SNoMS AGM 30 May 2018 (University of Glasgow)
The SNoMS Annual General Meeting was held at the University of Glasgow on 30 May 2018. A minute of that meeting is available below.
SNoMS AGM 5 December 2015 (University of Glasgow)
Following a lively session of the Finnegans Wake Reading Group, the SNoMS Annual General Meeting was held at the University of Glasgow on 9 December 2015. A minute of that meeting is available below, but especial thanks go to Alex Thomas as the outgoing Chair of SNoMS and a warm welcome to Maria Daniella Dick as the new, incoming Chair.
University of Strathclyde (13 February 2015): Modernism, Space and Place
[Report by Faye Harland (University of Dundee) and Emma Ward (University of Glasgow)]
This vibrant and engaging workshop, hosted by the University of Strathclyde, examined the engagement with space and place in modernist theatre, literature and visual art. The day began with a panel on modernist performance spaces:Claire Warden’s paper (University of Lincoln), entitled ‘“Not to know where one is”: the nebulous places of modernist avant-garde performance’, examined the layered, in-between nature of modernist performance spaces, as avant-garde theatre rejected the concrete sense of place of many of its literary contemporaries in order to alienate its audiences. Claire's forthcoming Modernist Performance, provides a comprehensive history of modernist theatre, as well as including suggestions for ways in which readers can actively engage with theatre and create their own performances at the end of each section – perfect for anyone seeking an interesting and accessible introduction to avant-garde drama! In ‘“Like the look of him?” The Audience and Samuel Beckett’s Catastrophe’, Kirsty Lusk (University of Glasgow) similarly discussed the problematizing of space in modernist theatre, focussing on the relationship between stage space and audience space and the ways in which Beckett challenges traditional conventions of audience response and participation in order to enhance his political message.
Following a short break, we were then treated to an audio-visual performance of an extract from The Monologues of City X, by Jonathan Charley (University of Strathclyde). In the extract he read from his chapter on Nature, he examined the troubled relationship between humans and the natural world through the voice of an alien visitor to the planet, who is cataloguing the history of catastrophe literature as evidence for the human fear of destruction by natural forces. The experimental form of Jonathan’s presentation was enhanced by a series of collages that accompanied his account, bringing together word and image in true modernist style.
The next panel of the day featured three inspiring papers on the theme of women, space and the body. The session began with Cole Collins (University of Edinburgh), who gave a paper on Dada artist Kurt Schwitters entitled ‘Crossing the Merz: Kurt Schwitters, Women and Place’. With particular focus on two collages, Das Kotzbild and EN MORN, Cole discussed the influence of place on the representation of women in Schwitters’ work, moving from the perceived degeneracy of the German Women’s Movement to the British wartime interpretation of women as romanticised, consumerist objects. The next speaker, Emma Ward (University of Glasgow), presented on ‘Mina Loy’s variant existences: disintegration and absorption of body, space and aura’. This compelling paper considered the relationship between body and space in Loy’s fiction, and the ways in which the two morph into one another. Through a discussion of Loy’s novel Insel, Emma presented women’s culture as a shared experience, or intimate public, blurring the boundaries between space and consciousness. Similar questions of the relationship between space and self were raised by Helen Stoddart (University of Glasgow) in her paper ‘Ali Smith’s Tender Cartographies’. The paper offered an interesting reading of Smith’s fiction, examining her engagement with ordinary spaces and her sensual, haptic presentation of the banal. Helen’s account of the history of this physical and emotional response to space in fiction was particularly fascinating, as she connected Smith’s works to both the experimental forms of modernist poetry and to seventeenth century cartography.
After lunch Professor Andrew Roberts (University of Dundee) spoke very eloquently on ‘John Burnside’s Uncanny Ecologies’. Professor Roberts set the uncanny, the ghostly and the strange in John Burnside’s poems alongside Timothy Morton’s theories of uncanny ecology and Jane Bennett’s theories of vital materialism. The paper was extremely thought-provoking, exploring concepts such as radical openness and the agency (and indeed vibrancy) of matter.
Calum Rodger (University of Glasgow) then gave an insightful presentation entitled ‘Locus of the “Non-Secular” – The Garden Temples of Stonypath/Little Sparta’ on the garden and work of Ian Hamilton Finlay. He called upon entertaining anecdotes from Hamilton Finlay’s battles with Strathclyde Regional Council to explore and define his principle of the ‘non-secular’. He then considered how Hamilton Finlay maintains this principle and how it operates throughout his work.
After a short break a series of brief presentations and a roundtable discussion ensued. Faye Harland (University of Dundee) gave an informative overview of the Triennial Conference of the International Association for Word and Image Studies (IAWIS) which took place in August 2014 in Dundee and was hosted by the Scottish Word and Image Group (SWIG).
Professor John Caughie (University of Glasgow) discussed his work on a three year AHRC funded project looking at Glasgow’s early cinema. His presentation resulted in a fascinating discussion about the challenges of digitising an argument onto a website, both in terms of form and technical limitations.
Dr Sarah Edwards (University of Strathclyde) spoke about her project considering Italo/Glaswegian Life Narratives drawing on literature, life writing and architecture. As part of this project, Dr Edwards is researching the social and cultural history of the Italian Centre, working with Page/Park Architects. Drawing on earlier points made in the discussion about Professor Caughie’s online work, the discussion continued to consider public engagement and how best to ensure access to research questions and findings.
Dr Hana Leaper then outlined her role at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, editing and shaping the electronic journal British Art Studies. Dr Leaper explained that British Art Studies will be released in late 2015 and said that they would welcome research contributions on all aspects of British art. Her presentation was followed by a discussion of art, the digitisation of art and the impact that this has/does not have on the art object and its aura.
University of Glasgow (18 October 2014): Modernism at War
Hosted by the University of Glasgow at the centenary of the First World War, this vibrant one-day symposium, organised by Dr Vassiliki Kolocotroni, explored the impact of the war and its aftermath on modernist aesthetic practices. Participants focused on the political and cultural discourses and material realities of the modernist period, relating the cataclysmic event of the Great War to art forms ranging from literature to music and dance.
Three excellent plenary sessions framed the symposium. In his engaging opening plenary lecture ‘“Hoarse Oaths that Kept Our Courage Straight”: Language and War, Modernism and Silence’, Professor Randall Stevenson (University of Edinburgh) traced the use of swearing, slang and euphemisms at the front as a ‘protective shield’ against the unspeakable horrors of the trenches. He also interrogated a modernist literary aspiration to linguistic authenticity, and ended by asking whether the stylised eloquence of certain modernist works, such as Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, does not ultimately achieve a problematic aesthetic ‘bracketing’ of the atrocious reality of the war.
In the afternoon, Professor Adam Piette (University of Sheffield) gave a thought-provoking lecture on ‘War Modernism as Commemorative Trauma’, which examined how the trauma of the Great War shaped literary expression during the inter-war years and the Second World War. Prof Piette demonstrated how trauma as a forward-looking and disabling fear splits the self as well as the literary work, leaving both torn between conservative and radical, totalitarian and revolutionary forces.
The last plenary of the day was an inspiring talk by Professor Peter Jackson (University of Glasgow) on ‘Evolving Conceptions of Peace, Security and International Legitimacy in France at the End of the First World War’. It emerged from his compelling presentation and the ensuing discussion that the internationalist conceptions of peace developed in France after the war were far more complex than John Maynard Keynes allowed in The Economic Consequences of the Peace, an account that continues to shape our understanding of the Versailles peace terms, not least in the context of British modernism.
Elsa Högberg (University of Glasgow and Uppsala University)
I attended Session A (Writing War) in the morning. First to present was Alasdair Menmuir (University of Sheffield) who brought us the fruits of his research in Sheffield’s Literary Archive and introduced the audience to local poets such as J. B Wallis and D. F. Dalston. Menmuir focussed on the interface between traditional pastoral poets and how such poets responded to the war in a talk that brought out the local and cast it against national trends of the time. Using the example of Edward Thomas’ stopped pocket watch, Cedric Van Dijck (Ghent University) gave us a fascinating talk on time, temporality and its impact on first-hand journals of the era and the treatments of time in contemporary writing. Helena Agusti-Gomez (University of Glasgow) gave a biographical and bibliographical summary of the work of Nan Shepherd, describing Shepherd’s repeated engagement with themes of war in her work, both overt and tacit. I was must struck by how Shepherd’s technique and style was analysed to show fractures in the very texture of her writing that can be related to World War One. Closing this session, Dr. Patriza A. Muscogiuri (Salford University) guided us through the psycho-pelagic geographies and narratives of Virginia Woolf, showing how the leitmotif of the sea and its processes could be used a fluid alternative to the static and typically memorial accounts of the war, via official channels, bringing us back to Randall Stevenson’s opening plenary paper.
Richie McCaffery (University of Glasgow)
After lunch, Session A, ‘In Memoriam’, started with Richie McCaffery’s insightful presentation on Hugh MacDiarmid’s controversial and political exploration of the memorial, mourning and fallen heroes in terms of their practical usages. Margery McCulloch’s paper (University of Glasgow) offered an alternative presentation of Edwin Muir as a commentator on wartime Europe and the long-lasting effects of devastating conflict. Graham Heir brought the session to a close with a refreshing talk on his adaptation of Alexander Katalsky’s Requiem for Fallen Brothers and the piece’s challenges as regards its technical complexities and historical circumstances.
Helena Agusti Gomez (University of Glasgow)
In both the panels that I attended the issues of time and textuality in WWI writings were given particular attention, providing stimulating accounts of these aspects of Modernism and relating those to the present. Visual politics and translation were also featured quite prominently, leaving the audience in awe and excitement that was buzzing through every coffee break.
Argyro Fillipaki (University of Glasgow)
Other highlights of the day for me included the insightful paper on ‘Greek Modernism and War: Trauma as Social and Somatic Affect in Stratis Myriveles’s Life in the Tomb’ by Iro Filippaki (University of Glasgow) and the fine presentation on the poet Benjamin Fondane by Henry King and Andrew Rubens (University of Glasgow), who are translating the poet’s work into English.
This was an altogether successful and rewarding symposium. The engaging presentations and lively discussions remain a source of inspiration for future teaching and research. After a dinner at the well-known Glasgow restaurant Stravaigin, the participants left reminded of the ever-present legacy of the First World War in contemporary political and cultural developments, and of the continuing aesthetic and political relevance of modernism.
Elsa Högberg (University of Glasgow and Uppsala University)
During the lunchbreak, SNoMS held its Annual General Meeting. Minutes for this can be found here: AGM 18 October 2014.
University of Stirling (22-23 May 2014): “Women Modernists and Spirituality”
(Report by Mimi Winick, Rutgers University)
Over coffee breaks between panels at “Women Modernists and Spirituality,” a symposium organized by Dr. Elizabeth Anderson at the University of Stirling on May 22nd and 23rd, 2014, a sort of common consciousness, perhaps a descendant of Virginia Woolf’s third voice, could be heard: “It’s so great being somewhere where people are talking about these things!” These “things” were Modernist women writers and their engagements with religion, spirituality, and the sacred. The Symposium took these as its topics, and, in particular, gender and the spiritual as its categories of analysis. The emergent voice of the Symposium also celebrated the prominence on the programme of less canonical writers, such as H.D. and Mary Butts, and the inclusion of obscure writers such as the British-Australian science-fiction author Katharine Burdekin and the English novelist Christopher St. John.
This common voice emerged out of a gathering of scholars from universities in the UK, US, Canada, and Norway, and out of discussions of writing and art by women writers from France, Britain, the US, and Australia. The voice also expressed satisfaction at the range of genres of writing explored in the talks—which included not only the poetry of Stevie Smith and the fiction of Woolf, May Sinclair, and Leonora Carrington, but also Simone Weil’s theology, Evelyn Underhill’s and Jane Harrison’s scholarship, Mary Butts’s life-writing, and Dora Marsden’s journalism.
The Symposium kicked off with a roundtable offering practical advice on conducting archival research, at which researchers offered tips such as: prepare ahead to make the most of your time on-site; use digital photography to make your own archive; and, introducing a theme of collegial and collaborative scholarship that would reappear over the next two days, talk to archivists and other researchers for collection-specific advice.
The first panel of papers underlined the importance of interpreting spirituality, and specifically mysticism, in Modernist women writers’ own terms. Adrienne Janus’s lucid taxonomy of the ways critics have explained away mysticism as a response to the crisis of modernity—including as a residue of Romanticism or aestheticism, and as a pathological encounter with the unconscious—illustrated the inadequacy of such previous approaches to the subject. In contrast, speakers at the Symposium showed how for writers such as Weil, Woolf, and Butts, the mystical could be material (Janus, Bannerjee, Anderson); a way of engaging critically with the world, rather than retreating from it (Vetter, Quincey-Jones); and necessitating representation in scientific as well as religious terms (Callison). In addition, familiar religious concepts were revealed to have other meanings for the writers considered: for instance, for Mary Butts and May Sinclair, drawing on the work of Jane Harrison, sacrifice could mean to sanctify, rather than to give up (Shyllert)—a clarification with potentially significant implications for understanding feminism and the women’s movement in this period.
While mysticism as a category of spirituality was nearly as prominent throughout the symposium as H.D. herself (a subject of both keynote talks), other types of spiritual practice and experience were re-contextualized in similarly intriguing ways. Speakers explored occultism as a practice and epistemology that might shape literary writing (Robinson, Vetter), proposed a feminist, surrealist sacred as a literary and artistic form (Evans), and illustrated how both lesbian Catholicism and a sacralized sexology operated as aesthetic practices and ideologies shaping queer intimate relationships (Ricketts, English).
Significantly, many speakers emphasized how the spiritual and religious practices of writers such as H.D., Dora Marsden, Stevie Smith, and Jane Harrison were critically engaged with worldly matters (Vetter, Quincey-Jones, Boughton, Winick). In the second keynote, Lara Vetter illuminated H.D.’s WWII-era spiritual work as political work, calling for both a broader view of spiritual practices and of late Modernism. In the first keynote, Suzanne Hobson showed how certain writers saw the early twentieth century as a crucial, contingent point in the spiritual condition of the world. These scholars and critics regarded their era as a new Hellenistic Age, when modern orthodoxies, and, as important, heresies or heterodoxies, were once again in the process of formation.
Finally, and fittingly for a symposium bringing together scholars both for the first time and for eagerly anticipated reunions, the presentations highlighted the collaborative and collective practices and themes of these women’s spiritual and literary work. By the end of the two days, it was clear that spirituality in the writing of both prominent and marginal women Modernists could be a practice, experience, or mode of creating that was far from private, individual, or removed from the world, as long-standing accounts of what counts as religious or spiritual would have it. Rather, spirituality was variously a collaborative practice, a communal experience, a means to intimate and to impersonal connections among people and characters, and a mode of critiquing the world, which for many of these writers appears itself constituted by spiritual forces that must be engaged on their own terms.
It seems safe to prophecy that the conversations fostered at this Symposium will continue not only among the attendees, but will join and alter ongoing conversations among scholars of secularization, women and other marginalized writers, and Modernism more broadly. Paying closer attention to women writers alters our view of how spirituality was represented and experienced in the first half of the twentieth century, as much as querying the history of what constitutes the “spiritual,” the “religious,” and the “secular” leads to a renewed focus on women Modernists. “Women Modernists and Spirituality” showed how these writers’ own terms are integral to the radical revision of our understanding of the relations between spirituality and modernity.
University of St Andrews (8 March 2014): Modernism and Prejudice
Report by Gail Toms (University of St Andrews)
This one-day seminar, organised by Dr Emma Sutton (University of St Andrews) and held in Kennedy Hall at the University of St Andrews, focused on ideas and representations of prejudice in modernism. The first panel was composed of three twenty minute papers drawing from a diverse range of topics; modernism and photography, Bloomsbury politeness and Woolf’s editorial relationship with the writers Cornelia Sorabji & Ling Shu Hua. Michael Nott on ‘Modernist Poets & the Problem of Photography’ (St Andrews) discussed how modernists such as D H Lawrence and Ezra Pound engaged with the medium of photography, but remained unimpressed and unconvinced of its merit as an art form. Lawrence, vociferous on the matter in his essay ‘Art and Mortality’, seemed to take particular umbrage with the popularity of the Kodak revolution, advertised by the slogan: ‘You press the button we do the rest.’ Urvashi Vashist (UCL) followed with a paper entitled, ‘Virginia Woolf, Cornelia Sorabji & Ling Shu Hua’. Vashist, discussing the aesthetic and cultural aspects of modernity, focused on the modernist vogue for autobiographical self-expression and the acute anxiety about ‘otherness’ in relationship to oneself, evident within the work of Virginia Woolf in particular. The panel concluded with an entertaining paper by Anindya Raychoudhuri (St Andrews): ‘“hypocritical handshakes”: Mulk Raj Anand, Bloomsbury and the Ambivalence of Polite Prejudice.’ Anand, living as a student in London, developed close relationships with many of the Bloomsbury group, and later published his observations on their obsession with politeness and the complex set of manners by which they abided. Raychoudhuri also discussed Joyce’s influence on the young Anand, demonstrating how Anand took inspiration from Joyce’s self-examination and, using Joyce as an example, was encouraged to interpolate Punjabi words into English texts.
After lunch, Robert Crawford (St Andrews) provided the plenary lecture on the subject of ‘Anglophilia and Anglophobia: Eliot and MacDiarmuid’. This fifty-minute talk took two poets, traditionally viewed as political and poetical opposites, and argued, convincingly, that they were indeed, through their poetry, espousing a similar or comparable anti-London sentiment. Crawford alerted us to the fact that then as now ‘attitudes to London define us still.’ Both Eliot and MacDiarmuid, Crawford argued, were concerned with the idea of ‘place’ and ‘displacement’, ‘spliced geographies’ and ‘dislocation’; themes key to modernist cosmopolitanism. He also argued that the place of cultural tradition was paramount to both poets as neither were ‘natives’. Crawford compared MacDiarmuid’s A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle with Eliot’s The Waste Land arguing that both poets were using the language of ‘collage’ and ‘cut-up’, proposing that rather than reviewing them in antithesis, they should be viewed together.
The afternoon panel consisted of two speakers: Emma Sutton (St Andrews) ‘Thinking back through our mother in laws: Woolf and anti-/philo-semitism’, and John Coyle (Glasgow), ‘Triangulating Prejudice: Proust /Bellow/ Sedgewick/ Bloom’. Sutton’s paper analysed Woolf’s ambivalent attitudes towards, and connections with, Judaism, through her relationship with her mother in law. It drew on a close reading of the scene in Woolf’s The Years (1937) where Kitty is at the opera, watching Wagner’s Siegfried, alerting us to the fact that Woolf, during this time, was going to two or three performances a week, so was extremely familiar with the work and its anti-Semitic content. In final paper of the day John Coyle discussed Proust’s long meditation on the ‘race of inverts’ in Sodom and Gomorrah observing that, in literature, there was a long tradition of making the figures of the Jew and the homosexual analogous. Coyle also discussed the strong influence that the Dreyfus case had on Proust’s writing.
Matters were concluded with closing remarks from Dr Emma Sutton, who gave thanks to all the speakers taking part.
University of Edinburgh (7 December 2013): New Work in Modernist Studies
Report by Gail Toms (University of St Andrews)
Conveners: Lila Matsumoto (University of Edinburgh), Hannah Van Hove (University of Glasgow) and Gail Toms (University of St Andrews)
This one-day New Work in Modernist Studies graduate conference, hosted by the University of Edinburgh, was a collaborative event between the Scottish Network of Modernist Studies (SNoMS) in conjunction with the London Modernism Seminar, the Northern Modernism Seminar, and the British Association of Modernism (BAMS). A high response to the call for papers meant we were able to offer twenty-eight delegates, from a wide range of British universities, the opportunity to present their innovative, considered and enjoyable research to an intellectually engaged audience. Focusing on ‘new work in modernist studies’, the organisers were able to coordinate six panels from a diverse array of papers, covering the large terrain that is contemporary modernist studies.
After morning coffee and opening remarks from Dr Bryony Randall and Dr Alex Thomson, delegates were divided into two concurrent panels: ‘Modernist Perception and Reception’, which offered a look at representations of various types of ‘reality’ in the work of such writers as Elizabeth Bowen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, H.D., James Joyce, and Eugene O’Neill, whilst ‘The Legacies of Modernism’, offered an analysis of the possible impact or influence modernist aesthetics has had on successive writers such as: Henry Miller, Charles Olsen, Anna Kavan, Alexander Trocchi, Ann Quin and William Carlos Williams. These panels covered topics such as H.D.’s short story ‘Ear-Ring’ which Sarah Chadfield (Royal Holloway) argued, demonstrated an urgency to locate ‘the real’ as well as finding the language with which this ‘real’ could be effectively articulated and, Jennifer Cowe’s (University of Glasgow) explication that Henry Miller is an often over-looked modernist, whose writing is heavily influenced by Dadaism and Surrealism. Grant Gosizk (Kent University), explored the use of masks in the plays of Eugene O’Neill and Leanne Maguire (Liverpool Hope University) discussed the modernist era’s response to Marx through a study of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story ‘May Day’.
After lunch, the packed afternoon commenced with panels on Woolf and Modernism and Modernist Genres and Publics. The former panel gave delegates, each working within the general area of Woolf studies, the opportunity to disseminate and discuss the various branches of research currently being undertaken by Woolf scholars. These included Claudia Tobin’s (University of Bristol) paper discussing the necessity of ‘states of vibratory stillness’ and the ‘insect trope’ in Woolf’s writing and Hideki Nakajima (Royal Holloway), whose discussion on “Theories of Mind’ in Mrs Dalloway proposed that Clarissa Dalloway exemplified Woolf’s postulations in ‘Modern Fiction’ that it was the novelist’s duty to ‘convey this varying, this unknown and uncircumscribed spirit […] the ordinary mind on an ordinary day’. ‘Modernism of Genre and Space’ brought together postgraduates working on less ‘mainstream’ modes of modernism including travel writing, literary magazines, Yiddish theatre, and modernist communities. After the emergence of little magazine studies, Charles Dawkin’s (University of Oxford) paper posed the question: ‘What Next? Why not mainstream magazines?’ Isabelle Parkinson (Queen Mary) chose to explore the transnational modernist scene, which she argued ‘reveals the contemporary consciousness of the category of ‘modernism’ as a distinct phenomenon, which is paradoxically defined by the plurality of the groups which engage with it.’
The final (slightly shorter) panels of the day were themed around ideas of Place, Vision, and Sound. Firstly ‘Modernisms of Place’ covered the global face of modernism looking at Greek, pseudo-Romanian, Welsh and Turkish interpretations of modernism. Kaitlin Staudt’s (University of Oxford) comparison of Halide Edib Adivar’s Sinekli Bakkal and Virginia Woolf’s The Years, explored how both Woolf and Adivar developed experimental narrative strategies in response to the changing nature of women’s role in society. Daniel Hughes (Bangor Univerity) on the other hand, offered a paper that explored the emergence of a hitherto unanalysed Welsh modernism, evident in the works of Margiad Evans, Dylan Thomas, David Jones, Glyn Jones, Brenda Chamberlain, Alun Lewis, and Lynette Roberts. Daniel argued that these somewhat marginalised writers have yet to receive the critical attention or recognition they deserve within the field of modernist studies. ‘Sounds and Visions of Modernism’ offered papers analysing the geometry of James Joyce’s Ulysses from Ciaran McMorran (University of Glasgow) – a painstaking explication of the mathematical complexity of Joyce’s magnum opus – alongside Merlin Seller’s (University of East Anglia) discussion of ghosts in the artwork of Walter Sickert. Merlin argued that Sickert’s work proved problematic to a post-Victorian England, whose past ‘was sublimated, veiled beneath the construct ‘Little England’ which drew on the historical reference points of Romanticism and the Medieval.’
For many who attended, the highlight of the day was Prof Randall Stevenson’s keynote lecture ‘Innumerable Circles…Chaos and Eternity': Conrad, Modernism and the Maritimes’. Professor Stevenson (University of Edinburgh) regaled the audience with tales of Joseph Conrad’s ‘Eternity and Chaos’ years spent struggling to pass his Maritime Masters examinations, the risks he took once in charge of his own ship navigating the notoriously difficult Tores Straits and the impact of his life experience upon his literary career, specifically in terms of the fascination with and anxiety around temporality evident in many of his texts. The keynote was followed by closing remarks from Bryony and Alex, and a seasonal drinks reception.
In conclusion, this was a very successful conference for all participants. It is with regret that this report merely touches on a few of the many extraordinary research papers presented during the course of the day. Apologies are made to those omitted. Each and every delegate contributed to a full, stimulating, and intellectually invigorating conference. To finish here are some comments from those who took part:
‘The New Work in Modernist Studies Conference, put on by BAMS and SNoMS, was an incredible opportunity for new and established scholars to confer, exchange ideas, and present their work.’
Grant Gosizk (Kent University)
‘The conference was very enjoyable and productive experience for me. I was particularly impressed by the courteous and helpful responses of the organisers to my pre-conference queries. The conference offered a great range of papers, and there was a friendly and cooperative atmosphere of intellectual enquiry. I look forward to the next event.’
Crispian Neill (University of Leeds)
‘An excellent conference – great selection of papers, and really useful discussions afterwards. Randall Stevenson’s keynote was a fascinating way to end the day. Thanks again for organising a great conference!’
Charles Dawkins (University of Oxford)
‘The conference was a good opportunity to meet people of similar reading interests, and to set a stage where valuable perspectives could be shared and exchanged. Listening to the diverse yet modernist-centred papers opened up new ways of thinking about issues and, interacting with like-minded scholars after each panel, and over tea, was certainly engaging and stimulating.’
Carissa L. Foo (University of Durham)
‘I really enjoyed being part of the conference. It’s great to hear about other students’ research and, as always with interesting work, many of the papers prompted me to think about my own project in new ways. The key note was also a particular highlight.’
Sarah Chadfield (Royal Holloway)
University of Glasgow (19 October 2013): Europe
Report by Helena Agustì Gomez and Gemma Elliott (University of Glasgow)
This one-day conference revolved around the connections between Modernism and Europe, following the suggestion from colleagues based in Modern Languages that the SNoMS widen its scope beyond works written in English. The morning opened with a panel on ‘Americans in Europe’. Laura Rattray (Glasgow) gave a lively paper on 'Edith Wharton and the European "Beyond"', followed by Elizabeth Anderson (Stirling) on 'Spirals and Sanctuaries: H.D., expatriatism and pilgrimage' and finally Roxana Preda (Edinburgh) on 'Situating Literary Cubism: Gertrude Stein and Max Jacob'. As all three papers focused on female writers, the session chair Jane Goldman (Glasgow) joked that it could have been renamed 'American Women in Europe'.
After a short break for coffee, John Coyle (Glasgow) shed light on the mystery of the conference’s poster image, a caricature of Wagner and Proust in swimsuits. Dr Coyle’s paper, 'Proust and Wagner on the Beach' discussed the importance of the 'marine sublime' in British and European Modernism and the tidal use of leitmotifs in Wagner and Modernist writers and argued for the relevance of a Modernism that is much more than just 'epiphanic', by looking, for example, at Proust’s dramatization of the post-epiphany event. These images and examples of water and fluidity served as metaphors for Dr Coyle’s defence of an 'aesthetic continuum' between words, reality and politics.
During lunch SNoMS held the Annual General Meeting over sandwiches (minutes below), before re-convening for a panel on ‘Europe and the Fin de Siècle’. The first of the three papers was Adrienne Janus’s (Aberdeen) 'Seven Murmurs, Seven Woods: Yeats and the French Connection', which focussed on Yeats's re-interpretation of images and symbols in Mallarmé’s 'L’après-midi d’un faune' in his own poem 'Shadowy Waters'. Dr Janus also touched on two of the filters through which Yeats accessed the French symbolists: Symons and his (Yeats’s) own misunderstanding of the French language. In the second paper Matthew Creasy (Glasgow) hypothesised the significance of T. S. Eliot’s use of Nerval’s poem 'El Desdichado' in the fifth and last section of The Waste Land, 'What the Thunder Said'. His reading highlighted the importance of the tension between regular form and chaos in Nerval, as well as that of the concept of "civilization of the breakdown" in Eliot. Dr Creasy connected these ideas to Eliot’s recording of the poem and its implications in terms of metre. Rachel Stanley (Nottingham) then presented a new take on the High Modernism of Joyce and Woolf with her paper entitled 'Cross-Channel Modernism: The Influence on French Naturalism on England's Modernism'. She placed Joyce within the canon of Naturalism by highlighting a detachment from the subject matter that can be found in Dubliners, as well as Joyce's tendency to hold back information from the reader in his short stories.
The final session of the day, 'Modernism and Europe - Broader Connections', provided a more loosely associated collection of papers than the sessions earlier in the day. Michael Rodgers (independent scholar) began proceedings with his research on 'Modernist Humour and Europe', placing himself on the edge of Modernism and Post-Modernism with work on more contemporary, late twentieth century writers such as David Foster Wallace and Anthony Burgess, looking at them in relation to the philosophy of laughter with particular reference to dark and less obvious humour. Michael Shaw (Glasgow) then followed with his paper on 'Resisting the Centre: the role of Maeterlink in the development of Scotland's Celtic Renascence, c. 1890-1914' which tied together the work of the Scottish writer William Sharp (Fiona MacLeod) and Scottish artists such as Margaret MacDonald and Charles Rennie Mackintosh with Belgian works. Shaw's visual presentation of the artworks involved introduced his work as interdisciplinary, making for an thought-provoking paper. The day concluded with Alex Thomson (Edinburgh) giving a talk with the intriguing title, 'We Have Never Been European' drawing on the latest issue of Modernist Cultures,'Ex-centric Modernisms', edited by himself and Matthew Creasy. Dr Thomson spoke on the different meanings of 'Europe' - as a classical concept, as a land mass, as a modern legal and political system - and related this to what he called the 'uneven development' of Modernism within and outside of the western world. Most interestingly, Thomson presented Europe as a name of separation and distinction, not of land coming together, aligning Europe with the idea of Modernism as a series of wholly different concepts loosely grouped together.
Edinburgh (9 July 2012): Modernisms, Histories and Methods
Dundee (20 January 2012): 'Intermedial Modernisms'
Keir Elder (University of Dundee)
This symposium was interested in exploring modernism’s hybrid interaction with non-literary media and questions of medium specificity. Starting proceedings with an antipodean dimension, Dr. Anouk Lang (Strathclyde) presented her research on the intermedial resonances between the visual arts and literature in Australia. Challenging the concept of ‘the tyranny of distance,’ that geographical ‘remoteness’ was a determinative factor in the putative belatedness of Australian writers and artists dealings with modernism, Anouk convincingly argued that it may instead have been a generative, rather than restrictive, force for productive art and literature.
Maintaining the internationalist nature of the symposium, Dr. Keith Williams (Dundee) provided an illuminating insight into the pre-cinematic influences – the ‘Magic Lantern Business’ – that allowed James Joyce to steal a march on early screen techniques. With reference to Joyce’s numerous allusions to lantern motifs, narrative forms and techniques in several stories in Dubliners, along with contemporary lantern slides, Keith argued that the lantern’s presence helps to explain aspects of the novel’s Modernist experimentalism and the collection’s cinematic style.
Wrapping up the morning session, Professor Peter Dayan (Edinburgh) gave an entertaining and engaging paper on the poetry of Apollinaire and Hugo Ball. Peter’s presentation involved near musical performative recitals in the process of clarifying his argument about the way Ball and Apollinaire negotiated the tensions and contradictions of a language emptied of referential content. Accompanied by pictorial artifacts and eye-witness accounts of the original performances of the poetry, this insight into Dada poetry was not only hugely informative, but appropriately lively and undeniably memorable.
Following a break for lunch and a short SnoMS meeting, the afternoon session began with Calum Roger (Glasgow) presenting his research into the early Concretists Eugen Gomringer and Ian Hamilton Finlay, and the influence of geometrical abstraction on their development of a new visual idiom for poetry. His paper explored the shared ontology of the grid painting and the concrete poem, considering historical context, medial ambiguity and nuanced formal qualities. Anna Stothers (Royal Holloway) focused on Olive Moore via two previously unstudied newspaper articles in which the writer criticised the Royal Academy for its ‘fusty irrelevance’ and conventional approach to paintings of bodies. Exploring points of tension between Moore’s populist journalism and her novel Fugue (1932), Anna explored the ways in which bodies became induced into systems of cultural capital by different media.
Greg Thomas (Edinburgh) brought the topic back round to concrete poetry, this time the focus being Edwin Morgan’s work from the early 1960s, with reference to the imagism and concrete art if the 1910s – 1930s as the roots of this late incarnation of intermedial modernism. Greg ‘rehabilitated’ Morgan’s ‘eccentric aside’ to his main poetic project, arguing that this was an objective engagement with sensory facets of modern experience and a prefiguring of his mature poetic voice. James Patrick Leveque (Edinburgh) rounded off the afternoon programme with an examination of Apollinaire’s involvement in the conversations between writers and visual artists that characterised the historic avant-garde. The sense of a new epoch, detectable in the apocalyptic tone of his poetry were, James argued, key to Apollinaire’s concerns and innovations: apocalyptic themes, with their contradictions of indeterminacies of time, space and the self, are central to understanding Apollinaire’s experiments in intermediality and poetry as the site of the revelation of indetermincay.