For a proposed panel at the 2012 Modernist Studies Association conference in Las Vegas.
“A Society to Match The Scenery:” Spectacle and Western American Modernisms
Proposed Panel for 2012 Modernist Studies Association: Modernism and Spectacle
Las Vegas, NV Oct. 18-21
We are seeking papers for a panel will focus on the relationship between Western American cultural production, transnational modernism, and the spectacle. The rise of modernism was coeval with the rise of Turnerian historiography in the United States: first delivered as a paper at the American Historical Association’s annual conference in the World’s Fair of 1892, and published in book form for the first time in 1920, Frederick Jackson Turner’s “frontier thesis” posited that the frontier produced the material conditions that forged “the American character,” and that the frontier’s closing in 1890 meant an uncertain future for American life. As Turnerian historiography argued that the historical significance of the U.S. West was declining, however, the West became an increasingly significant space for cultural representation as the nation came to define itself through the epic narratives and spectacular landscapes of the mythic West in the early 20th century. This panel will consider how modernist cultural production in the U.S. represented the “post-frontier” U.S. West, a site where the nation is “thrown back on itself” (Turner), as a “a world that is really turned upside down” (Debord). We welcome papers from disciplines including English, comparative literature, history, art history, and American studies. Possible topics include:
• The role of the mythic or historical West in the writing of “high” modernist literary figures not often associated with the regionalist study of the West; e.g. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, D.H. Lawrence or Ernest Hemingway
• The relationship of writers more often associated with Western regionalism,(e.g. Nathanael West, Willa Cather, or Mary Austin) to transnational modernism
• Spectacle and Western landscapes in the visual cultures of U.S. modernism; e.g. the photographs of Alfred Steiglitz or the paintings of Georgia O’Keefe
• Spectacle and modernity in pop-cultural Western texts; e.g. the genre Western in print culture or film, regionalist Western painting, the traveling Western show, or Western performers such as Will Rogers
To submit, please send a 250 word abstract and a CV to session organizer Alex Young at firstname.lastname@example.org by April 4th, 2012.