MSA Pasadena 2016 —  CFP: Early Cinema and American Modernism

“First Encounters: Early Cinema and American Modernism”
Over the past few decades, important scholarship under the rubric of the New Modernist Studies has unearthed the tensile relationship of film and literary modernism. This scholarship has, by and large, focused on the cinematic qualities of the work of certain modernists such as Virginia Woolf and John Dos Passos. A related body of work has examined, usually anecdotally or biographically, the careers of modernists like William Faulkner and F. Scott Fitzgerald who tried their luck in Hollywood during the 1930s. As rewarding as this work has proved to be, scholars of modernism have seemed less interested in considering just how literary culture more broadly responded to the motion picture at the very moment of – and in the immediate aftermath of — its emergence.
This panel takes as its starting point the quite radical transformations in American cultural life of the early twentieth century – in particular, the increasing interdependence of writing and film cultures. As Marsha Orgeron has noted, “something in the culture of authorship was changing, and the shift was at least in part a result of the demands and operating principles of the motion picture industry” (“Rethinking Authorship” 2003). This panel aims to move the discussion of modernism and cinema beyond a focus on aesthetics, and beyond – or, in advance of – the 1930s to consider the interactions of cinema and writing cultures more broadly. And, while scholars have largely framed this relationship in terms of a rivalry, we would like to consider the opportunities the upstart medium might have provided for modernist communities, institutions and practitioners.
In sum, we hope to expand the chronology as well as the ways in which we conceptualize modernist literary culture’s relation to cinema. We particularly invite papers that examine archival materials, copyright laws, subsidiary rights, motion-picture tie-ins, celebrity and fan-magazine culture, studio attempts to lure authors out West, and so forth, in order to produce a fuller account of a modernist literary culture deeply entangled with – indeed, perhaps inseparable from – early cinema culture.
Please send abstracts of 350-500 words, and a brief bio statement, by March 15 to Sarah Gleeson-White: