Global Modernism and Civil War

Reading time ~2 minutes

I’m putting together a panel proposal for this year’s Modernist Studies Association conference, which Boston University is co-hosting under the coordination of Carrie Preston.

The CFP, also posted at the MSA website, is copied below:

Wyndham Lewis’™s Blast is perhaps the most famous modernist declaration of civil war: “œWe set Humour at Humour’s throat. / Stir up Civil War among peaceful apes.” Lewis himself was named after an eccentric English mercenary who fought in the U.S. Civil War (by his American father, a veteran of the same war), and he returns to the trope in his 1937 autobiography, Blasting and Bombardiering: “You will be astonished to find how like art is to war, I mean ‘˜modernist€’™ art…I have set out to show how war, art, civil war, strikes and coup d’état dovetail into each other.”

This panel proposes extending recent interest in the Spanish Civil War to a comparative, structural, and intertextual analysis of internecine modernism. How does sectional conflict reframe our understanding of nationalism and world war? Papers could return to well-known national narratives, identify less familiar histories of schism, or develop new transnational or inter-historical approaches.

Topics and approaches might include:

  • global perspectives on southern modernism and the U.S. Civil War (what Winston Churchill described as the “€œleast avoidable”€ conflict in history): reconsideration of Paul Giles’s 2003 statement that “returning so obsessively to the trauma of the Civil War indirectly asserts the primacy of traditional American ideals of federal unity and freedom”
  • comparative perspectives on interwar schism: pro-fascist writing on the Spanish Civil War, or conflict in Finland (1918), Ireland (1922), Ecuador (1923), Nicaragua (1926), Mexico (1926), China (1927), Brazil (1932), Austria (1934)
  • revisionary perspectives: civil war as precursor, corollary, or consequence of world war; World War I writing as literature of European Civil War
  • competing narratives: civil war as revolution, insurrection, slave revolt, independence movement, pan-nationalism, regionalism
  • new national allegories: partition, apartheid, secession, annexation, devolution, insurgency
  • modernist factions: networks, coteries, clubs, troupes, unions, conferences, societies, federations
  • modernism and transatlantic schism: the black Atlantic and double consciousness, Atlantic sectionalism, legacies of the English Civil Wars
  • interdisciplinary frameworks: economic and imperial history; political science and international relations
  • civil war in theory: Derrida’™s “œDeclarations of Independence”; Nancy’™s The Inoperative Community or Being Singular Plural; Agamben’s State of Exception; Butler on precarity, dispossession, gender trouble

Contact Ryan Weberling ( to discuss possibilities for the panel, or send a 300-word paper proposal by April 10.

Multimodal Bibliography

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