Centre for Modernist Studies

Welcome to the Centre for Modernist Studies


The explosion of literary and artistic activity at the beginning of the twentieth century provoked a fundamental rethinking of cultural and social values the reverberations of which continue to be felt. This new aesthetic of experiment and rupture affected all forms of expression and shaped the ways in which modernity was experienced and understood. Critics and theorists have increasingly understood Modernism as a plural phenomenon, one comprising many avant-garde movements and competing political agendas. New research on Modernism focuses on many previously neglected questions, including the interaction of aesthetic Modernisms with forms of nationalism and internationalism; the exploration of Modernist publishing, patronage and networks of support; and the continuation of Modernism within contemporary literary and artistic culture.

The Centre for Modernist Studies brings together faculty and students to explore key questions relating to the cultural forms of Modernism. Researchers in English, History, American Studies, History of Art, Film and Media, Music, and Philosophy contribute to an ongoing programme of conferences, seminars, readings and performances. In the recent past, amongst other events, we’ve hosted the Sussex Poetry Festival; a performance of “A”-24 by Louis Zukofsky, and one-day colloquia on Frank O’Hara, Elizabeth Bowen, and Mina Loy. We’ve sponsored talks by critics and theorists of  Modernism including Rachel Bowlby, Gabriel Josipovici, Jean-Michel Rabaté and Michael Levenson.

Forthcoming events

Image of the Quadrophenia album coverHere by the sea and sand

A symposium on Quadrophenia. 

The programme and information about registration and accommodation can be found on the symposium's website, here.





Modernist Criticisms

Graduate Conference

Saturday 7 June 2014


Keynote Speaker: Professor Tim Armstrong (Royal Holloway)


When one creative mind is better than another, the

reason often is that the better is the more critical.

T. S. Eliot 


Our conceptions of modernism are not just informed by its literature. As is widely recognized, essays including Woolf’s ‘Modern Fiction’ and Eliot’s ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’ provide these writers—and their readers—alternative methods of approaching literary questions and a wider arena within which to expound and explore their theories. But while the critical texts of these canonical figures are well known and studied, work by various minor figures of the period, and this work’s engagement with their artistic concerns, is still frequently overlooked. Many kinds of writing remain marginalized within studies of modernist literature, including work for commercial publications and political movements, for educational instruction, and writing beyond the literary scenes of London and Paris. Research into early twentieth-century literary culture has stimulated important discussions surrounding the production and reception of modernist criticism, including the impact of publishing practices and the professionalization of intellectual pursuits. But this research prompts a need for further enquiry into how critical and creative writing in this period are mutually engaged with these cultural contexts in view.


This graduate conference aims to develop debates on the intersections between criticism and literature in modernist culture. It also aims to integrate recent research on the literary culture of modernism with the study of both canonical and non-canonical critical texts. 


The conference programme is also available through the website: http://modernistcriticismsconference.wordpress.com/programme.  Our keynote, by Professor Tim Armstrong (Royal Holloway), will be on 'Reframing Modernism after 1926: Hammersmith Modernism and its Manifestos'.  You can click on speakers' names to view their abstract and biography. 


You can register online via our website: http://modernistcriticismsconference.wordpress.com/registration.  General entry is £10 and entry for concessions is £5, and the fee includes lunch and refreshments. 


For any further information please contact Natalie Wright and Kiron Ward at modernistcriticismsconference@gmail.com


Recent events

Modernist Studies Association, 15th Annual Conference: Everydayness and the Event

University of Sussex, August 29-September 1, 2013

Co-sponsored by the University of Sussex and Queen Mary, University of London.

Conference Coordinator: Sara Crangle

Sussex Steering Committee (in alphabetical order): Peter Boxall, Sara Crangle, Sue Currell, Alastair Davies, Tom Healy, John David Rhodes, Pam Thurschwell; with special thanks to Andrew Hadfield and the Research Committee of the School of English, University of Sussex.

Conference Administrator: Sam Cooper

Graduate Student Assistant: Aakanksha Virkar

The Centre for Modernist Studies was delighted to host the 15th annual Modernist Studies Association Annual Conference in 2013, on the theme of ‘Everydayness and the Event’. With 600 delegates from all over the world, we believe this to have been the largest event in modernist studies ever held in the UK. Across four days the conference offered 150 sessions, 2 poetry readings, and 11 tours of local modernist heritage sites (including Charleston, Monk’s House, Farley Farm House and the Duke of York’s Cinema). All conference proceedings were facilitated with the help of two dozen enthusiastic student volunteers.

Delegates have been generous in response, with positive comments pouring in from graduate students, professors, and first-time MSA attendees writing us from cities including Amiens, Baltimore, Berlin, Boston, Cardiff, Columbus, Glasgow, Halifax, London, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Poznan, Tripoli, Tulsa, Victoria, and York - to name just a few...

See the conference website at: http://msa.press.jhu.edu/conferences/msa15/


MSA news

Videos of each of the conference’s plenary sessions are available here:

Thursday 29th August - Griselda Pollock (University of Leeds), ‘An Event Between History and the Everyday: Encountering the Secret of Charlotte Salomon’s Life? or Theatre?

Friday 30th August - Gillian Beer (University of Cambridge), Michael Sheringham (Oxford University), Esther Leslie (Birkbeck, University of London), Gabriel Josipovici (University of Sussex), Rachel Bowlby (University College London), Ben Highmore (University of Sussex) - Roundtable on ‘Everydayness and the Event’

Saturday 31st August - Terry Eagleton (Lancaster University), ‘The Event, Everydayness, and Modernism’

For more information, see the MSA website.