Spring 2004 Events

Modernities (Spring 2004)

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 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 seminar 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 let 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 conductive to interdisciplinary dialogue and discussion. 

Session I

February 9: "Marxism and Theories of Modernity"

Organizers: Bill Maxwell and Michael Rothberg (English and the Unit)


Fredric Jameson, A Singular Modernity (selections)

Peter Osborne, “Remember the future? The Communist Manifesto as cultural-historical form,” from Philosophy in Cultural Theory

Session II

February 23: "Have We Ever Been Modern? Latour and the Critique of Modernity"

Organizers: Robert Markley (English) and Ronald Schleifer, George Lynn Cross Research Professor of English and Adjunct Professor in the College of Medicine at the University of Oklahoma


Bruno Latour, Pandora’s Hope, Chapter 2

Ronald Schleifer, "Introduction: Post-Enlightenment Modernism and the experience of time" in Modernism and Time  

Robert Markley, "Nothing was Moribund, Nothing was Dark: Time and Its Narratives in the Early Modern Period"

NB: Professor Schleifer will also be offering a workshop for graduate students on scholarly publishing earlier in the day.

Session III

April 5 "Avant-Garde and Modernism: Relations, Media, Sites"

Organizers: Andrew Herscher, (Mellon Fellow, Comp Lit/Architecture) and Andrea Goulet (French)

Readings: TBA

Session IV

April 26: "Cross-Culturalizing Modernity"

Organizer: Gary Xu (East Asian Languages and Cultures) and Karen Kelsky (Anthropology)


Shu-mei Shih, "Introduction," from The Lure of the Modern: Writing Modernism in Semicolonial China, 1917-1937 (U. of Cal. Press, 2001)

Sheldon Lu, "Universality/Difference: The Discourse of Chinese Modernity, Postmodernity, and Postcoloniality," from China, Transnational Visuality, Global Postmodernity (Stanford U. P., 2002)

Marilyn Ivy, "National-Cultural Phantasms and Modernity's Losses", from Discourse of the vanishing: Modernity, phantasm, and Japan (U of Chicago Press, 1995)

James Ferguson, "Decomposing Modernity: History and Hierarchy  after         Development", forthcoming in  Ania Loomba, Suvir Kaul, Matti Bunzl, Antoinette Burton, and Jed Esty (Eds.) Postcolonial Studies and Beyond (Duke, 2005)