In collaboration with: ERIBIA (Université Caen Normandie), Musée des Beaux-Arts Caen, Institut mémoires de l’édition contemporaine (IMEC), CREA (Université Paris Nanterre)

du 01 juin 2022 au 30 juin 2022

Université de Caen, Normandy, France

Call for Papers:

The interdisciplinary critical concept of structure emerged in the middle of the twentieth century, through critical theories (Claude Levi-Strauss, Marcel Mauss, Louis Althusser) and evolved toward post-structuralism. But the founding concept of structure dates to the linguistic principles established by Ferdinand de Saussure (1857- 1913), as he revised the notion of language as a structure of signs. How can the relationship from textual structure to physical structures be articulated today? Are modernist texts and creations inhabited by common structures (Caroline Levine in Forms, 2015)? How should transversal lines be conceptualized beyond or against a concept of unvarying structure (or an opposite universalism)? Modernist structures include relationships between: masculine/feminine/gender, colonizer/colonized, architectural/textual, East/West, Utopia/Dystopia, and the blending of genres, as well as contrasts between early and late modernisms and structuralism/post- structuralism. As postmodernists have sometimes acknowledged, modernism did not simply end in 1960. The dawning of the Anthropocene age suggests that the very idea of modernist structures also includes the painstaking realization of the cost of mechanized human activity.

Preceding World War I, the structural violence of mechanization is characteristic of Futurist Art (Jacob Epstein, Fernand Leger, Sonia and Robert Delauney, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Kazimir Malevitch, Lyubov Popova, Vladimir Mayakovsky). Cubist forms of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque make way for Constructivism, Ready-Mades, Surrealism and Social Realism, while organic forms persist (Georgia O’Keefe). Architectural forms of modernism, influenced by William Morris, John Ruskin, and Antoni Gaudí, give rise to the buildings of Frank Lloyd Wright, Walter Gropius, Bauhaus, Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, and Le Corbusier. Music was enhanced by the structural transformations of Claude Debussy, Erik Satie, and Igor Stravinsky. Bauhaus transformed photography, and photography enriched reception (with portraits by Gisèle Freund).

From the proto modernism of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson extending to the late modernisms of John Ashbery or the Broken Hierarchies of Geoffrey Hill, modernist poetry has specialized in testing structural limits (Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, H.D., William Carlos Williams, E.E. Cummings, Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop). Fiction too was affected by a blurring of limits and genres: fiction/auto/biography (Djuna Barnes), new liberties taken with narrative and structuring devices, stream of consciousness (Dorothy Richardson, Virginia Woolf), multiple narrators (William Faulkner), contradictions within style itself (D.H. Lawrence).

Societal and political structures also affected modernist expression. Harlem Renaissance writers were studied without acknowledging their influence on writers not based in Harlem. In film and theatre, the structures of sets and settings reveal structures and strictures (Chaplin and Brecht vs. Griffith). Printers, publishers, and booksellers in Paris (Adrienne Monnier, Jean Paulhan), London (Harold Monro), New York, Chicago (Margaret Anderson, Harriet Monroe) and other European cities (see Nicholls, Modernisms, 2009) provided structures, as do patterns of study and publication within modernist studies today. Meta-modernism has given rise to university disciplines on modernist studies and various book series devoted to the study of Modernism, and of course the rise of Modernist societies (AMS, BAMS, SEM…).

Scientific Committee:
Hélène Aji (Université Paris Nanterre)
Noëlle Cuny (Université de Haute Alsace)
Jennifer Kilgore-Caradec (Université Caen Normandie)
Caroline Levine (Cornell University)
Steve McCaffery (University at Buffalo, SUNY)
Peter Nicholls (New York University)
Caroline Pollentier (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle)
Naomi Toth (Université Paris Nanterre)
Andrew Thacker (Nottingham Trent University)
Amy Wells (Université Caen Normandie)

Proposed papers could address, among other aspects:

— Pushing traditional literary and artistic boundaries to create new structures.
— Disciplinary alignments where literature, art, and architecture merge to create unified structural approaches.
— The gender spectrum’s influence on nuances and structures of expression.
— Structures of memory.
— Structures of/in modernist translation(s).
— Structural genesis and genetics of modernist texts (especially in relation to holdings at IMEC ).
— Structures of the human/humane and rising ecological awareness.
— Structures of cultural diffusion and creation.
— Modernism, Structuralism, Post-structuralism.
— Superstructures, infrastructures, politics and society / Marx and texts that are posited within institutional structures. Social and Political Structures as they affect or are affected by modernist texts, architectures, arts and structures.
—Modernist grammatical/narrative/poetic/musical/architectural structures: intermediary structures.
—Meta-Modernism: modernity as a structural phenomenon? Modernist studies and the institutional structures of modernism.

Proposals for papers and panels in English (300 words, with a short bio-bibliography statement) should be sent to all three organizers, Hélène Aji (, Amy Wells (, and Jennifer Kilgore-Caradec ( before October 10, 2019.

Proposals will be examined by the Scientific Committee for the conference and confirmations will be sent for November 20, 2019. Speakers will be requested to become members of the SEM in 2020.

Brooker, Peter and Bru Sascha (eds). The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines: Volume III: Europe 1880-1940. Oxford: OUP, 2013.
Brooks, Cleanth. The Well Wrought Urn. 1947.
Gery, John, Kempton, Daniel and Stoneback, H.R. (eds). Imagism: Essays on Initiation, Impact and Influence. Uno Press, 2013.
Hermans, Theo. The Structures of Modernist Poetry. 1982. London: Routledge, 2014.
Kime Scott, Bonnie. The Gender of Modernism: A critical Anthology. Bloomington: Indiana University Press,1990. Levine, Caroline. Forms. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015.
MacCarthy, Fiona. Walter Gropius, Visionary founder of the Bauhaus. London: Faber, 2019.
Nicholls, Peter. Modernisms: A Literary Guide. Berkely: University of California Press, 1995, 2009.
Perloff, Marjorie. The Futurist Moment: Avant-garde, Avant Guerre, and the Language of Rupture. Chicago: CUP, 1987.
______, 21st-Century Modernism, The ‘New’ Poetics. London: Blackwell, 2002.
Poovey, Mary. Uneven Developments. 1987.
Powers, Alan. Bauhaus Goes West: Modern Art and Design in Britain and America, Thames and Hudson, 2019. Pyne, Kathleen. Modernism and the Feminine Voice. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.



Third International Conference of the French Society for Modernist Studies (SEM)


du 13 juin 2018 au 16 juin 2018

Paris Sorbonne University (VALE EA 4085)

In a line which seems pre-emptively levelled at Aaron Jaffe’s The Way Things Go exactly one century later, Richard Aldington wrote in The Egoist that “one of the problems of modern art” is that “to drag smells of petrol, refrigerators, ocean greyhounds, President Wilson and analine [sic] dyes into a work of art will not compensate for lack of talent and technique.” This was December 1914. In the next few decades, psychoanalysis sought to make sense of the trivial, thinkers inquired into the status of the mass-produced object, and the rise of feminist and Labour movements posed the prosaic and essential question of material comforts. Modernist art and literature focused on the mundane, as emblematized by the everyday object, which now crystallized our changing relation to the world. The anachronistic frigidaire patent in Ezra Pound’s “Homage to Sextus Propertius,” ordinariness in William Carlos Williams’s famous “red wheelbarrow,” defamiliarization in Gertrude Stein’s “Roastbeef” are but a few possible variations on the object, its importance becoming central to the British neo-empiricists and the American Objectivists. Papers could examine the claim that the poetry and prose, the visual and performing arts, and the music of the Modernist era accounted for a shift in object relations with an intensity of observation in proportion with the changes which so profoundly affected the experience of living in industrial times. This SEM conference invites English-language contributions that cover the widest range of reflections on Modernist objects.

Topics may include, but are not restricted to:
– the object vs the thing
– instruments and tools, technology, the machine
– the object as mass-produced commodity; resistance to consumption
– waste, junk, obsolescence, recycling
– the material presence of the book or the magazine in everyday life
– architecture, machines for living
– the utopian potential of the crafted object
– the gift and the unalienable object
– objects, social identities and intimacy
– the object and/in space
– the object in/of science
– non-human agency
– the object in the Anthropocene

The programme, poster and registration form for the conference are now available and may be downloaded by clicking on the link on top left hand corner of the screen. 


In continuation of the society’s inaugural conference on Modernist communities, we now propose to explore the debate over emotions in the Modernist era.

du 22 juin 2016 au 24 juin 2016

Despite famous claims of impersonality and the suppression of the “I” from the literary work, beginning with Ezra Pound’s merciless editing of T.S. Eliot’s Waste Land, the transparency and objectivity of an emotion-free subject has remained an ever-receding horizon. Even Ezra Pound’s image is “an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time,” which combines the rush of “primary” conception and emotion with the impulse to create the new forms of a new aesthetics (Blast 1914). Rationality and the irrational collide in the vortex, as emotions are in fact viewed in an ambivalent manner by Modernists, both as the sentimentalist rubbish assigned to a schematic revision of late Romanticism, thus to be eradicated, and as the very matter for the work of art, for aesthetic experimentation, and for the education of the public, in the context of an unnerving historical modernity.

Emotions create webs of interaction, or, conversely, isolate the individual in the labyrinth of intimacy. Language emerges as the mode of expression of emotions, or as the very obstacle separating us from a fantasized experience of pure emotion. We hope to foster reflection and discussion that will go beyond the paradox of a passionately anti-emotional Modernism towards a reconsideration of the large extent to which Modernism attempts to channel, remotivate, and revalue the power of emotion.

As the conference is organized by the French Society of Modernist Studies—Société d’Etudes Modernistes—, we seek to bring together scholars from all countries and hope to strengthen collaborations between French and international researchers.