Biannual seminar of the Société d’Etudes Modernistes
Friday 12 October 2018 (5–7pm)
Institut du Monde Anglophone (Room 16)
Benjamin Kohlmann (University of Freiburg): Proletarian Modernism
Respondent: Benoît Tadié (University Rennes 2).
This paper identifies a neglected tradition of twentieth-century literary, cultural, and theoretical production that I call “proletarian modernism”. Focusing on Sergey Eisenstein’s early Proletkult films as well as on the retooling of modernist (Joycean, Woolfian) styles in literary fiction of the 1930s and 1940s, my paper shows that proletarian modernists hope to find in modernist formal experimentation elements of a genuinely democratic aesthetic. At the same time, proletarian modernists are divided between a commitment to radical democracy and a political investment in the more ambiguously ‘democratic’ promise of the dictatorship of the proletariat.