Book Review: At the Mercy of Their Clothes: Modernism, The Middlebrow, and British Garment Culture by Celia Marshik

Helen Saunders

The Bloomsbury Group had a thing for fancy dress. In 1912, Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell dressed as ‘Gaugin pictures’ at an event at London’s Crosby Hall and were accused of being ‘practically naked’[1] by an outraged guest. In the 1920s, Lytton Strachey would dress as an Admiral at parties when, during the First World War, he had in fact been a conscientious objector. In 1930, the entire Group went to an Alice in Wonderland themed event, Woolf as the March Hare. Anecdotes and curiosities such as these turn up again and again in the pages of Celia Marshik’s (Stony Brook University) rich, expansive and thoroughly enjoyable At the Mercy of Their Clothes: Modernism, The Middlebrow, and British Garment Culture (2016).

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Book Review: In and Out of Sight: Modernist Writing and the Photographic Unseen, by Alix Beeston.

Kari-Christina Sund, University of Glasgow

In and Out of Sight (2018) is the monograph from Alix Beeston (University of Cardiff). An initial glance through the book is evidence alone of Beeston’s conscious desire to look beyond the field of literature within the study of modernism. Whether through her distinctive writing style, the careful choosing of words to convey minutely specific meanings, the scattering of engaging images throughout the book, or the chapter headings which evoke the fields of art, history, culture, and film, Beeston’s embrace of modernism beyond the literary is evident.

Continue reading “Book Review: In and Out of Sight: Modernist Writing and the Photographic Unseen, by Alix Beeston.”

Conference Review: ‘Virus of Hate: Responses to Fascism in Psychoanalysis, Surrealism & Modernism’ Conference

Hailey Maxwell, University of Glasgow

That British seaside towns have eroded since working class holiday makers diverted away from the fairgrounds and promenades of Blackpool and Bognor Regis, towards sunny and exotic destinations in Europe, is an established narrative. Over the last two decades or so, the poverty and violence which seems to follow pleasure long spent, has crept steadily along the seaside. It felt appropriate that in attending a symposium concerned with European cultural history, I found myself on the southernmost English coast in Bexhill-on-Sea. In the serene melancholy of the chilly seaside in winter, runs of Victorian buildings, survivors of WW2 upon the last frontier of English land, defiantly stared out across the Channel. Continue reading “Conference Review: ‘Virus of Hate: Responses to Fascism in Psychoanalysis, Surrealism & Modernism’ Conference”

Conference Review: New Work in Modernist Studies 2018

Polly Hember, Royal Holloway

The Gothic turrets and daunting granite buildings of the University of Glasgow looked slightly ominous to a first-time paper presenter such as myself, walking up University Lane on a chilly Saturday in December last year. However, as soon I arrived at the New Work in Modernist Studies Conference (NWiMS), all thoughts of clammy hands and nerves dissipated immediately. NWiMS 2018 was a friendly, relaxed and inspiring one-day conference, hosted by the Scottish Network of Modernist Studies in conjunction with the Modernist Network Cymru the London Modernism Seminar, Modernism Studies Ireland, the Northern Modernist Seminar, the Midlands Modernist Network and the British Association for Modernist Studies, attracting new researchers working on or around modernist studies from all over the UK.

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Conference Review: Innovation and Experiment in Contemporary Irish Fiction, KU Leuven

As I walk into the old quarter of Leuven centre, where the Katholieke Universiteit is found, I encounter a small, strangely proportioned creature made of grey bronze, standing nimbly on its toes. It reads from an open book in one hand, while the other pours water over its own head from a beaker. The inscription informs me that this is Fons Sapiente – the source of wisdom. It’s an auspicious encounter en route to a literary conference – even if I am later to learn that the water which ‘Fonske’ pours into his cranium is variously interpreted either as representing wisdom itself, or, more mischievously, as beer, reflecting the boozy student culture which surrounds our seats of learning. I pause to take a photo of Fonske and move on, looking for the Irish College.

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Conference Review: Inaugral Conference of the International Society for the Study of Surrealism

November 1-3, 2018, Bucknell University, Pennsylvania, USA.

Diane Drouin, Sorbonne Université, Paris

The International Society for the Study of Surrealism (ISSS) held its inaugural conference at Bucknell University, in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, between November 1st and November 3rd, 2018. Diane Drouin, a Ph.D. candidate at Sorbonne Université in Paris, reflects on this groundbreaking conference.

The International Society for the Study of Surrealism (ISSS) is a new society dedicated to the study of Surrealism and of its legacies. The three day inaugural conference ‘Surrealisms,’ held at Bucknell University, Pennsylvania, was brilliantly organised by Roger Rothman (Bucknell University), Jonathan Eburne (Pennsylvania State University), Effie Rentzou (Princeton University), Abigail Susik (Willamette University), and Kathi Venios (Bucknell University), and brought together 150 international scholars and artists. Poets, painters, photographers, art collectors, filmmakers, Ph.D. students, and seasoned academics, with a common passion for Surrealism, gathered at Bucknell University.

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Conference Review: Modernist Archives In Context: Periodicals and Performance

Liam Harrison, University of Birmingham

From November 22nd– 23rd 2018 the University of Reading held a conference exploring Modernist Archives, supported by the Samuel Beckett Research Centre. The conference was split into two days – the first exploring periodicals, the second exploring performances – both engaging with how the ‘archival turn’ has enabled new understandings of Modernism as a cultural and historical phenomenon. Here Liam Harrison (University of Birmingham) gives an overview of the conference.

A major theme across the Modernist Archives in Context conference was the relationship between interiority and exteriority. With the spotlight on periodicals and performances – this relationship did not always take the path expected. The expansive range of research covered the complexity of various forms and thespaces in which they function, from the interiority of new theatrete chnologies, to the transnational reach of 20th century periodicals.

The first day focused on periodicals, delving into the minutiae of publishing histories, questioning how the original contexts of publication can disrupt our monolithic portrayals of writers and their works as a singular body.

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Conference Review: Realism(s) of the Avant Garde and Modernism

September 5-7, 2018, University of Münster

Joseph Owen, University of Southampton

Conferences tend more to emotion than intellect. This held true at the 6th International EAM Conference,situated at the University of Münster, where most days I awoke feeling a lot and thinking very little. To manage these three-day events is a skill apparently beyond my disposition, one of naive blundering, untraceable genetics and forlorn alcohol intake. One piece of advice offered: take a session off per day, so to recuperate, to sharpen your faculties. As a thoroughly blunted instrument, I could testify come the end.

According to the EAM mission statement, the conference mainly sought to ‘discuss the different concepts of realism formulated by and against the avant-gardes and the different relations to reality generated in arts and media’. Essentially, how do we square realism—practically and theoretically—with diverse aesthetic modes and philosophies, these which renounce and transform classical and conventional procedures of art? Can classicism incite chaos? Can new avant-garde realisms reorder intellectual and cultural life? Can theories of sovereignty produce decisiveness within indeterminacy, effervescence within conformity? It fel tantagonistic, paradoxical, exciting.

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Symposium Review: Making, Place, and Protest with Decorating Dissidence

Frith Taylor & Jenni Råback, Queen Mary, University of London

Decorating Dissidence is an interdisciplinary platform looking at craft and decorative art practices in their political, conceptual and aesthetic contexts in the modernist longue durée. This symposium featured a range of academics, artists, and creative practitioners examining the political powers of craft. Brilliantly coordinated, the panels were cohesive without being narrow in scope, allowing room for some fascinating conversation. Continue reading “Symposium Review: Making, Place, and Protest with Decorating Dissidence”

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