Keynote lecture: “Time’s Mystique.”
12th September, 13:00-14:30

Douglas Mao is Professor of English at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of Solid Objects: Modernism and the Test of Production (Princeton, 1998) and Fateful Beauty: Aesthetic Environments,Juvenile Development, and Literature 1860-1960 (Princeton, 2008). He is also the co-editor, with Rebecca Walkowitz, of Bad Modernisms (Duke, 2006) and the editor of the Longman Cultural Edition of E. M.Forster’s Howards End (2009).

A former president of the Modernist Studies Association, he currently serves as Series Editor of Hopkins Studies in Modernism, as Senior Editor of ELH, and as a member of the editorial boards of Modernism/modernity, Textual Practice, English: the Journal of the English Association, and The Journal of Wyndham Lewis Studies. His current projects — a study of utopia and justice and a collection on modernist studies — should see print in 2020.

“Time’s Mystique”


This conference’s breadth of papers beautifully affirms something scholars of modernism have long observed: that modernist writers were fascinated by features of human temporal experience ranging from the moment, the day, and the age to durée, the quotidian, and historical existence. In this talk, I’ll ask to what extent this mystique of time in modernism can be understood apart from religious, and especially Christian, forms of thought and frames of imagining. I’ll then suggest, via readings in a number of key twentieth-century writers, that the answer is extremely complex in part because of a certain parallelism or mirror effect that transpires across the sacred-secular divide. For non-religious modern writers, secular time’s mystique owes much to its associations with, as well as its departures from, sacred time—and yet we can also speak of a mystique that worldly time has held for religious believers, perhaps never more grippingly than in the early twentieth century.