London Modernism Seminar

The London Modernism Seminar aims to showcase work-in-progress in the field of modernist studies. It features a mix of established and junior researchers from UK and non-UK institutions. The seminar aims to be interdisciplinary in focus, with speakers coming from the disciplines of English, drama, history, book history, art history, and neuroscience.

The London Modernism Seminar is hosted by the Institute of English Studies in collaboration with Birkbeck, Goldsmiths, King’s College London, Queen Mary, Royal Holloway and Kent. It meets on Saturdays, and is open to anyone interested in modernism.

The London Modernism Seminar will be held online. Please regsiter for seminars via the Seminar Schedule and Registration button below. You will then be sent a joining link in your confirmation email.

Seminar Schedule

Saturday 7 November, 11:00-13:00: Modernism and the Plastic and Visual Arts

Dr Natalie Pollard (Exeter)  'Toward a Fugitive Praxis'

I will talk a bit about Poetry, Publishing, and Visual Culture from Late Modernism to the Twenty-first Century Fugitive Pieces (OUP, 2020), but I'll also attempt to do some thinking beyond it, considering the place of fugitivity in academic life, such as in research and teaching. So I'll give an account of the idea of the 'fugitive piece' in the special restricted sense used in the book: a term that helps to mark out a reader's encounter with the uncanny energies arising between literature and other art forms, materials, forces...and more. And I'll be thinking beyond the published piece, to what it might mean to enact fugitivity in one's scholarship and everyday institutional life, and why this might be especially important now.  There will be some attention to different kinds of  contemporary literary and artistic entanglements: e.g. word and image, media and materiality, inscription and illustration, with examples. And also, I'll propose a fugitive mode of academic praxis, which defies disciplinary categorisations and competencies, embracing flight as fight, and fugitivity as a disruptive refusal of the choices that are offered. 

Dr Jack Quin (Birmingham ‘Poet and sculptor, do the work’: the plastic arts in modernist poetry'

W.B. Yeats’s sprawling self-elegy turned self-epitaph, ‘Under Ben Bulben’, raises a call to arms for artists across different art forms: ‘Poet and sculptor, do the work, / Nor let the modish painter shirk / What his great forefathers did’. The pairing of poetry and sculpture as age-old crafts, followed a line later by the more modish painter, reminds us of Yeats’s lifelong ambition to draw the arts closer together. In the 1890s, Yeats tried to raise funds for a monument to Theobald Wolfe Tone and promoted his peers for particular commissions in Dublin; after Irish independence, then Senator Yeats chaired the committee charged with designing the Free State coinage from 1926-28; across his poetry and prose he engaged with statues, memorials, abstract sculpture and objets d’art, in passages that waver between the ekphrastic and the iconoclastic.

This paper will consider the specific relationship between poetry and the art of sculpture in the modernist period, beginning with Yeats but extending to the writing and lives of H.D., Ezra Pound, Mina Loy and others. Several of the poets under discussion went beyond verse ekphrases of sculptural works. Some were lifelong friends or collaborators with the most renowned sculptors of the early twentieth-century, like Henri Gaudier-Brzerska, Constantin Brancusi and Auguste Rodin; others contributed towards sculptural aesthetics through their art writing, examining everything from museum artefacts to modern abstract works. Ultimately, this paper will propose that writing on sculpture characterises and creates a very different thing to the material object in stone or steel, complicating sculpture’s traditional association with monumentality, solidity and durability.

Saturday 5 December, 15:00-17:00: Countercultural Modernisms

Octavio R. González (Wellesley College), ‘Queer Formalism as Modernist Form'

Jonathan Flatley (Wayne State University), ‘Picturing the World of the Communist Black International’​

Saturday 6 March, 11:00-13:00: Modernist Waste

Arthur Rose (Bristol), ‘Beckett’s Blushing Radiator; or, How asbestos ages in modernist texts and we would rather it didn’t’

Caroline Knighton (Sotherby's), ‘Dressing for Dada: Refuse and Re-use in Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven’s couture d’ordures’ 

Saturday 8 May, 11:00-13:00: Modernism and Politics

Christos Hadjiyiannis (Institute of English Studies),  ‘Dragging in Politics: Politics in Twentieth-Century Literature’

Elinor Taylor (Westminster), ‘Spectres of English Fascism: History, Aesthetics and Cultural Critique’.



Clara Jones (KCL), Peter Fifield (Birkbeck), Suzanne Hobson (QMUL), Scott McCracken (QMUL), Tim Armstrong (RHUL) and Helen Carr (Goldsmiths)