EVENT Jun 10
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Rural Modernism in East-Central Europe

Cluj-Napoca, Romania
Organization: Sextil Pu?cariu Institute of Linguistics and Literary History, Romanian Academy, Cluj-Napoca Branch
Categories: Comparative, Literary Theory, Eastern European
Event Date: 2022-06-10 to 2022-06-11 Abstract Due: 2022-04-10

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Throughout the last decades, modernist studies have undergone a massive shift defined in terms of “temporal expansion”, “spatial broadening”, and “vertical reconfiguration” (Mao, Walkowitz 2008). Responses to these paradigm developments ranged from wide-scale emulation (Mao, Walkowitz 2006, Wollaeger, Eatough 2012, Friedman 2015), to strong criticism. In the latter cases, New Modernist Studies were accused of having an inflationary character and even of encouraging a sort of academic “opportunism” which allowed for any literary phenomenon to be read as a hitherto unrecognized embodiment of modernism (Collier 2016; Seaber, Shallcross 2019). Nonetheless, these theoretical trends that tried to “put modernization back into modernist studies” by „moving historical inquiry off a strictly intellectual footing” (Watson 2019) have had very low impact in East-Central European literary cultures. In fact, one of the clearest confirmations of this gap has been the little interest shown by humanities in the respective region to reflect upon and analyse the relation between rurality and modernity/modernism. Despite the fact that East-Central Europe had been a mostly rural region until the middle of the 20th century, while its countryside had provided the laboratory of one of the toughest and most challenging experiments of modernization, modernism and rurality have usually been understood here in strictly differentiating and sometimes even discriminatory terms. However, relevant arguments in order to adjust this frame could be derived from recent theories that describe modernity as being „one and unequal”, and as generating an „uneven and combined development” (Moretti 1996, Jameson 2002, WReC 2015). These theories acknowledge the rural world as a privileged site to: (1.) reflect the challenges of modernization or reshape the restrictive approaches on modernity (a viewpoint whose roots can be traced to Raymond Williams?s seminal study, The Country and the City, 1973), and (2.) nurture the inception of some of the more radical modernist styles (Casanova 2004), which accounts for the interpretive trend already known as „rural modernism” (Dore 2007, Hubbs 2008).

In light of the abovementioned arguments, our conference welcomes papers that explore the theoretical relevance, analytical applicability, and/or fictional depictions of rural modernism in East-Central European literary cultures, in a timespan that ranges from the interwar, throughout the communist, until the post-1989 period.

Main topics of the conference include (but are not limited to):

- interwar rural (populist) movements/ideologies (e.g. Narodnicism, Heimatliteratur, ch?opomania, agrarianism, etc.) and regional forms modernity/modernism: impact, alternative views, cultural consequences;

- the relations of prominent local rural writers with leading trends of interwar aesthetic modernism;

- the role of the rural imagination in the works of canonical modernist writers, or at the level of modernist formulas (e.g. expressionism, constructivism, surrealism);

- the uses of rural primitivism as a protest against capitalist modernity;

- the links between socialist realism – socialist modernism – rural modernism;

- the communist reinvention of the countryside as resurrection of modernity/modernism;

- the translation, reception and local reinvention of „revolutionary” rural fiction (e.g. Thomas Hardy, C. F. Ramuz, John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Gabriel García Márquez);

- rural identity during late modernism/postmodernism;

- post-peasantry and postcommunism.


Suggested references:

Douglas Mao, Rebecca Walkowitz (eds.), Bad Modernisms, Durham, Duke University Press, 2006.

Douglas Mao, Rebecca Walkowitz, The New Modernist Studies, „PMLA”, 2008, vol. 123, nr. 3, p. 737–748

Florence Dore, The Modernism of Southern Literature, in Peter Stoneley, Cindy Weinstein (eds.), A Concise Companion to American Fiction 1900–1950, New York, Blackwell Publishing, 2007, p. 228-252.

Franco Moretti, Modern Epic: The World-System from Goethe to García Márquez. Translation by Quintin Hoare, London-New York, Verso, 1996.

Fredric Jameson, A Singular Modernity: Essay on the Ontology of the Present, London-New York, Verso, 2002.

Jay Watson, William Faulkner and the Faces of Modernity, New York, Oxford University Press, 2019.

Jolene Hubbs, William Faulkner?s Rural Modernism, in „Mississippi Quarterly”, 2008, vol. 61, nr. 3, p. 461–475

Luke Seaber and Michael Shallcross, The Trouble with Modernism: a Dialogue, în „The Modernist Review”, nr. 10, 2019, https://modernistreviewcouk.wordpress.com/2019/06/28/the-trouble-with-modernism/.

Mark Wollaeger, Matt Eatough (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Global Modernisms, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012.

Pascale Casanova, The World Republic of Letters. Translated by M. B. DeBevoise, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 2004.

Patrick Collier, Postscript: Against “Modernist Studies”, in Modern Print Artefacts. Textual Materiality and Literary Value in British Print Culture, 1890-1930s, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2016, p. 232-238.

Raymond Williams, The Country and the City, London, Oxford University Press, 1973.

Susan Stanford Friedman, Planetary Modernisms: Provocations on Modernity Across Time, New York, Columbia University Press, 2015

WReC: Warwick Research Collective, Combined and Uneven Development: Towards a New Theory of World-Literature, Liverpool, UK, Liverpool University Press, 2015.


Paper submission:

Please submit your paper proposal to ruralmodernism2022@gmail.com, including your name and affiliation, a paper title, a 150 words proposal with 5 key words, and a 100 words bio-note.

Submission deadline: April 10, 2022

Acceptance notice: April 20, 2022

The conference is conducted as part of the research poject Rural Modernism. Romanian Literature as East-Central European Literature, PN-III-P1-1.1-TE-2019-1378, 99/2020, funded by UEFISCDI, Romania

Depending on the evolution of the pandemic situation, the conference will take place either online, or in hybrid format.

No fees requested.



Cosmin Borza