Modernities (Fall 2003)

This seminar will explore recent theories of  modernity as an expanded field that includes different locations, times, materials, and disciplines that challenge aesthetic and cultural practices from the period of the late eighteenth through the twentieth centuries.  In describing the forms of modernity that have not been considered within the canon or have forced the canon to change, scholars have used terms like "alternative," "marginal," and "peripheral", some within the context of Europe, others within the framework of globalization and colonialism. Through such analysis, scholars have posed important questions about the limits of modernist studies and, therefore, created new spaces of inquiry. At the same time, the very adjectives used to describe these non-hegemonic modernities reify the very paradigm (center-periphery) that is supposedly being questioned. What we are trying to explore is precisely the protean nature of modernity in different geopolitical and cultural contexts and the conditions for the use of this term in the plural, but without the above mentioned qualifiers.

 The seminar will offer participants the opportunity for more in-depth discussions and expand upon many of the issues that will be touched upon by speakers in the two-day international conference  "Recalcitrant Modernities. Spain, Difference, and the Construction of European Modernisms" which will take place on campus on September 26-27, 2003.  This conference explores the ways that modernity was implanted in Spain, a nation traditionally represented as essentially different from the rest of Western Europe. Moreover, Spain's cultural difference (often linked historically to ethnic and/or religious factors) has been characterized as one resistant to, or intrinsically incompatible with, modernity. Thus, important questions arise from the study of Spain's case in regard to the ways that modernity has been defined and analyzed.

The aim of this Unit for Criticism seminar, therefore, is to expand the debate so that other cultures and geopolitical locations may be included. Of particular interest are other European nations whose very "Europeanness" and/or cultural identity has been a matter of debate (such as Austria, Ireland, Turkey, and Russia, among others). The debate on modernity is of course particularly rich when studied in other contexts beyond Europe, such as the cases of China, India or Latin America, to name a few. The relation between modernity and determined ethnic, racial or religious communities is of special concern (for example, the perceptions of the incompatibility between modernity and Islam, a perception that to this day is the matter of bitter debate).   We hope this conference and its related events  will generate a dialogue among scholars from diverse fields on this campus, and in the international community, about issues of modernity, nationalism, as well as cultural and artistic identity. The sessions for this seminar will be organized thematically and led by participants from different disciplines or from different area studies. As is customary, seminar leaders suggest readings and present a brief introduction to those readings that is conducive to interdisciplinary dialogue and discussion.   

Session I (September 15): New Modernities: Theoretical Debates and Critical Paradigms

Organizer: Jan Nederveen Pieterse (Sociology)
Jan Nederveen Pieterse, "Hybrid modernities: mélange modernities in Asia," Sociological Analysis,
1:3 (1998): 75-86
Samuel Eisenstadt, "Multiple modernities," Daedalus, 129:1  (2000): 1-30.
Frank, Andre Gunder, ReOrient: Global economy in the Asian age (Berkeley, University of
California Press 1998).
Raymond L.M. Lee, "Modernization, postmodernism and the Third World," Current Sociology 42:2 (1994): 1-5, 38-51.

Session II (September 26-27): Recalcitrant Modernities: Spain, Difference, and the Construction of European Modernism

International, Interdisciplinary Conference
September 26: Levis Faculty Center
September 27: Krannert Art Museum
For more information on schedule, related events (MillerComm lecture), and speakers, go to:

Session III (October 13): Soviet Modernities: Nationality, History, Myth, and Ambivalence

Organizers: Mark Steinberg (History) and Harriet Murav (Program in Comparative and World Literature)
Zygmunt Bauman, Modernity and Ambivalence (1991), introduction
Mark Steinberg, "Modernity and the Poetics of Proletarian Discontent" in Igal Halfin, ed.,
Language and Revolution: Making Modern Political Identities (2002)
Isaac Babel, selections from Red Cavalry (8 pages)
Victor Erlich, Modernism and Revolution, chapter 8 (on Babel)

Session IV (October 27): Nostalgias of/for Modernity

Organizer: Lilya Kaganovsky (Program in Comparative and World Literature)
Susan Buck-Morss, Dreamworld and Catastrophe             Svetlana Boym, The Future of Nostalgia

Session V (November 10): Urban Modernities in the Semi-Periphery

Organizers: Eva-Lynn Jagoe (Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese) and Jed Esty (English)
Peter Osborne, from Philosophy in Cultural Theory, pp. 53-62.
Carlos Alonso, from The Burden of Modernity,pp. 19-37.
Francis Mulhern, from The Present Lasts a Long Time, pp. 20-28.
Terry Eagleton, from Heathcliff and the Great Hunger,
pp. 273-289.

Luke Gibbons, "Montage, Modernism and the City," from Transformations
in Irish Culture, pp. 165-169.

Session IV (December 8): TBA

Organizer: Richard Esbenshade (History)
To be announced.