Travelling the Boundaries of Modernism

Organiser: Tram Nguyen (CUNY); Chair: Francis Mus (Ghent University)

As attempts to re-define modern/modernity/modernism keep coming forth, often proposing some radical resemantization of the concepts in light of the contemporary (see Dirlik, 2003, and Osbourne, 2018), the question of periodization becomes more and more elusive, or, as Fredric Jameson (1983, p.13) put it, both “indispensable and insufficient”. Hence, Metamodernism is emerging as an effort to re-historicize Modernism or, rather, to cling to periodization as an effective means to set methodological and aesthetic boundaries in the field of Modernist Studies. By positing the integrity of periodization as a profoundly skeptical position, this panel will present perspectives  and textual analyses of metamodernist works as recursive refractions of not only Modernist but also 18th to 19th Century ideals, so as to challenge the historicization of Modernism as a late 19th to early 20th Century phenomenon.

Metamodernist criticism reads contemporary works as practicing modernist principles of duality, refraction, and  self-reflexivity, considering that “the coloured pageantry [of the modern] makes more sense when duly historicized” (Rabaté and Spiropoulou, 2022, p.1). In contradistinction to the Postmodernist tenets of parataxis, pastiche, and irony, Metamodernism prolongs the periodization of literary Modernism: “the metamodern art work […] redirects the modern piece by drawing attention to what it cannot present in its language, what it cannot signify in its own terms (that what is often called the sublime, the uncanny, the ethereal, the mysterious, and so forth)” (van den Akker, Gibbons, Vermeulen, 2010, n.p.).

In order to question the so-called progressive development of literary modernism, and, more precisely, cohere around the tenet that our cultural moment materializes as a synchronic, recursive Vico-esque pattern, the presenters on this panel take the category of metamodern to be expansively cumulative, and  propose to read literary Modernism throughout aesthetic and cultural categories that challenge the dichotomies between modernism, Victorianism, and other conceptual registers.


Amalia Cotoi (Babeș-Bolyai University) – What About Legacy? Contemporary Modernism and the Logic of Reperiodization

Francesca Caraceni (Catholic University of Milan) – Modernist Forms from John Henry Newman to Irish Modernism: The Case of James Stephens and Flann O’Brien

Tram Nguyen (CUNY) – Metamodernist Women: Millet, Erdrich, and Ozeki