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Interdisciplinarity at MSA15

Last month, I made the trip from Victoria to Brighton for the fifteenth Modernist Studies Association conference. This was my second outing at MSA, after last year’s conference in Las Vegas. While I battled jet lag, joining my colleagues on the train

from Brighton to the University of Sussex, following the mod symbols across campus and rifling through our newspaper copies of the conference program, I was particularly struck by the diversity of this year’s conference. Although MSA is traditionally a North American phenomenon (see Katherine Ebury’s post here: http://tinyurl.com/mcwuj32 ), this year I had the pleasure of meeting fellow modernists coming from places as diverse as Greece, Japan, and Poland. And although the conference was still largely populated by Anglophones from either side of the Atlantic (most easily distinguished by how much sleep they were getting),  I found my conversations with colleagues from further away some of the most exciting and most memorable of the week.

Equally exciting was the range of topics covered at this year’s conference, from the panel on Modernism and Crisis, to Intertextual Modernism and the Roundtable on Teaching Modernism and Digital Media. The panel “Everydayness of the Ephemeral: Periodicals, Periodicity, and the Bookshop” was a particular stand-out, with a round of superb papers from J. Matthew Huculak, Cathryn Setz, and Andrew Thacker. My colleague Katie Tanigawa also presented at the Rountable on Modernism and Interdisciplinarity.

During my seminar on Art and Everydayness, I not only found myself the only literary scholar in a room of art historians, but also the only attendant coming from North America. For the seminar, we discussed our reactions to Yuriko Saito’s book Everyday Aesthetics, which distinguishes the autonomy of modern art from aesthetic experiences of mundane objects, inviting us to consider how, and if, visual art can register engagements with the everyday. Our seminar leader, Wood Roberdeau, facilitated by indicating threads of inquiry that united our papers around shared concerns; he also added to each paper with new examples that complicated our main points, drawing from multimedia demonstrations of modern art. I would like to thank him for hosting an excellent seminar, as well as my fellow participants, Mata Dimakopoulou, Sarah Garland, Sonoko Hirota, and Katarzyna Jezowska. During our seminar, I was challenged to understand my fellow participants’ work in the context of different modernist disciplines, and challenged by them to understand how my own projects communicate to scholars across a range of backgrounds. I learned that interdisciplinary communication requires intellectual curiosity and an appreciation of difference, inviting us to embrace the strange and the unfamiliar in order to expand the scope and insight of our critique. In other words, it requires the best of our modernist sensibilities.

 

My seminar paper, entitled “Modernism in Three Dimensions: Subjective Time and the Everyday Aesthetics of 3D Printing” discusses a project developed by myself and Katie Tanigawa, which will inform the Modernist Versions Project’s research direction for the coming year. In the paper, I discuss our model for using 3D printing to version multiple modernist accounts of urban life, tying the representational modes of 3D printing to the literary aesthetics of Proust and Joyce.

The interactive version of my paper is available online at  http://axchristie.github.io/MSA15/ and the lightweight version can be accessed at http://axchristie.github.io/MSA15/mobile/ .

Alex Christie

is a doctoral candidate in English at the University of Victoria, and a Research Assistant with the Modernist Versions Project and INKE in the Maker Lab in the Humanities and the ETCL.

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