Out Now: AMSN3 book – Modernist Work

We are pleased to announce the publication of a volume of essays drawn from 2016’s AMSN3 conference:

Modernist Work: Labor, Aesthetics, and the Work of Art

Edited by John Attridge & Helen Rydstrand

Through a wide-ranging selection of essays representing a variety of different media, national contexts and critical approaches, this volume provides a broad overview of the idea of work in modernism, considered in its aesthetic, theoretical, historical and political dimensions.

Several individual chapters discuss canonical figures, including Richard Strauss, Joseph Conrad, Virginia Woolf, Franz Kafka and Gertrude Stein, but Modernist Work also addresses contexts that are chronologically and geographically foreign to the main stream of modernist studies, such as Swedish proletarian writing, Haitian nationalism and South African inheritors of Dada. Prominent historical themes include the ideas of class, revolution and the changing nature of women’s work, while more conceptual chapters explore topics including autonomy, inheritance, intention, failure and intimacy.

Modernist Work investigates an important but relatively neglected topic in modernist studies, demonstrating the central relevance of the concept of “work” to a diverse selection of writers and artists and opening up pathways for future research.


Table of contents

An Introduction to Modernist Work
John Attridge, University of New South Wales, Australia

I The Work of Art

1. The Absolute and the Impossible Work: Franz Kafka’s “The Burrow”
Robert Buch, University of New South Wales, Australia

2. Autonomy, Difficulty, and the Work of Literature in Wyndham Lewis’s Tarr and André Gide’s The Counterfeiters
Emmett Stinson, University of Newcastle, Australia

3. Mimesis and the Task of the Writer for Lawrence and Woolf
Helen Rydstrand, University of New South Wales, Australia 

II Artistic Labor

4. Richard Strauss at Work in His Works
David Larkin, University of Sydney, Australia

5. Stein’s Immaterial Labors
Kristin Grogan, St. Catharine’s College, Cambridge, UK

6. Trace and Facture: Legacies of the “Ready-made” in Contemporary South African Art
Alison Kearney, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

III Representing Work and Workers 

7. Joseph Conrad’s Nostromo: Work, Inheritance, and Desert in the Modernist Novel
Evelyn Chan, Chinese University of Hong Kong 

8. Magic, Modernity, and Women at Work
Caroline Webb, University of Newcastle, Australia 

9. The Disclosure of Work in the Poetry of Ron Silliman
Christopher Oakey, University of New South Wales, Australia 

IV Class Identity and Class Conflict 

10. Swedish Social Modernism: The Inward and Outward Turn in Eyvind Johnson’s Stad i ljus
Niklas Salmose, Linnaeus University, Sweden 

11. Percussion and Repercussion: The Haitian Revolution as Worker Uprising in Guy Endore’s Babouk (1934) and C. L. R. James’s Black Jacobins (1938)
Sascha Morrell, Monash University, Australia 

12. Domestic Holocaust: Michael Haneke’s Intractable Class War
Paul Sheehan, Macquarie University, Australia

Afterword: Work, Modernism, and Thinking Through the Aesthetic
Morag Shiach, Queen Mary University of London, UK



“Building on a productive pun on the concept of ‘work,’ Modernist Work explores the intersection between the changing organization of labor practices at the turn of the 20th century and shifts in the conception of the modernist work of art. This stimulating and wide-ranging collection makes a substantial contribution to our understanding of the social and material transformations of work that underpin, enter into, and are contested by modernist aesthetic practice.” –  John Frow, Professor of English, University of Sydney, Australia

Modernist Work does what its title promises and puts the issue of labor back at the center of modernism studies. This enticing and stimulating collection of essays, bookended by a thorough introduction by John Attridge and a provocative afterword by Morag Shiach, tackles artistic labor and the work of art, but it also studies the modernist representation of labor(ers) and modernism’s vexed relation to class. This book will be invaluable reading to all those interested in the work, and play, of modernism.” –  Sascha Bru, Associate Professor of General and Comparative Literature, University of Leuven, Belgium

Modernist Work provides an important, incisive, and theoretically engaging corrective to the narrow periodization and post-critical hoopla afoot in modernist studies. The collection shows that work–in all its different senses, across many disciplines, engaged from a range of perspectives–is a key word for unlocking and understanding modernism’s riddled aesthetic legacies.” –  Aaron Jaffe, Frances Cushing Ervin Professor of English, Florida State University, USA

Symposium: INNER WORLDS: Gail Jones’ Fiction

Friday 21 June 2019, 9:30AM – 4:30PM

Female Orphan School, Room EZ.G.23, Parramatta South Campus, Western Sydney University

Featuring papers by: Tony Hughes D’Aeth, Tanya Dalziell, Louise D’Arcens, James Gourley, Lou Jillett, Elizabeth McMahon, Fiona Morrison, Brigid Rooney, Meg Samuelson, Anthony Uhlmann.

For more info, visit the Other Worlds: Forms of World Literature website.

Bookings essential: m.jewell@westernsydney.edu.au

Alix Beeston: seminar at Western Sydney University, ‘Frozen in the Glassy, Bluestreaked Air: John Dos Passos’s Photographic Metropolis’

Frozen in the Glassy, Bluestreaked Air: John Dos Passos’s Photographic Metropolis

The experimental form of John Dos Passos’s first major novel, the episodic, multilinear Manhattan Transfer (1925), has long been understood in connection with the montage techniques of avant-garde cinema. But Dos Passos’s notes and drafts for the book reveal the ahistoricity of this analogy even as they offer up other spectatorial contexts for understanding its experimental form. I draw on new archival work in this paper, which interprets Manhattan Transfer’s serialised mode of narration and characterisation in line with the figuring of female bodies through the photographic apparatus of advertisement and celebrity ancillary to early-twentieth-century Broadway entertainments. By unpacking the image of Dos Passos’s central character, Ellen Thatcher, as a photograph, “frozen into a single gesture”, I account for Dos Passos’s critique of the dominations of the male gaze and the complicity of photographic technologies as mechanisms of social control in the modern city.

ALIX BEESTON is Lecturer in English at Cardiff University. This paper is drawn from her first book, In and Out of Sight: Modernist Writing and the Photographic Unseen, which was published in 2018 by Oxford University Press. Her work appears or is forthcoming in PMLA, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Modernism/modernity, Arizona Quarterly, and elsewhere. She is also the author of Object Women, a digital art history project developed in partnership with the George Eastman Museum: www.instagram.com/objectwomen.

DATE: Friday 26 April

TIME: 11.00am – 12.30pm

LOCATION: Female Orphan School, conference room 1 (EZ.G.23), Parramatta South Campus, Western Sydney University

CHAIR: Lorraine Sim (WSRC)

All welcome. RSVP/info writing@westernsydney.edu.au

New Zealand Modernist Studies Consortium 18 May 2019

The next meeting of the Modernist Studies Consortium will be hosted at Waikato. The meeting will take place Saturday 18 May 2019, in rooms N103 and N104. (These are in the Law Building on Hillcrest Rd.; maps will be sent out closer to the date.)

We’ll meet from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm, with an hour for lunch. As usual, we welcome submissions for both short written works-in-progress that will be circulated in advance, and conference-style oral presentations. Please send confirmation of attendance, as well as proposals for submissions, to both:

Maebh Long (maebh.long@waikato.ac.nz) and

Erin Carlston (e.carlston@auckland.ac.nz)

New website for Affirmations: of the modern

The Open Access journal AFFIRMATIONS: OF THE MODERN has a new, much-improved website, hosted by Ubiquity Press.

Affirmations: of the modern seeks to stir up modernism studies by publishing work that unsettles the empiricist consensus and pursues unusual, ambitious, and theoretically adventurous paths around the field. We are particularly interested in political interventions against racism, patriarchy, sexual essentialism and class society; showing how modernist art and literature sought to affirm a better way of organizing life than adapting to the routine accumulation of capital in a social formation characterized by injustice and war.

Explore existing issues and submit your articles here: https://affirmationsmodern.com/

New publication: Shattered Objects: Djuna Barnes’s Modernism

Dear AMSN members,

We are pleased to announce that Shattered Objects: Djuna Barnes’s Modernism is now out with Pennsylvania State University Press as part of their Refiguring Modernism Series. The book responds to expansions of canons and critical questions that have shaped modernist studies since the late twentieth century, and it brings new thinking to Barnes’s full oeuvre and to the study of modernism. It is the first collection of critical essays on Djuna Barnes since 1993. In addition to the editors, the contributors are Daniela Caselli, Bruce Gardiner, Melissa Hardie, Tyrus Miller, Drew Milne, Rachel Potter, Julie Taylor, and Joanne Winning, and Peter Nicholls has contributed an afterword.

Barnes wrote in a letter, “there is always more surface to a shattered object than a whole object”: the surfaces of Barnes’s literary and art objects are reflected in myriad ways in the chapters here. Essays consider Barnes’s work in relation to mass media; the promotion, publication, and reception of modernism; modernists as critics; wit; authorship, legitimacy, and genealogy; anachronism; late style; the reception of metaphysical poetry; the queer grotesque; the representation of humans, outcasts, animals, and selves; sovereignty; borders of nation and language; the book as object in film remediations; the affects involved in reading and criticism; and structures of queer community. The introduction surveys the relationship between Barnes criticism and criticism of modernist writing from the early twentieth century to the present, and the afterword reads Barnes’s style against Eliot’s modernism. Shattered Objects introduces a Barnes who is full of possibility for current and future work in the literary critical discourses of the twenty-first century.

We hope you might ask your university library to order this book.

You can find Shattered Objects on the Penn State University Press website at this URL: http://www.psupress.org/books/titles/978-0-271-08220-2.html
Take 30% off with code NR18 when you order through psupress.org

With best wishes from Elizabeth Pender and Cathryn Setz (Co-Editors)


Contents for March issue of Feminist Modernist Studies

The next issue of Feminist Modernist Studies stresses women writers; and our “Out of the Archives” features a translation of a chapter on Lili Elbe, who underwent one of the first surgical changes in sex in 1930, Lili Elbe – “He and She,” from Mosaiques, a 1939 memoir by Hélène Allatini, who knew Lili for fifteen years.

Remember, AMSN members get a reduced rate on FMS! Go here and look under Pricing Information to find out how:


Table of Contents, Vol. 2, 1 (March 2019)

“A Class Act: Constance Lytton and the Political, Literary and Dramatic Dynamics of Suffrage Prison Writings,” Sos Eltis

“Hot Venus, Cool Modern: Voice, Body, and the Hungry Gaze as Sites of Black Feminist Re-inscription in Ann Petry’s The Narrows,” Caroline Brown

“Designing Women: Modernist Mass Culture and the Formation of the Female Body,” Kara Watts

“You can never tell what people will fancy, can you?? Queer Narrative in Dorothy Sayers’s Detective Fiction,” Virginia Lauryl Tucker

“Indifference as Resistance: Virginia Woolf?s Feminist Ethics in Three Guineas,? Rachel Hollander

“Nightwood as a Way of Life,” Michael Schmidt

Out of the Archives
Hélène Allatini, “Il et Elle? (“He and She”), from Mosaiques (1939), translated from the French by Anne M. Callahan and with an introduction by Pamela L. Caughie

Third issue of Feminist Modernist Studies now available

The third issue of Feminist Modernist Studies (Routledge) has now been published! Check out the editor’s and Amanda Golden’s co-edited free access introduction to the special cluster on “feminist modernist digital humanities.” See Table of Contents and free access link below.

Feminist Modernist Studies
Volume 1 Number 3 October 2018

Special Cluster: Feminist Modernist Digital Humanities, edited by Amanda Golden

“Introduction: Feminist Modernist Digital Humanities,” Amanda Golden and Cassandra Laity Free Access: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/24692921.2018.1503786

“Toward a Feminist Modernist Digital Humanities,” Shawna Ross

“Storm Clouds on the Horizon: Feminist Ontologies and the Problem of Gender,” Pamela L. Caughie, Emily Datskou and Rebecca Parker

“Feminist Designs: Modernist Digital Humanities &Mina Loy: Navigating the Avant-Garde,” Suzanne W. Churchill, Linda A. Kinnahan and Susan Rosenbaum

“The Marianne Moore Digital Archive and Feminist Modernist Digital Humanities,” Cristanne Miller

“Visualizing the Uplift: Digitizing Poetry by African American Women, 1900-1922,” Amardeep Singh

“Talking Women/Women Talking: The Feminist Potential of Podcasting for Modernist Studies,” Sean Richardson and H. Green

“Prototyping Mina Loy’s Alphabet,” Margaret Konkol

‘“Another armored animal”: Modernist Prosthesis and Marianne Moore’s Posthumanist Animales,’ Dancy Mason

Out of the Archives, edited by Urmila Seshagiri
‘“Making Flowers”: The first English Translation of a Short Story by Dutch Modernist Carry van Bruggen,’ translated and introduced by Ruth Clemens

CFP: AMSN4 – Modernist Comedy & Humour, CFP deadline extended to April 27th

The Australasian Modernist Studies Network Conference

University of Melbourne, 26-28 October 2018

Jandaschewsky Clowns, 1903. Image by Talma & Co. Collection: Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney.

Is modernism funny? During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Sigmund Freud theorized jokes and their relation to the unconscious, while Henri Bergson argued that laughter is produced by “something mechanical encrusted on the living.” English literary modernists held Victorian earnestness in contempt, often while taking themselves extremely seriously. Early twentieth-century Dadaists committed themselves to nonsense and irrationality and, in 1940, the surrealist André Breton edited and published an anthology of “black humour.” The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries also saw the rise of popular and parodic forms of comedy and humour such as the comic strip, vaudeville, camp, and Buster Keaton’s deadpan acting style. These comic forms and styles were bound up with histories of immigration, gender and sexuality, race, technology, and culture industries.

Humanities scholars are devoting new attention to the aesthetics, politics, and social significance of comedy and humour. For instance, in their 2017 special issue of Critical Inquiry on comedy, Lauren Berlant and Sianne Ngai note competing trajectories of modern social life: on the one hand, “people are increasingly supposed to be funny all the time,” and on the other, “humourlessness is on the rise.” In the same issue, Ngai opposes the labor-saving operations of the “gimmick” to Victor Shklovsky and Bertolt Brecht’s practices of making methods of production visible. These tensions and oppositions suggest the usefulness of attending to comedy and humour in the field of modernist studies, which in recent years has rethought traditional oppositions among popular, high modernist, and avant-garde cultural forms.

We invite papers that engage with comedy and humour across the interdisciplinary field of modernist studies. How do comedy and humour reflect and affect the geographical, temporal, and cultural expansiveness of contemporary modernist studies, and what might Australasian scholarship contribute to this expansion? When are comic genres and styles normative, subversive, or ambivalent? When is laughter a mode of detachment, and when is it a way of being in relation? Who is in on the joke, and why does it matter?

Possible topics might include:

  • Camp, kitsch, taste, judgment
  • Comic performance genres and styles: vaudeville, music hall, variety,
  • minstrelsy, burlesque, standup, the deadpan, slapstick, shtick, gimmicks
  • Humourlessness, earnestness, seriousness, the unfunny
  • Jokes, comic timing, comic tones
  • Comic strips, political cartoons, caricature
  • The ridiculous, the absurd
  • Humour and/of the avant-garde
  • Laughter and audience behavior
  • Ways and theories of reading
  • The mechanical, grotesque, or nonhuman; humourous objects
  • Pleasure, play, fun
  • Comedy as and at work
  • Commodity culture, advertisements
  • Affect and emotion
  • Ethnic, national, or cosmopolitan comic perspectives
  • Queer humour, sexual parody
  • Overstatement and understatement
  • The epigram, the bon mot, the cutting remark
  • Normative and subversive humour, harmlessness, vulgarity, offensiveness
  • Theories and histories of comedy and humour

Please send an abstract of no more than 300 words and a bio of no more than 150 words to modernistcomedy@gmail.com as an attachment by April 27th 2018.

Confirmed keynotes:

  • Professor Nick Salvato (Cornell University). This speaker is supported by the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions.
  • Dr Gillian Arrighi (University of Newcastle)

Bursaries of up to $200 will be awarded on a competitive basis. Bursary recipients will also receive free conference registration. Candidates should be enrolled in, or recently graduated from a higher degree research program and have had an abstract accepted for the conference. Expressions of interest will be solicited after acceptances have been announced.

Conference committee:
Dr Sarah Balkin, University of Melbourne
Professor Ronan McDonald, University of Melbourne
Elizabeth McLean, University of Melbourne
Jessica Marian, University of Melbourne

Questions may be directed to sarah.balkin@unimelb.edu.au.