2020 marks the 100th anniversary of “modernism’s lost masterpiece,” Hope Mirrlees’s Paris: A Poem. Published by Hogarth Press in the spring of 1920, and typeset by Virginia Woolf herself, this ground-breaking long poem maps the range of continental avant-garde aesthetics of the 1910s even as it both engages and anticipates the mythical methods and epic conventions of James Joyce, Ezra Pound, and T.S. Eliot.
This one-day conference aims to present new work that reassesses the singularity of Mirrlees’s poem as well as its place within the broader network of literary modernism. While scholars such as Julia Briggs, who produced the first annotated edition of the poem in Gender in Modernism: New Geographies, Complex Intersections (2007), and Sandeep Parmar, who edited the first critical edition of Mirrlees’s Collected Poems (2011), have done the important archival and recovery work that restored Paris to critical attention, Peter Howarth solidified Paris’s position within the modernist “canon” with his chapter, “Why Write Like This?,” in The Cambridge Introduction to Modernist Poetry (2011), which introduces readers to the disorienting pleasures of modernism’s most famous poems through an extended analysis of Mirrlees’s “difficult” work (16). Building on these approaches, this conference seeks to initiate a “new” wave of Paris scholarship that complicates and extends the poem’s aesthetic, cultural, and socio-political import on the occasion of its centenary.
We therefore welcome papers that both pay tribute to the exceptionality of the poem and insist on the “complex intersections” that resist canonical trends of exceptionalizing marginalized writers like Mirrlees. We invite proposals that consider any aspect of the poem, its influences, or its legacies as well as papers focusing on Mirrlees’s work more generally and in relation to her contemporaries.
The conference will take place on June 10, 2020 at the Maison de la Recherche Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris, France. It will include a panel discussion with Deborah Levy, Sandeep Parmar, Lauren Elkin, and Francesca Wade as well as a reception celebrating the launch of a new edition of the poem (forthcoming May 2020 by Faber & Faber).