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Modernism and Science: Call for Papers

In an interview with Arts and Decoration magazine 1915, Marcel Duchamp praised the ‘scientific spirit’ of Seurat and Cezanne, then predicted that ‘the twentieth century is to be still more abstract, more cold, more scientific’.[1] In this, he was presented as an ‘iconoclast’, providing a dramatic new perspective on art. Yet, a wide range of modernist writers and artists witnessed and responded to a world in which scientific innovation was impossible to ignore.

The first half of the twentieth century saw a slew of scientific developments: from the widespread introduction of electric lighting in the home, the advent of radio, and the supercharging of material production through new machinery to transformative revelations about our place in the universe. New theories sought a better understanding of the human mind and body through psychoanalysis, sexology, and genetics, while medicine advanced in leaps and bounds with the discovery of blood types, the development of early vaccines, and radiography. These developments in science materially changed the experience of Modernist writers and artists, providing new language, metaphors, and forms, and new techniques and methods through which to pursue their craft. The questions raised by science were often those shared by art: a pursuit of truth, of articulating form and experience and, vitally for many, aspirational visions of the future.

This issue will focus on the interrelation of modernism and science in its broadest sense, inviting submissions that engage with any part of the gamut of scientific strains in modernist culture. We are interested in short (~1,000 word) articles and creative responses on, but by no means limited to, the following topics:

  • Modernism and the Scientific Method
  • Photography, X-Rays and imaging technologies
  • Psychology, Sexology and Psychoanalysis
  • Physics
  • Medicine and disease
  • Germ theory and microbiology
  • Energy and energy technologies
  • Evolution, Heredity and Genetics
  • Geology and Earth Sciences
  • Scientific Interventions in War
  • Popular Science Writing and Journalism
  • Household and Domestic Sciences

Abstracts of no more than 150 words and a short bio should be sent to Rachel Fountain Eames ( by 10th August 2021. On acceptance of an abstract, the deadline for submissions will be 15th September 2021.


[1] Dikran Tashjian, Skyscraper Primitives: Dada and the American Avant-garde, 1910-1925, (Wesleyan UP; 1975), p. 49.

Cover image: Giacomo Balla, Street Light (1909), MoMA <WikiArt>


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