'Between Information and Entertainment': Newspapers, Modernism, and Transnational Print Networks (Roundtable)


Cultural Studies and Media Studies

Dipanjan Maitra (SUNY University at Buffalo)

Even as it claimed to shun mass culture and the popular press, modernism’s tryst with newspapers can hardly be exaggerated. As Patrick Collier (2006) puts it, it is a reflection of “multiple, conflicting, often productive if always ambivalent relations with emergent mass culture.” This panel invites papers that will examine ways in which modernists and modernism negotiated their links with the press and the masses. From the hack journalism of Gissing’s Jasper Milvain or the capitalized headlines in Joyce’s Ulysses (1922) to the many adventures of William Boot in Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop (1938), modernist fiction has had to contend with the rise of the tabloid press which for Lawrence Rainey (1998) caused a gradual blurring of the “distinction between information and entertainment.” But if the tabloid press and for that matter, modernism itself is to be understood as co-emerging alongside an “information society” where news as information was rapidly becoming a profitable commodity, how can an understanding of news and print networks help grasp the production of modernist texts? Similarly, can the increasing “spatial and vertical expansions” of the field of modernist studies (Douglas Mao and Rebecca Walkowitz, 2008) be mapped with more transnational or global communications circuits of print? Given, as Isabel Hofmeyer has shown (2013) news as printed matter often crossed national boundaries and colonial authority as abridged compilations, summaries, press-clippings, how does that complicate our understanding of the form of modernist texts? How did “intermediaries” (to quote Pascale Casanova) such as foreign correspondents, literary agents aid in the transportation and circulation of news items across borders?

This panel seeks contributions related to modernism (Anglophone/European/global) and its negotiations with the popular press and print networks. If modernism can be seen as emerging in an era of increased commodification of news as information, how can analyses of transnational print networks be relevant in understanding modernist textual production? Panelists might also consider the role of foreign correspondents, literary agents and intermediate institutions in transporting, distributing news items in various abridged compilations, summaries, press-clippings across borders.