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