Finite, Singular and Exposed: Who’s Afraid of the Modernist Individual?
University of Córdoba (Spain)
30-31 October, 2014
There was a time when the individual was the central category in Modernism. It was a time of quasi-blind reliance on the Hegelian oppositions self-versus-reality and self-versus-society, critical talismans tirelessly employed by Marxist critics from Lukács through Goldmann. In fact, Lukács’s censorious construal of the modernist novel as an anomalous form bound to stage the individual “confined within the limits of his own experience” remained an article of faith for various generations of critics. Admittedly, that time is up. The old focus has been replaced by a new emphasis on community and communal determinations of individuality in new modernist studies. What Mao & Walkowitz called “the transnational turn” is an adept symptom of this critical tendency, also present in works by Jessica Berman, Elleke Boehmer, Kim Worthington, Laura Doyle, and Walkowitz herself. This new turn is, moreover, inextricably involved with postcolonial and feminist approaches to Modernism, and expands the traditional psychoanalytic perspectives on the modernist self as an isolated mind. What is at stake is no longer the anti-social de-affiliation of the male Western subjectivity (Marcel, Joseph K., Lord Jim, Leopold Bloom, Gustav von Aschenbach), but rather the compensatory affiliation of repressed minorities (gendered, racial, sub-national, artistic) within a differential spectrum of communal possibility.
And yet, we believe, the ghost of the individual has never been fully exorcised. The Lukacsian dialectical operators remain, often latent, in most current accounts of high and late modernist fiction. We believe that this latency is dangerous, for it promotes an a-critical resumption of the notion of the individual, shorn of its dialectical—and potentially metaphysical—valences. In the context of the recent wave of dialectico-metaphysical approaches to subjectivity and individuality encouraged by thinkers like Fredric Jameson, Slavoj Zizek, Jean-Luc Nancy and Alain Badiou, a fresh re-definition of the modernist individual is manifestly in order, a re-definition that is likely to enrich the psychoanalytic scope recycled by trauma studies for modernist studies. We thus propose a tentative return to the theoretical articulation of modernist individuality. This return is not to be conceived as an antagonistic response to community-oriented approaches to modernist fiction, but rather as an attempt to complement it through a dialectical counterweight.
The organizers welcome proposals for 25-minute papers in English on canonical modernist authors (Conrad, James, Joyce, Woolf, Ford, Lawrence, Mansfield, Stein…) as well as on non-canonical and late modernists. Although our main focus will be on English-speaking writers, comparative approaches exploring the work of non-English speaking modernists will also be welcome.
Suggested paper topics may include, but are not limited to:
– Jean-Luc Nancy’s metaphysical categories of individuality: singularity, finitude, exposure.
– Alain Badiou’s faithful subject. Slavoj Zizek’s ticklish subject.
– Giorgio Agamben’s bare life. Judith Butler’s precarious life.
– Attridge’s singularity and the otherness of modernist writing: implications for a re-reading of the modernist subject.
– Individual, subject, character: Displacements and re-evaluations.
– Individuality and ‘life-writing’.
– Traditional communal determinations of individuality: Race, gender, class, nation as categories of communal affiliation.
– Enfranchisement, citizenship and national/sub-national/transnational affiliation.
– The artistic subject: The myth of bohemia and the Künstlerroman.
– Displaced subjects: Exile, migration and deterritorialization.
– Regressive subjectivation: Archaic utopias and pastoral communities.
– The singularities of Modernism.
– The modernist body: Vulnerability, precariousness, corporeity and finitude.
– The modernist mind: The ‘inward turn’, introversion and dehumanization.
– The isolated subject: Immunity and risk societies.
– The cosmopolitan subject.
– Subject to sacrifice: The modernist scapegoat.
Please submit your 400-500 word abstracts by June 15th, 2014 to Julián Jiménez Heffernan (jsjimenez@) and Gerardo Rodríguez Salas (gerardor@ ). Abstracts should include a short biographical note.
Selected papers will be considered for publication.
Confirmed keynote speakers:
Prof. Derek Attridge (University of York, UK)
Prof. Jonathan Mayhew (University of Kansas, USA)
Deadline: June 15th, 2014.
Registration fee: 35€