MSIA2 “Modernism and Multiple Temporalities”

Following its successful inaugural conference held in June 2018, the Modernist Studies in Asia Network (MSIA) will hold its second annual international conference in Tokyo, Japan. It will be held in the Aoyama Campus of Aoyama Gakuin University, located in the Shibuya/Aoyama area of Tokyo, a hotspot of cutting-edge culture and business activity in Japan.

This year’s conference theme is “Modernism and Multiple Temporalities”. The concept of psychological time has long been a central theme of modernist studies, particularly with reference to textual features such as the stream of consciousness and narrative fragmentation. In recent years, however, increasing attention has been paid to the ways in which the ‘politics of time’ (Peter Osborne’s term) has defined the very experience of modernity and generated a variety of modernist innovations such as the avant-garde rhetoric of rupture or attention to the communal rhythm of the everyday. Starting with Karl Marx’s observation on capitalism’s ‘annihilation of space by time,’ many critics have examined how the dominant versions of time (such as Walter Benjamin’s ‘homogenous, empty time’, or what E. P. Thompson called ‘time discipline’) colluded with capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism; meanwhile, they have also observed the ways in which the dominant ideologies were often contested through the multiplicity of temporality in various locations.

Building on these observations, we might revise the agenda of ‘New Modernist Studies’ formulated by Douglas Mao and Rebecca Walkowitz ten years ago—the agenda to expand modernism temporally, spatially, and vertically. While we continue to pursue the vertical expansion of modernism to include a variety of popular genres, we might now consider the temporal and the spatial in conjunction and note how the spatial expansion of modernism urges us to confront the multiplicity of experiential time across the world. We might also explore how the expanded field of global modernism is itself constituted by competing or conflicting temporalities that were lived or generated in the specific locations of modernity, not only in Europe and America, but also in Africa, Oceania, Asia, or elsewhere.

With three keynote lectures by leading scholars of modernist literature and film, and over 100 individual papers about a variety of topics, we explore questions such as—How do the texts of modernism (literature, art, cinema, and other cultural products) represent, reproduce, or reconfigure the experiences of time in modernity? How does the modernist obsession with innovation contain the utopian desire for the future while also being charged by a nostalgic longing for the past? How do the multiple temporalities of modernism challenge, contest, or sometimes conform to the dominant versions of time? Or how do the texts of modernism themselves travel across time and space, through the specific temporalities of transmission, reception, and translation?

This conference is generously supported by JSPS KAKENHI grant number 16H03393 and 18H00653, and co-sponsored by the English Literary Society of Japan, the College of Literature, the Institute of Humanities and the English Literary Society of Aoyama Gakuin University.