The body as a hospitable space
  • Friendliness / generosity / animosity
  • Inhospitality in modernism
  • Elitism
  • Host as enemy / host as ghost
  • Derridean hospitality – l’hospitalité / l’étranger
  • Hospitable / inhospitable borders
  • Nationalism – “Host” countries
  • Hospitable modernist families – literal / textual / intellectual
  • Literary hospitality

Proposals are encouraged from all researchers working in modernist studies with abstracts from graduates and early-career researchers particularly welcome. Preference will be given to papers that foster interdisciplinary exchange. Abstracts of 250 words are invited for 20-minute papers.

Please send abstracts along with a brief biographical note to by 1st April 2016.

This event is sponsored by the Centre for Modernist Studies, Sussex.