Hopeful Modernisms: 2022 conference

British Association for Modernist Studies

International Conference 2022

University of Bristol, 23-25 June

Hope and optimism are the watchwords of our day. If we are to move on from our troublesome past, we must envisage a positive future. But what will our future look like, and how will we get there? This question is as relevant in 2022 as it was in 1922. Our crises may be different, but our state of hopeful limbo is shared. As we navigate our way towards a ‘new normal’, what can we learn from modernist texts, art, and ideas? And what are our hopes for the future of modernist studies in the UK? The British Association of Modernist Studies invites you to look backwards, forwards, and sideways – to global modernism’s past, present, and future – in order to reflect on the theme of hope.

We are keen to reconsider the entrenched narrative of modernity as disillusioned, disenchanted, and dejected. Instead of staying in the shadow of pessimistic works such as Degeneration (Max Nordau, 1892) and The Decline of the West (Oswald Spengler, 1918 and 22), perhaps we could revisit more optimistic offerings such as The Great Illusion (Norman Angell, 1909), The Spirit of Utopia and The Principle of Hope (Ernst Bloch, 1918 and 1954-59). We encourage explorations of Anglophone and non-Anglophone literature and art prompted by other struggles and disasters taking place further afield, whether it’s the contingent wishes in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) – ‘It is so easy to be hopeful in the daytime’; the cautionary optimism of Langston Hughes’ ‘Hold fast to dreams’ (‘Dreams’, 1923); the ambivalent hope of Rabindranath Tagore (The Home of the World, 1916, and On Nationalism, 1917), the defiant yet hopeful anti-colonial aesthetics of the Négritude movement, or Oswald de Andrade’s theory of anthropophagy. We also hope to hear papers that look beyond canonical modernism to middlebrow and popular artforms, from ‘the little flicker of hope fluttering like a bird’ in Warwick Deeping’s bestseller Sorrell and Son (1926) to the eternal optimism of Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp.

All perspectives and angles are welcome, from the ‘cruel optimism’ of Lauren Berlant to Paul Gilroy’s ‘cosmic pessimism’ and Jonathan Lear’s ‘radical hope’. April may be the ‘cruelest’ month (T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land, 1922) but, hopefully, June can be more convivial and positive, leading to affirmative, optimistic renditions of ‘yes I said yes I will Yes.’ (James Joyce, Ulysses, 1922).

How to submit

Proposals are invited from researchers and practitioners, at all career stages, for individual 20-minute presentations (you can read out a paper, give a PowerPoint talk, or choose a different format); themed panels (with 3–4 speakers giving presentations); roundtables (with 3–6 speakers discussing a particular theme or idea); or other more innovative dialogues or discussions on the broad theme of ‘Hopeful Modernisms’. These will be drawn from a range of disciplinary fields. The following is a non-exhaustive list of suggestions for potential topics:

  • Looking beyond borders and boundaries (including linguistic boundaries)
  • Protests, revolutions, and social change (then and now: #BLM, #MeToo)
  • Opening up and reaching out
  • Looking back to look forward
  • Imagined futures
  • Foresight, far-sight, short-sight, and hindsight
  • Harmful hopes
  • The optimism and pessimism of war
  • Treating trauma
  • Promised lands
  • Utopias and dystopias
  • Wishful thinking
  • Dreams
  • Auspicious dates (1922 etc.)
  • Your hopes for the future of modernist studies

Abstracts for individual papers should be no more than 250 words. Abstracts for other proposed formats should be no more than 500 words, and should include short abstracts of proposed contributions and brief details of their organisers and contributors. We aim to showcase the work not only of individuals but of groups, societies, institutions and research projects, so strongly encourage proposals from, for example, author societies, research projects and departmental research centres.

Deadline for individual paper proposals: 31 January 2022

Deadline for other format proposals: 28 February 2022

Please submit your proposal via this form: https://forms.gle/6KYpaL2sfkgjHm9k8

Decisions on proposals will be communicated within 4 weeks of the later deadline.

If you have any questions, please email conference@bams.ac.uk.

Attendance and fees

The conference is open to anyone, in any discipline, working on modernism. The conference will take place in Bristol, but there are likely to be some opportunities for virtual participation. Further details, including keynotes, prices for the conference and details of how to pay, will appear shortly.

We ask that attendees of the conference are members of BAMS. To join or renew, go to: https://bams.ac.uk/membership/

Current annual membership rates, which include a subscription to Modernist Cultures, are £51 standard; £41 student and unwaged; online-only standard £35.50; online-only student and unwaged £30.50.

We will be offering some bursaries to enable BAMS members without institutional support to attend the conference.

Membership: https://bams.ac.uk/membership/

Questions: conference@bams.ac.uk