States of Modernism: Collapse

Report on a one-day symposium co-hosted by the Centre for Modernist Cultures and King’s College London which took place on Monday 16 December 2019 at Bush House, KCL.

This one-day symposium on the theme of ‘collapse’ brought together scholars from the University of Birmingham and King’s College London.

The event offered a framework through which to explore literary and cultural production of the long modernist period, whether via the cataclysm of the world wars, the economic collapse of the 1930s, or global anti-colonialism.

Collapsing the ‘now’ and the ‘then’ also generates resonance with our own moment of political and ecological crisis. Through papers, discussion and a closing roundtable, the event invited participants to consider the state of modernist studies and its place in a rapidly changing academy.

The event was a collaboration between the Centre for Modernist Cultures at the University of Birmingham and the English Department and the Centre for Modern Literature and Culture at KCL. The organisers were: Charlotte Jones (KCL), Clara Jones (KCL), Anna Snaith (KCL), Nathan Waddell (UoB).

The presentations were as follows:

Economics and Empire

  • John Attridge (UNSW) – ‘Business failure and financial collapse in Nathan Asch’s The Office
  • Luke Roberts (KCL) – ‘Hugh MacDiarmid, Austerity, and the Welfare State'
  • John Connor (KCL) – ‘World-Systems Collapse: Modernism, Mid-Century and Imperial Realignment’

War

  • Lizzie Hibbert (KCL) – ‘The First World War and the Collapse of Clock Time.’
  • Laura Murphy (KCL) – ‘The State of Exception and Exceptional States in Bowen’s Wartime Ghost Stories’
  • Alexandra Harris (UoB) and Lara Feigel (KCL) – ‘D. H. Lawrence: Between Collapse and Revival’

Embodiment

  • David Cruikshank (KCL) – ‘“Eaten death returning”: Grotesque Time and the Modernist Body in Joseph Conrad and Djuna Barnes’
  • Chandra Ganguly-Meyer (KCL) – ‘The Myths I became’
  • Kelina Gotman (KCL) – ‘To “work the body like a machine”: ergonomics, waste and the choreographics of rectitude’
  • Disciplinary Collapse, Modernist Studies and the Academy – Roundtable with Jon Day (KCL), Jo Malt (KCL), Emma West (UoB), David James (UoB).

‘Collapse’ will be followed by ‘States of Modernism 2’, on the theme of ‘scale’, at the University of Birmingham in May 2020.