- Joshua Kotin (Princeton University), V. Joshua Adams (University of Chicago)
In Modernism as a Philosophical Problem, Robert Pippin identifies “bourgeois self-hatred” as a defining feature of modernism:
“High culture or art culture or academic culture over the last two hundred years or so is so fiercely ‘reactive’ and so negative that it would not be too much of an exaggeration to designate the problem as a kind of widespread ‘bourgeois self-hatred.’”
One might consider “bourgeois self-hatred” as a symptom of, or a reaction to, a deeper problem: complicity in state and normative power. This seminar asks how writers counter or moderate their complicity in various forms of oppression—chauvinism, militarism, colonialism, totalitarianism, capitalism? How do concerns about complicity affect style? Coterie formation? What is the relation between anxieties about complicity and liberalism? How do language politics in Québec or India (to name two examples) illuminate the problem of complicity? How have Adorno and Bourdieu come to define the problem of complicity for literary studies? Are there alternative critical frameworks? Are modernist or contemporary responses to complicity distinct from earlier responses?
As these questions make clear, we welcome papers on any aspect of the problem of complicity in modern literature. We hope papers will address specific instances of how writers mediate their involvement in state and normative power, and how their writing speaks to larger problems in literary history and literary theory.
SEMINAR KEYWORDS: Modernism, Theory, Poetry, Poetics, Politics, Adorno, Bourdieu, Resistance, Modernity, Liberalism, Philosophy, Community, Avant-garde, Power Norms