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. In 2013 we hosted the annual Modernist Studies Association conference and in 2014, Here by Sea and Sand: a symposium on Quadrophenia.


Professor Anne-Lise François (University of California, Berkeley)

"Profaning Nature: Enclosures, Occupations, Open Fields"

 Thursday, 12 March


 Jubilee G36

 Tracing the contradictory logic of modern capitalism’s ways of enclosing nature, the paper explores the overlap between the notion of primitive accumulation and the Freudian concept of Besetzung (translated as cathexis in English, investissement in French but also carrying the sense of “occupation”). How can psychoanalytic and Marxist thought, read together, help us understand what appears in environmental discourse as the inseparability of rendering x unusable (unbreathable, undrinkable), putting it off limits (sealing it off from contact with other species), and freeing it up for exchange? What weight do literary examples have as counter-practices of the temporal, provisional, fugitive and itinerant, in contesting the logic of scarcity that paradoxically drives over-production and accumulation in storage- and surplus-economies?



Modernism’s Child


One-Day Conference


Sponsored by the Sussex Centre for Modernist Studies


April 20th 2015


 Keynote Speakers: Professor Douglas Mao (Johns Hopkins University) and Dr. Natalia Cecire (Sussex)

 More information available here: https://modernismschildconference.wordpress.com/