Modernist Studies Research Focus Group


Enda Duffy (Associate Professor, English),
Porter Abbott (Professor, English),

The Modernism group aims to foster cutting-edge work in the area of late-nineteenth and twentieth-century cultural, literary and historical studies. We are particularly interested in materialist approaches to texts and culture, in critical theory, and in relation between high and popular culture. This past year almost all of the presentations concerned issues at the nexus of technology, representation, and politics. We seek new members beyond departments of literature.

Past activities, 2006-07


1. Graduate Student Colloquoum. This event will featured the work of three grad. students from different departments.

2. Presentation by Prof. Jed Esty, English Dept., University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign .
Prof. Esty’s book , A Shrinking Island: Modernism and Post-Colonialism in
Britain (Princeton University Press, 2004) is a reinterpretation
of the relation between western high modernism and the twilight era of
imperialism. He is also the co-editor of Postcolonial Studies and Beyond
(Duke University Press, 2005).

3. Presentation by Prof. Yunte Huang, Dept. of English UC Santa Barbara. Prof. Huang is the author most recently of Transpacific Displacements: Ethnography, Translation and Intertextual Travel in 20th Century American Literature, and of a book of poetry, CRIBS.

4. Mini-Conference: The Modernism Group hosts the Fall meeting of the Southern
California Consortium for the Study of Irish Literature and Culture. This day
long event will feature participants from universities throughout Southern
California, including UCS, UCSD, UCLA, UC Riverside, USC, Claremont
Graduate University, Marymount Loyola University, Cal. State Northridge, and
Full details to be announced on the Modernism RFG website.


1. Presentation by Prof. Bonnie Kime Scott, Prof. of English and Chair of Women’s Studies, San Diego State University. Prof. Scott is the editor of the influential book The Gender of Modernism (Indiana 1990), author of Refiguring Modernism, Vols. 1 and 2, (Indiana 1995) among others, and editor of The Selected Letters of Rebecca West (Yale 2000).

2. Graduate Student Colloquium. This will be the second of our Graduate Series
for the year. Both will be organized around a theme, and will be followed by

3. Presentation by Prof. Catherine Nesci, Professor and Chair, Dept. of French and
Italian, UCSB. Prof. Nesci has just completed a book entitled Le Flaneur et Les
Flaneuses: Des Femmes dans Paris a l’Epoque Romantique, and is the author of
La Femme Mode d’Emploi, and others.

Past activities, 2005-06

This past year we hosted three major talks:


“Selling Out: Modernism and the Art of Scandal.”
February 24, 3:30pm ,South Hall 2635
Prof. Sean Latham

By focusing on the widespread popularity of the scandalous roman-a-clef
(or novel with a key) in the early twentieth century, this talk will
trace the complex relationship between aesthetic modernism’s
pretensions to autonomy and its deep imbrication in the market for
celebrity. The talk will focus primarily on two distinct literary
coteries: Ottoline Morrell’s in London and Ford Maddox Ford’s in Paris.
In each cases, members of these elite yet bohemian groups turned upon
the central figures and wrote often vicious romans a clef, condemning
the very patrons who supported them. Rather than mere acts of
bloody-minded revenge, this talk will argue that that such texts
crystallize modernism’s anxious attempt to negotiate the interlocking
economics of financial reward, celebrity culture, and cultural
distinction. Among the key works I’ll discuss are Lawrence’s Women in
Love, Huxley’s Crome Yellow, and Rhys’s Quartet.

Sean Latham is Associate Professor of English at the University of
Tulsa where he serves as Editor of the James Joyce Quarterly and
Director of the Modernist Journals Project. He is a specialist in James
Joyce, modernist literature, and critical digital theory. His
publications include “Am I A Snob?” Modernism and the Novel (Cornell
University Press, 2003) and Joyce’s Modernism. (National Library of
Ireland, 2005). His work has also appeared or is forthcoming in New
Literary History, Modern Fiction Studies, PMLA, Journal of Modern
Literature, Texas Studies in Language and Literature and elsewhere.
Research on his current book-project, The Art of Scandal: The Open
Secrets and Illicit Pleasures of the Modern Novel, has been supported
by grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the
Humanities, and the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Cent


“Political Sense and Sensibility: Gramsci to Bourdieu”
Prof. Patrick McGee
Friday, April 28 at 3:00
South Hall 2635

According to Gramsci, the difference between theory and common sense is not qualitative but quantitative. This insight opens the door to a dialectical understanding of the relation between specialized language and ordinary language. It calls into question the hierarchies of discursive practice that currently dominate the field of critical discourse and virtually legitimate the university as a hierarchical institution, a virtual caste system, as Bourdieu argued of the French grandes écoles. It creates the possibility for a critical discourse that mixes the styles, the voices, and the registers of language, including the personal and the idiomatic. Such a discourse occupies the ground between theory and common sense and dialectically transforms one through the other in a process that can never reach the closure of system or doctrine. It articulates the masses—the set of irreducible singularities that includes you and me—as the only ground of significant social thought.

Patrick McGee is a Professor of English at Louisiana State University, and the author most recently of From Shane to Kill bill: Rethinking the Western (Blackwell, 2005), Joyce Beyond Marx (Florida, 2001), and Cinema, theory and Political Responsibility in Contemporary Culture (Cambridge 1997)
This talk was from The Importance of Being Common, his work in progress.


“The Blue Soap: The Scandal of Realism and the Art of Making Things Visible”
Friday, May 5, 3pm.
IHC Small Seminar Room

Why does Gustave Flaubert point out that the soap in Félicité’s bedroom is blue? Why does George Eliot say that the brink of the river Floss is tinged with a soft purple hue? Why does Theodor Fontane dwell on the belt Effi Briest is wearing? The history of Western literature as we know it, from Homer and Greek tragedy onward, can be approached as a history of making things visible. Homer wants us to see Odysseus’s scar; Cervantes wants us to see those windmills. But in the early nineteenth century, and especially in the realist novel, the art of making things visible takes a radically new turn. It is not only a quantitative change; it is also, and above all, a qualitative one. One might even say that the pursuit of the visible is a specifically modern phenomenon. Yet its history remains to be fully understood.
In her talk, Sara Danius traced the career of the visual in the realist novel. She will focus on Flaubert in particular, arguing that the Flaubertian image is a wholly new object in the history of literary representation.

Sara Danius is Associate Professor in the Department of Literature at Uppsala University, Sweden. Since receiving her Ph.D. from the Graduate Program in Literature at Duke University, she has been a Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin and the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study in the Social Sciences. She is currently Visiting Professor in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Her books include Prousts Motor (Stockholm: Bonniers, 2000), The Senses of Modernism: Perception, Technology, and Aesthetic/ (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2002), and The Prose of the World: Flaubert and the Art of Making Things Visible (forthcoming).

On June 2 we are planning our Graduate Student Colloquium, with presentations of their current research on Modernism and Gender by three graduate students, with discussion aftrerwards.

Past activities, 2004-05

Invited Speakers:

1. Professor Paul St. Amour, English, Pomona College, “Douhet and Mrs. Dalloway: Aerial Surveillance and the Modernist Novel”. Fall 2004.

Professor St. Amour has just been awarded the MLA prize for the best first book by an English professor this year for his work on censorship and modernist fiction, and his new work, from which he read us a part, is at the cutting edge of studies of technology, visuality and modernist studies. This talk, followed by a lively discussion, was very well attended and well received; it was a showcase for innovative ways of thinking about the role of new kinds of vision in particular in twentieth-century culture.

2. Professor Thomas Cousineau, Washingtown College, Maryland, “Accepting Imitations: Thomas Bernhard and Glenn Gould”. Winter 2005.

This paper was a model of interdisciplinary work, spanning literature and music. It also introduced to many in the audience the work of a major Austrian novelist. Prof. Cousineau discussed Bernhard’s novels in terms of Rene Girard’s account of narratives of desire. There was a strong discussion after the talk, particularly on connections between musical and literary practices in modernism and postmodernism.

3. Professor Maurizia Boscagli, English, UCSB, “Buying, Crying, and Getting With It: Walter Benjamin’s Wax Dreams.” Spring 2005.

This paper presented a portion of Prof. Boscagli’s most recent research, on Benjamin’s theory of materialism. The talk provided the basis for a good discussion of the relation of gender, modernist versions of consumerism, and the place of materialist theory in describing relations between the two.

Graduate Student Presentations of New Work

This year we hosted three events where senior graduate students presented a sampling of their dissertation work. These popular events showcased some of the exciting research being done at UC Santa Barbara in the areas of twentieth century literature and culture.

1. William Carter, German, on Hegel and Modernity
2. Carolyn Butcher, English, on Narratives of Community in Finnegans Wake
3. Suzanne Braswell, on Movement and Movement Theory in French Modernism

1. Susie Keller, English, on Cosmetics and the Face in American Modernist Fiction
2. Rob Wallace, English, on Improvisation in American Modernist Literature and Jazz
3. Aimee Kilbane, Comp. Lit., on the Bohemian Flaneur in Nerval and Baudelaire

1. Christy Canarriato, English, on Narratives of Chance and Causality in late 19th C. Science Writing
2. Heidi Brevik, French, Brown University, on Women’s Fashion and late 19th C. French Fiction

Film Screening

In April, we screened Bloom (Walsh, 2004), the adaptation of Joyce’s Ulysses, in the McCune Conference Room. The film was directed by Stephen Rea as Bloom, and Angelina Ball as Molly. This screening attracted a broad audience of undergraduates, graduate students and professors. There was a discussion afterwards.