Modernism and Society

Organiser & Chair: Eline Batsleer (Ghent University)

Modernism emerged as a response to rapidly changing social, political, and technological landscapes between the 19th and 20th centuries. This panel focuses on Modernism as an artistic and cultural phenomenon and its interactions with society. Monica Jansen (University of Utrecht) focuses on the work of Celso Costantini (1876-1958), a key proponent of Pope Pius XI’s ideas on modern sacred art and missionary art decolonization. She investigates his writings on novecentismo, black art, and missionary art, as well as the transnational and interdisciplinary sources that influenced his ideas. Drawing on two recent exhibitions in Brussels, the paper further considers the tension between the “de-westernization” of missionary art and the Christianization of indigenous art from the perspective of decolonial art practices. Prabha Shankar Dwivedi (Indian Institute of Technology Tirupati) investigates the Bhagavadgītā’s views on the concept of boundary/border and its influence on modernist paradigms. More specifically, he contends that the Bhagavadgītā sees the end of material life as the beginning of eternity and that this notion became crucial in modernist literature, such as T.S. Eliot’s “The Tower” and W.B. Yeats’ “Sailing to Byzantium”. Jamie Cristopher Callison (University of Agder) discusses the impact of a specific discovery in the life of H.D, an imagist poet. Drawing on archival sources from H.D’s childhood, he uncovers her surprise upon finding her childhood religion, the Moravians, referenced in an occult narrative in Denis De Rougemont’s Love in the Western World. Callinson argues that this incident profoundly shaped H.D.’s poetry and prose of the time, and he uses it to reflect on the mutual significance of lived religion and modernism. Luca Somigli (University of Toronto) addresses the figure of Gabriele D’Annunzio tracing it back to Modernism understood as a response to the process of modernization in a context in which two competing sets of social, cultural, political and economic values overlap and are simultaneously accessible (Jameson). Specifically, Somigli suggests that Le vergini delle rocce (1895) articulates these overlapping temporalities. Başak Çün (Fenerbahçe University) questions the figure of Oscar Wilde, putting forward the hypothesis that Wilde is a modernist in spirit, and a precursor to the values of the upcoming age, both through the explanation of his interest in the vogue and an analysis of “The Decay of Lying”. Christina Bezari (Ghent University) examines the emergence of a new literary aesthetic in interwar Spain known as “la joven literatura” and analyzes women’s role in shaping this movement. To this end, she draws on literary magazines from the 1920s and 1930s to shed light on the critiques that were addressed to the female poets who participated in the new literary movement of the time.


Monica Jansen (Utrecht University) – Celso Costantini’s Uses of Modernism in Missionary Sacred Art: An Act of Decolonization?

Jamie Christopher Callison (University of Agder) – Rediscovering the Moravians: Between Credulity and Credibility in the Poetry and Lived Religion of H.D.

Prabha Shankar Dwivedi (Indian Institute of Technology Tirupati) – Metaphysics of Boundary: Configuring the Bhagavadgītā in the Modernist Paradigms

Luca Somigli (University of Toronto) – On the Borders of Modernism (Again): D’Annunzio and the Problem of Decadentism

Başak Çün (Fenerbahçe University) – Is Wilde’s Aesthetics “Lying”? Art as a Modernist Commodity

Christina Bezari (Ghent University) – “Those Books Could not Have Been Ours: We Were Women”: Ernestina de Champourcín and the Modernist Press in Interwar Spain (1918–1936)