The Centre for Modernism Studies in Australia and Arts & Social Sciences UNSW present a lecture by Professor Christopher Nealon (Johns Hopkins University):
'What was modernist work?'
My talk begins by drawing out a series of contrasts between the capitalism of the second industrial revolution — the capitalism that gave rise to literary modernism, and to the industrial working class — and the capitalism of today: the capitalism of deindustrialization, precarity, and the specter of a secular decline in profitability. I contrast the tensions behind modernist literary production, not least the tension between the avant-garde and mass culture, with a contemporary environment of literary production that not only collapses high and low, or endlessly recycles (as in various later 20th-century theories of the “postmodern”), but which re-values literary writing altogether, especially by foregrounding its disposability or non-posterity. Against the backdrop of these contrasts, I turn to some contemporary poetry as a kind of rear-view mirror in order to ask what of literary modernism remains vital today.
Christopher Nealon teaches American literature, aesthetic theory, and the intellectual histories that bear on the history of poetry. He received his PhD from Cornell University in 1997, and taught at UC Berkeley from 1996 to 2008.
He is the author of The Matter of Capital: Poetry and Crisis in The American Century (Harvard, 2011), and Foundlings: Lesbian and Gay Historical Emotion before Stonewall (Duke, 2001), as well as three books of poems, The Joyous Age (Black Square Editions, 2004), Plummet (Edge Books, 2009) and Heteronomy (Edge Books, 2014).
In 2007-08 he was a Fellow at the Society for The Humanities at Cornell, where he taught a seminar called 'Poetry and Totality.' From 2012 to 2014, he co-directed, with Professor Beverly Silver, a Mellon Sawyer Seminar at JHU on 'Capitalism in the 21st Century,' a description of which can be found here.
Light refreshments will be served after the lecture. RSVP is essential: please register to reserve your place by 5pm Friday 11 March.