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Recognizing that (modern) literary history is currently one of the main sites of theoretical and methodological reflection in literary studies, this conference aims to take stock of recent scholarship and to investigate how literary historical research has modified our understanding of writing between 1900 and 1950. The conference presented papers that considered the following questions and perspectives:

  • Many crucial notions in literary studies have been revalued in recent years in the practice of literary history. These include archive, period, book, event, media, genre, generation, objects, style and the senses. How exactly has this conceptual revaluation affected our view of literature’s and writers’ complex dynamics and functions between 1900 and 1950? What aspects and notions of writing require further attention in future literary histories?
  • Recent decades have seen an explosion of new or revised approaches in literary history. These include digital humanities, media archaeology, cognitive approaches, evocriticism and literary Darwinism, ecocriticism, object-oriented theories, affect theory and many more. Which of these are of special value to the history of literature from the modernist period and why?
  • Our understanding of literature’s ‘context’ has gone through drastic changes in the past decades. Once universally understood as the immediate institutional, economic or political constellation surrounding a text, ‘context’ in present-day literary studies means a lot of things, from the ‘brain’ (in cognitive studies) to the ‘universe’ (in so-called Big History). How can these drastic redefinitions help us to reconceive the history of literature between 1900 and 1950?
  • Place and space always have been said to be of significance to the historical development of European literature. What new approaches to space and place (from translation studies and memory studies to post-socialist research and geologically inspired methods working with concepts like deep time) allow us to reread the regional, national and transnational circulation of European writing during this half century?
  • Which new forms of reading to have gained weight in recent years (from distant reading and uncritical reading to non-reading and beyond) are of relevance to the historiography of literature from the modernist period? Similarly, what new or hitherto neglected aspects of the materiality, reception and production of texts can help us to cast new light on the writing in the period?
  • The first half of the twentieth-century saw the rise of many historiographical methods (from Formalism and early structuralism to neo-Marxism and early Critical Theory) that went on to play a crucial role in literary history. What aspects of these methods still hold potential today? Are there perhaps other approaches in literary history developed during the period that have remained largely neglected but still hold promise?