Knowledge and Experience: London Modernism Seminar

Publié le 1 novembre 2016 Mis à jour le 1 novembre 2016

le 5 novembre 2016

Senate House, London
The next London Modernism Seminar will take place on Saturday 5 November, 11-1pm, in Room 349 at Senate House. The theme of the seminar is Knowledge and Experience and we are very pleased to welcome Nicholas Gaskill (Rutgers University) and Jon Day (KCL) as our speakers. You can find abstracts of their papers and short biographies below. The seminar is open to everyone who is interested in modernism and we especially encourage postgraduates to attend.
You can find directions to the venue on the IES website:

Best wishes
Suzanne (on behalf of the seminar organizers)
Suzanne Hobson, Queen Mary, University of London,
Tim Armstrong, Royal Holloway, University of London,
David Ayers, University of Kent, David Ayers,
Peter Fifield, Birkbeck University of London, p.
Helen Carr, Goldsmiths, University of London,
Clara Jones, Kings College London,

Nicholas Gaskill, 'When Red is Read: Color, Writing, and Qualia'
This paper analyzes the literary use of color terms, specifically in modernist writing, to address philosophical debates about consciousness and to provide a framework for understanding the relation between sensation and language. Color sensations are often taken by philosophers of mind as paradigmatic instances of qualia, understood as the phenomenal characters of our experiences (the redness of red, the sound of C sharp, the feel of sandpaper). Qualia tend to be presented as private and ineffable, enforcing a split between color sensations and color terms that runs throughout the philosophical and artistic discourse on color. My paper takes the literary handling of color as an occasion to question this split and to generate a more dynamic model of how language transforms and extends sensory experience. I focus in particular on the place of color in the work of Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and Virginia Woolf. Like critics such as Ann Banfield and Dora Zhang, I read modernism in relation to early-twentieth-century philosophical problems about experience and language; but where these others have allowed the philosophical discussion to set the terms for their analysis of literature, my focus on color words uses literary practice to question some of the widespread assumptions that shaped the philosophy. In particular, I argue that literary color prompts us to reconsider the public/private split upon which so much of the debate about qualia and modernist aesthetics has turned, and to adopt instead a process-driven and relational account of how literary works draw from and elaborate the life of the senses.

Nicholas Gaskill is an assistant professor in the Department of English at Rutgers University, where he teaches nineteenth- and twentieth-century U.S. literature. He is an editor of The Lure of Whitehead(Minnesota, 2014) and the author of several essays on pragmatism, aesthetics, and color, which have appeared or are forthcoming in American Literature, New Literary History, American Literary History,Cabinet magazine, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. He is currently completing a book on U.S. literature and theories of color perception at the turn of the twentieth century titled The Color Sense: Language and Experience from the White Whale to the Red Wheelbarrow.

Jon Day, 'Ways of Knowing in Modernist Fiction'
This paper will interrogate the ways in which some canonical modernist authors – among them Woolf and Joyce – conceived of the epistemological challenges presented by modernity. At least since Eric Kahler’s influential definition of modernism’s ‘inward turn’, modernist narrative fiction has been considered particularly successful at representing consciousness. More recently, with the so called ‘cognitive’ or ‘neuroaesthetic’ turn in literary criticism, the relationship between knowing and its representation in fiction has been understood in light of the discoveries of neuroscience and cognitive psychology.
Such readings often endorse a reductive materialism to argue for the affective or sensory superiority of literature and the arts: they suggest, anew, that fiction can provide knowledge of the world that other modes of discourse cannot. As David Herman summarises, on these accounts modernist narrative is read not as rejecting a realist paradigm but instead as committed to showing ‘not necessarily how things really are, but how things are experienced, what it feels like to be alive.’ Focusing on the degree to which sensory experience can be said to be a special category of ‘knowing’ the world, I aim to historicise the qualia debate as it emerged within early twentieth century philosophy of mind and contemporary literature. I will consider this alongside critical narratives of modernism’s ‘inward turn’ in order to challenge readings of modernism as a form of extended or spilt ‘cognitive realism.’

Jon Day is a lecturer in English and Medical Humanities at King’s college London. He is the author of Cyclogeography (2015), and Novel Sensations: Modernist Fiction and the Problem of Qualia (OUP, forthcoming). His essays and reviews have appeared in the London Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, n+1, Bookforum, the Spectator the Guardian and others. He writes about art for Apollo, and is a regular fiction critic for the Telegraph and the Financial Times, and a judge for the 2016 Man Booker Prize.

Mis à jour le 01 novembre 2016