MSIA 3 Retrospective Modernism

Retrospective Modernism​

The Third Annual International Conference of the Modernist Studies in Asia Network (MSIA)

14-16 May 2020 | Fudan University, Shanghai

Keynote Speakers: Rebecca Walkowitz (Rutgers) | Simon During (Melbourne) | Matthew Hart (Columbia)

Modernism is often characterized by an acute sense of a break between the past and the present. “We are sharply cut off from our predecessors. A shift in the scale,” remarked Virginia Woolf, “has shaken the fabric from top to bottom, alienated us from the past and made us perhaps too vividly conscious of the present.” The aesthetic and political projects of modernism, however, remain inextricable from engagement with literary and intellectual traditions in various parts of the world. Ezra Pound’s phrase “make it new,” one of the most famous slogans associated with modernism, derives from renderings of Confucian thought and teachings. James Joyce’s reinvention of the Odyssey in Ulysses embodies much more than parodies and ironic gestures. And while T. S. Eliot advocated “the historical sense” that “involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence,” many modernist writers in non-Western contexts such as Lu Xun, Premchand, and Yasunari Kawabata, to name just a few, have depicted with poignancy the clutches or ongoing ravages of the past.

​Perspectives on modernism entail a retrospective effort of the imagination, even as they are inevitably informed by issues and concerns that are contemporary to ourselves. The continued growth of scale – spatiotemporally, archivally, and textually – in modernist studies at once paves the way and makes demands for understanding the complexities of cultural and intellectual history across geographical boundaries. It also calls for a renewal of attention to approaches to traditions and aesthetic practices that vitally strengthen or disrupt connections between the past, the present, and the future.

This conference invites papers that explore retrospective modernism from diverse angles and contexts. In what ways is modernism related to or disconnected from specific intellectual and living traditions? How do modernism’s revolt against and reconfiguration or revaluation of the legacy of the past bear upon its transcultural reception, adaptation, and evaluation? How do modernist scholars around the world today tackle modernism’s retrospective moments, themes, and practices? And how might a retrospective emphasis contribute to or complicate the development of global modernist studies? We welcome papers that focus on textual analysis, cultural studies, historiographical discussions, theoretical and methodological reflections, as well as interdisciplinary work on art, cinema, theater, and other cultural products. 

Please send abstracts of approximately 250 words, together with short bios, to [email protected] by 15 December 2019. Participants will be notified in January, 2020. Further information:


“It is often tragic to see how blatantly a man bungles his own life and the lives of others yet remains totally incapable of seeing how much the whole tragedy originates in himself, and how he continually feeds it and keeps it going. Not consciously, of course—for consciously he is engaged in bewailing and cursing a faithless world that recedes further and further into the distance. Rather, it is an unconscious factor which spins the illusions that veil his world. And what is being spun is a cocoon, which in the end will completely envelop him.”

Carl Gustav Jung, Aion
(via crimsonkismet)