Friday, November 6, 2009

MSA 11

Some quick notes from today.

I went to a very interesting seminar on science studies and modernism this morning. The seminar was run by Anne Raine and Craig Gordon. I met some smart people, learned some new things, and wrote down the titles of some interesting-sounding books.

The thing that most struck me on reading all the papers was the diversity of possible meanings of "science studies," as manifested in people's various approaches. Most of the papers discussed a specific science in relation to modernism, e.g. environmental studies or astrophysics. Mine was one of the few papers that tried to deal with scientificity as a category (though I'm not sure to what extent I succeeded). For me, the most interesting sciences with which to deal in the modernist period are the biological and social sciences, precisely because of the way that they challenge existing notions of scientificity and/or experimentalism.

Unfortunately for my jetlagged, uncaffeinated body, the seminar was at 8am, but on the up side, the Montréal metro was a breeze.

I went to three panels today. One called "Border Conditions: Poetry at the Edge of Modernist Discourse" was chaired by Oren Izenberg and featured papers on Duncan's oracular impulse; Oppen's notion of poetry as a kind of testing of the truth, and translation and Mallarmé's refusal of voice.

A panel called "Circling, Singing, Scoring" included papers on Oppen and Stevens, Moore, and letter frequency -- what the speaker, Roger Gilbert, called "scrabbliness" (scrabbliness, roughly, is what happens when words are dense with letters that win a lot of points in Scrabble). The last paper was both interesting and comical, and this spoke to something I've been thinking about in relation to Christian Bök lately: why the act of accumulation is comical. I was most interested in Heather Cass White's paper on Marianne Moore, though (of course). She drew on the evidence of drafts to reveal a "romantic" Moore. Though I have a few reservations about how this was framed, it was an interesting and convincing talk.

In the afternoon there was a roundtable on "The Future of Women's Literature in Modernist Studies," chaired by Suzette Henke and featuring many important feminist modernists. It was very smart and illuminating. I was interested to learn, in Clare Hanson's talk, of Angela McRobbie's Aftermath of Feminism, which examines the sense of loss at the heart of postfeminism -- first, the loss of the mother as love-object, and second, the loss of a feminist ideal of liberation upon being handed a "feminism" that has been completely co-opted by patriarchal capitalism (i.e. "empowerfulness"). I'd love to read this book.

I did go to Susan Stanford Friedman's plenary talk, "Planetarity: Global Epistemologies in Modernist Studies," but it'll have to wait.

It's about 10:30 pm, and somebody in this B&B is playing very loud dance music. I really wish this were not the case.

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