The prominence of conference reviews in this month’s TMR is reflective of both the flurry of recent activity in the discipline but also of the growing importance of student perspectives. While much attention, rightly, was on the Modernist Studies Association’s major gathering in Columbus (reviewed for us here), UK-based symposiums and events remained widely attended and evidenced in their scope the direction suggested by the diversity at MSA: a broadly defined modernism that is transnational and multipolar. We are pleased to publish reviews this month of the Modern Couples exhibition at the Barbican, the Place, and Protest with Decorating Dissidence conference At Queen Mary, University of London, the Modernist Archives in Context conference at Reading, and a candid account of one delegate’s vivid journeys though the International EAM Conference at the University of Münster, which took place in September.
These reviews combine with Katharina Donn’s fascinating article about the potential for written political opposition through the use of Denkbilder (‘thought-image’), as utilised by Walter Benjamin, Adorno, Ernst Bloch and Kracauer. Such a form, says Donn, could help contemporary writers in various mediums to ‘disentangle our speech from the warped public discourse of these times and today’. It is interesting to think of this ‘warped’ discourse in the light of the conferences and exhibitions reviewed this month. The collection in time and space of a wide range of ideas and intellectual positions is itself an act of discourse making, where individual papers, and in the case of Joseph Owen’s frank account, personal experience, are often intermedial. Owen, in drawing attention to the age-old bogeyman of the boorish or hostile inquisitor, reminds us that a plurality of approaches can still find resistance in some quarters. However, his review also articulates the creative intensity that stems from the sometimes overpowering rush of concentrated academic activity.
The other reviews cement the expansive power of a diverse interests in discovering new subjects of enquiry as well as methodologies. Hanna Hutchings-Georgiou, in her piece on Modern Couples, writes of female artists who ‘emerge from under the bloated reputation of their male partners’. She also writes of the difficulty in ‘disentangling’, to appropriate Donn’s phrase, the role of gender performativity in self-construction in a domestic-artistic environment when the ‘other’ in a couple is also playing a role in the self-construction of their partner. Similar problems are highlighted by Liam Harrison in his review of Modernist Periodicals in Context, where the keynote by Andrew Thacker on the upcoming collected volumes on global magazines revealed acute problems of colonial legacy. The colonial remnant within academic discourse itself was likewise flagged as a prominent issue in Frith Taylor and Jenni Råback’s piece.
It is important that the intellectual, and sometimes social problems in modernist studies are discussed openly. We are very pleased to publish these reviews this month, which show a discipline in rude health, and not inclined to easy answers. As always, we welcome comment on our articles, and look forward to proposals for articles from interested parties.