A pleasure to be included in
8-01 – Aesthetic Modernism
Sunday, November 11, 2018 – 10:00am to 11:30am (Miller Hall 156)
Chair: Judith Paltin, University of British Columbia
- “Dollarton? That’s what we thought but it’s Grasmere”: Malcolm Lowry and Literary Ecology. Margaret Linley, Simon Fraser University (Canada)., Miguel Mota, The University of British Columbia (Canada).
The environmentally conscious spatial imaginary that developed over hundreds of years in England’s Lake District influenced modern perceptions of place, especially the post-colonial landscapes of British Columbia. This paper considers how the complex relationship between a well-known tourist destination with a history of poetic associations and environmental awareness and a former settler colony characterized by past imperial sympathies and present “green” consciousness are represented in Malcolm Lowry’s writing and in the legacy that he left behind.
- (Trans)Nationalism and the Question of New Nihilism in Paul, La Rochelle, and Lewis. Anders Johnson, University of California at Irvine.
This paper focuses on different figurations the modernist motif of European nihilism as they are manifest in three competing works by Elliot Paul, Pierre Drieu la Rochelle, and Wyndham Lewis to show that the meaning and extent of nihilism as a problem was by no means settled in modernist thought and, further, that these contests over the meaning of the problem of nihilism should be understood as deeply imbricated in notions of the nation and its relation to history.
- An Aesthetic Response to Trauma: On Édouard Levé’s Suicide. Kimberly Olivar, California State University Fullerton.
Many use suicide to escape trauma. Édouard Levé’s epistolary novel, Suicide, approaches the narrator’s trauma from his peer’s suicide through the aesthetic response of a new text. Suicide, as the author presents it, becomes an aesthetic organism rather than a moral dilemma.
This paper examines the inhospitality of the “Cyclops” episode of Joyce’s Ulysses to understand how an imagined collectivity might undermine the originary violence of (majoritarian) law through an appeal to the virtue of hospitality.
Excited (with a blush) to be interviewed by the James Joyce Quarterly under the title “Clever, Very” — their occasional blog feature for interviews with “all sections and cross sections” (FW 42), but in this case, pertaining to my current article in Issue 53.3-4: “Music, Intermediality, and Shock in Ulysses.” https://jjq.utulsa.edu/interesting-judith-paltin/
I am delighted that my article “Music, Intermediality, and Shock in Ulysses” has found a congenial home in the next issue of the James Joyce Quarterly, 53.3-4, 115-32. I’m in good company! https://jjq.utulsa.edu/current-issue/ Please feel free to let me know your thoughts.
I am very pleased that Affective Materialities: Reorienting the Body in Modernist Literature, edited by Robin Hackett, Molly Volanth Hall, and Kara Watts (Gainesville, FL: UP of Florida), has been given a tentative release date in 2019 by the press’s editorial board. My contribution to the volume is titled “Frustrated Energies in Modernism’s Female Arrangements.”
Abstract: “Assemblages of Place: Vanguards, Europeans, and a Fractured Globe”
In his Page-Barbour lecture at the U of Virginia in 1933, T.S. Eliot denied (and thereby psychoanalytically affirmed) his desire while reading Indian philosophy to forget “how to think and feel as an American or a European.” Brecht begins to write about the alienation effect (Verfremdungseffekt) after seeing Mei Lanfang, the male performer of female roles, demonstrate traditional Chinese acting technique in Moscow in the spring of 1935. These kinds of encounters enrich the commercial status of modernism’s minority avant-garde writer, and make a claim to validity for modernism’s already canonical polylinguality. However, this paper thinks about how one grouping of conceptual affinities in particular, under the rubric of modernism, leads not only to an expansion of, but also to a change in, the ideation of place; scalar and definitional implications of the field’s new geographies are refreshed as European and non-European modernists inscribe the quandaries of location. I read a set of 20th c. writers interested in modernist technique (Rhys, Borges, Selvon, et al.) whose texts generate a fractured globe, not a smoothly continuous one, a world whose places do not sit well together. As against the “seamless whole” of an organismic metaphor, in Manuel DeLanda’s phrase, the modernist globe is a fluid assemblage of precarious places, emergent, vibrant, fragmentary, contingent, having relations of exteriority, destabilized by processes of decoding and deterritorialization. Their origins are less important than the mechanisms and activities which maintain them. Deleuze and Guattari posit that “Writing has a double function: to translate everything into assemblages and to dismantle the assemblages.” The global provides a rich archive of experiential assemblages of desire, but it is the modernist that specializes in operations of dismantling. Perhaps a vanguard technic appeals to artists and thinkers in Latin America, Turkey, the Caribbean, in diasporic communities and other places in the early to mid- 20th century, not because of temporal coincidence, as in accounts of polycentric modernities, but because it provides technical tools to develop the idiolect they desire, with its complicated work of de- and recoding. I suggest we may consider then whether there is a particular congruence between the aggregated practices of European and other modernisms and the chosen affinities of the global literary text.
 Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, “Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature.” Trans. Dana Polan. Theory and History of Literature 30. Minneapolis: U Minnesota P, 1986, p. 47.
Upcoming talk at PAMLA, Honolulu, Nov. 2017: “Trans/Drag/Nonbinary Identities and Repentant Communities in I.B. Singer’s ‘Androgynous,’ et al.” Standing Panel: Jewish Literature and Culture
In The Passing Game: Queering Jewish American Culture (2009), Warren Hoffman analyzes the elusive complexity of Singer’s genderqueer and genderfluid characters in the five or so short stories which take up the theme of gender and sexual difference; Hoffman situates Singer’s characters between Talmudic discussions of halachic concerns around intersex persons and the gay, lesbian, and queer Jewish community Singer knew in 1970s New York. My paper supports Hoffman’s reading and suggests that Singer was also interested in exploring the habitus of Jewish community, and especially its retrospections, repentances and regrets when it makes alliances against or persecutes nonnormative persons in body, gender, or sexuality. I am interested in the crowd dynamics in play in these stories. The texts are not friendly toward the idea that queer folks should be made to take on burdens of negativity, rejection, and persecution which are uncomfortably similar to what the general Jewish population itself endured. Where an authoritarian community sees an existential threat in toleration of differences, these texts assert an existential threat to the community insofar as it fails to protect and foster its sexual minority members who, after all, are its children. These dynamics resonate in a new way at the present moment, when scapegoating various clusters of minorities functions as a normalized part of the repertoire in mainstream political discourse across the world. Singer asks challenging questions of governments and global movements, under the miniaturized model of shtetl life. He adopts an ethics of appearance, acceptance of a person’s “face-value,” as they present themselves in their own terms, without seeking to uncover a person’s sublime, hidden mysteries of body or spirit. The ambiguities and illegibility of his characters’ gender status refuse the community’s desire to “solve” gender as a problem, or to “assimilate” its differences, and offer an occasion for the community to rededicate itself to cohabitation and care.
Panel: Repurposing the Grounds of War: Modernist Environments
- Stephanie Bernhard
- Judith Paltin
- Molly Hall
These three papers explore modernist encounters and exchanges with war-ravaged landscapes and their repurposings, memorializations, and residues during the first half of the twentieth century across the boundaries of nationalist literature and genre—from Irish drama to American and British novels and memoirs. Our panel works with and against traditional Anglo-American modernist critical approaches and cultural categories which this panel will suggest have conditioned and limited our understandings of relations between modernism and an environmental land ethic. Together, our papers begin to map out the intersection of aesthetic forms, the politics of mourning, and the materiality of the early twentieth century, which mingling productively, reseed and repurpose the grounds of war-time melancholy to cultivate distinctly modern forms of flourishing.
Stephanie Bernhard’s “Bad Recycling in the Anthropocene” examines the ecological effects of repurposed wartime technology in the US, where World War I bomb factories were turned into fertilizer factories after the war. This transformation of infrastructure, essentially a form of recycling, has shaped the global industrial agricultural landscape ever since. The nuclear bomb, which instigated the exploration of nuclear power, represents a similar turnover attempting to address the environmental side- and after-effects of war. The paper takes Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony as a primary text, arguing that Silko situates the climax of the novel at the site of the Trinity nuclear text to demonstrate how the aftereffects of global wars linger, violently, on local land.
Judith Paltin’s “Decomposing the Irish Rising” explores Sean O’Casey’s Dublin plays’ figuration of tensions in popularized nationalist history as produced in the spaces of the struggle for Irish independence. O’Casey’s plays are a fascinating marker of the critical distance between Irish modernism and Irish nationalism. In the face of memorializations of the city’s working class neighborhoods as battlegrounds, and their post-conflict repurposings as mediated sites for propagandization rather than reconciliation, Paltin argues that O’Casey reclaims habitational territories for the Irish marginalized working class under the terms of a popular land ethic which officialdom has preferred to nationalize to advance its own set of interests.
Molly Hall’s “Occupying Temporary Space in an Endless War” looks at the re-purposing of environmental aesthetics by British modernists responding to World War I. Specifically, Hall explores and aesthetics marked by anachronism and displacement in competing representations of planned green spaces: from the trenches of France to the British countryside to the urban parks of London. Hall reads in representative war authors Max Plowman and Robert Graves the wasteland of the trenches intended to be only temporary, which emerge alongside Rebecca West and Virginia Woolf’s established urban parks, gardens, and country house estates whose cultivated naturalness demarcates the homefront. Exploring this range of modernisms reveals the distinctly ecological shifts within the temporal (re)orientations of the subject—be they citizen or soldier—in the interwar period.
I am delighted to become affiliated with UBC’s Critical Studies in Sexuality. For information about the program, please see: http://grsj.arts.ubc.ca/undergraduate/critical-studies-in-sexuality/
My profile at CSIS: http://grsj.arts.ubc.ca/persons/judith-paltin/