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Modernist Festivities: Call for Papers

“[L]et us hide the cocktail-shaker,” Evelyn Waugh wrote in the Daily Express in 1928, for “[c]ocktails are chilly things at the best of times, and during Christmas week they are ‘all wrong.’”

Waugh was perhaps being a little tongue-in-cheek here, but his demand that cocktails—an emblem of modernity—should be cast aside during the festive season raises intriguing questions. How did the modernists (and modernist-adjacents!) feel and write about festivity and parties? How does festivity intersect with modernity, and what effects does this produce? Waugh’s own Vile Bodies follows a gaggle of thoroughly modern Bright Young People from one bizarre festive locale to the next; F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is perhaps the quintessential party text, coming to define many popular perceptions of what the early twentieth-century party looked like. And yet, modernist parties are more than just spectacle and razzle-dazzle. T. S. Eliot’s Prufrock frets over an afternoon tea; festivity becomes a funeral in Katherine Mansfield’s “The Garden Party”; and Mrs Ramsay’s dinner party in Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse is characterised by awkwardness and lateness (plus a guest who dares to ask for a second bowl of soup).

In a time when our festivities are limited, and our party plans have been made, rearranged, and cancelled, this issue of the Modernist Review will explore the relationship between modernity and festivity. We are interested in short (~1,000 word) articles and creative responses on, but by no means limited to, the following topics:

  • Hosts, guests, and hospitality
  • The places and spaces of festivity
  • Festivals and holidays
  • The things of parties (such as fancy dress, food and drinks, décor)
  • Festive feelings and emotions
  • The social structures and orders of festivity
  • The modernist literary salon
  • Modernism itself as a party
  • Present-day recreations and representations of the early twentieth-century party (such “Roaring Twenties” themed parties or the television series Babylon Berlin)

Abstracts of no more than 150 words and a short bio should be sent to Eliza Murphy ( by 15 March 2021. On acceptance of an abstract, the deadline for submissions will be 15 May 2021.

Cover image: Archibald J. Motley Jr., Barbecue (1934)


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