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Modernism's Everyday Precarities (MSA Brooklyn 2020) (MSA Brooklyn 2020)

Organization: Modernist Studies Association
Event: MSA Brooklyn 2020
Categories: 20th & 21st Century, 20th & 21st Century, Comics & Graphic Novels, Drama, Poetry, Aesthetics, Film, TV, & Media, Philosophy
Event Date: 2020-10-22 to 2020-10-25 Abstract Due: 2020-03-05

MSA Brooklyn 2020: Streets


Panel: Modernism’s Everyday Precarities


Critical narratives of the modernist everyday have illustrated the ways modernist artists capture the ordinariness of ordinary life by representing the unrepresentable. What these narratives have neglected is the extraordinary breadth of possibility and therefore contingency these artists take on by drawing our attention to the quotidian, routine, trivial, and the actual. When Heidegger defines Being by applying Hegel’s "indeterminate immediate," he puts us in a state of constant, everyday suspense regarding what happens to us and how we're supposed to feel about it. When Lefebvre bares his Marxist critique of everyday life, he reveals social disconnection and personal incompleteness as cultural effects of post-industrial modernity. Under the condition of Lefebvre’s alienation, we wonder, what quotidian precarities are we vulnerable to? The contingency of everyday life involves a variety of ways poetic and cinematic subjects relate to the world, may it be, serendipity in Pound’s beautiful encounters in the subway, ennui in Joyce's routine errands in Ulysses, solidarity in Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera, spontaneity in O’Hara’s afternoon strolls in Lunch Poems, impatience in Varda’s Cleo from 5 to 7. But on any ordinary day, there also lurks the threat of accidents and mishaps: Freud forgets his keys, Dielman drops her spoon, Keaton slips on a banana. The ordinary act of walking the streets becomes a site of extraordinary possibility; between each step, Benjamin says, lies “the optical unconscious.” Drawing attention to these unconscious and precarious spaces may serve as a way of clarifying uncertainties, revealing what it is we’ve missed or can’t control. Conversely, art may serve as a way of reveling in the unknown, being a form of radical play. Through this panel we ask, what are the formal, affective, social, and political stakes for modernism’s incorporation of everyday precarities? We more than welcome projects that ask such questions across different forms of media and genre.



Topics may include:


-How socio-political and historical contexts change the ways art manages uncertainty.

-How the everyday domestic setting differs from the public sphere.

-What formal innovations solicit a feeling of uncertainty.

-How modernist precarity is similar or different from 21st century precarity.

-What the relationship is between the unrepresentable and the uncertain.

-How a state of mind, being “absent” or “present” or somewhere between, gives rise to these affectations.




Please submit a 250-word abstract (and a short bio) for 15-18 minute paper by March 5, 2020, to Noa Saunders at noars@bu.edu and Lucy Alford at lalford@uchicago.edu.


Noa Saunders