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Modernist Peripheries: Fringes and Frontiers

Organisers: Nicoletta Asciuto and Hannah Roche (English and Related Literature)

Famously beginning ‘on or about December 1910’ and ending with mid-century postmodernism, the temporal parameters of modernism have long been set. Modernism’s geography, whilst shaped by border crossings and transatlantic exchanges, is similarly easy to define: Woolf’s Bloomsbury, Joyce’s Dublin, and the lively artistic spaces of 1920s Paris all provide key focal points on the modernist map. But what of those writers, artists, and thinkers who fall outside of the established boundaries? In terms not only of temporal and spatial topography but also of identity and aesthetics, is the category of modernism more exclusionary than it is expansive? What might be gained by a new critical approach that enlarges our conception of modernism by focussing on its peripheries and cross-disciplinary pollinations?

Through a series of seminars and workshops delivered by leading and emerging scholars working across the Arts and Humanities, this Research Strand casts a much-needed light on modernism’s margins. By drawing attention to texts, artworks, and technologies that have evaded close analysis as ‘modernist’, and by dismantling long-established frameworks that have threatened to limit understandings of the avant-garde, our aim is to explore the gains to be made in probing the fringes and pushing the temporal, spatial, and disciplinary frontiers of modernism.

Forthcoming Events:

Wednesday 1st May 2019, 5.00pm.  Bowland Auditorium, Berrick Saul Building

Black, White, and Read All Over: Mines, Mountains, and the Paysage Moralise of the British Press in the Early Twentieth Century

Research Seminar by Dr Abbie Garrington, Durham University

Previous Events:

Wednesday 6 March 2019, 5.15pm. BS/008, Berrick Saul Building.

Dorothy Parker's The Custard Heart
Reading group led by Dr Nicoletta Asciuto and Dr Hannah Roche. All welcome. The short text for discussion can be purchased for £1
Contact: and

Wednesday 16th January 2019, 4.15pm. SLB/005, Spring Lane Building.

Locating Nancy Holt
Research seminar by Dr James Boaden (History of Art, University of York). All welcome. Contact: and

In 1974 Nancy Holt spent a week staying at 39 Locust Street, New Bedford, Massachusetts. The building was the home of her aunt Ethel, who at the time was in hospital having a malignant tumour removed from her breast. During her time in New Bedford Holt photographed the interior and exterior of the building and later used the images as the basis for her single channel video work, Underscan (1974). The tape juxtaposes the photographs with Holt’s monotone reading of Ethel’s letters sent to her across the course of a decade – the letters combine Ethel’s daily life with the physical state of her home. The same year Holt exhibited the installation Points of View at the Clocktower Gallery in New York – this work juxtaposes four monitors each showing a view of Manhattan with various art world insiders describing what they see on the monitors voiced over the top. Taken together these two works continue the preoccupation across Holt’s career of working with the idea of location – yet here this question develops into a crucially affective one, distance in Underscan is estrangement as it becomes intertwined with questions of care, location is developed discursively in the conversations of Points of View. This paper will consider how Massachusetts might function as a provincial elsewhere to downtown Manhattan at this moment and how life narrative is used to bring it closer.

Dr James Boaden is lecturer in Modern and Contemporary art with a focus on American art from the mid-twentieth century to the present. His research looks in particular at the crossover between experimental film culture and the art world in the mid Twentieth Century. James has published essays in journals including Oxford Art Journal, Art History, Tate Papers. He has organised film screenings at BFI Bankside, Tate Modern, Nottingham Contemporary, and The Hepworth Wakefield.

Thursday 1 November 2018, 6pm. Treehouse, Berrick Saul Building

Who's Afraid of Alice Meynell?: Alice Meynell in the Age of Modernism.’
Research seminar by Dr Sarah Parker (Loughborough University). All welcome. Contact: and

Dr Sarah Parker is a Lecturer in English at Loughborough University. Her first monograph is The Lesbian Muse and Poetic Identity, 1889–1930 (Routledge, 2013). A co-edited collection, Michael Field: Decadent Moderns (with Ana Parejo Vadillo) is forthcoming from Ohio University Press in 2019. Her current research focuses on the continuing activities of so-called 'fin-de-siècle' women poets in the twentieth century.

Tuesday 20 November 2018, 6pm. Bowland Auditorium, Berrick Saul Building
Projecting Modernism: The Future of Britain in 1930s Documentary Film.
Research seminar by Dr Michael McCluskey (English and Related Literature, University of York). All welcome. Contact: and

Dr Michael McCluskey is Lecturer in English and Film Studies at the University of York. His research looks at the literature and film of the 1920s and 30s to consider the social, spatial, and technological shifts of this radical period and to make connections with the emergence of our own networked world. He is co-editor (with Kristin Bluemel) of Rural Modernity in Britain (Edinburgh University Press, 2018) and (with Luke Seaber) the forthcoming Airmindedness: Aviation in Interwar Britain.