University of Birmingham

June 29-July 1, 2017

Keynote speakers:

Claire Colebrook (Penn State University)

Janet Wolff (University of Manchester)

“Only to the person who is prepared to lose her life in its known form will life appear in its new guises of ever-greater beauty and perfection. But in order to achieve such a position, silence must be reached in both thinking and feeling. This is losing life, for life is, first and foremost, pervaded by human thoughts and feelings in a universal and common form.”

—Hilma af Klint

Modernist Life is an international, interdisciplinary conference that aims to explore the range, depth and prolongation of modernisms from the nineteenth century into the present moment and the future. It takes as its starting point the fundamental tension between art and life, central to modernism, but also the lifespan of modernism itself – beginnings, endings, or alternatively modernism’s longue durée. The conference invites discussion of the ways in which modernisms negotiate the concept of life, afterlife and still life, or death; it is interested in the cultivation of life (the ecological) and the extension or replacement of life (the technological); and it seeks to debate the ways in which modernism’s lives are preserved or reconstructed, through biography, editing, citation, education, cultural institutions and the new technologies of the archive.

Topics might include, but are not restricted to:

life writing
ecology and biology
still life and portraiture
modernist lifestyles
cultures of everyday life
architecture and designs for living
liveable lives
bodies and machines
religions, spiritualisms, mysticisms
the inhuman and the posthuman
the post-apocalyptic
health and illness
the death drive and the pleasure principle
repetition and compulsion
curation and preservation
editing and archiving
lives and letters

Attendance and fees

The conference is open to anyone, in any discipline, working on modernism. Prices for the conference, and details of how to pay, will appear shortly.

There is a reduced registration rate for BAMS members.

Current annual membership rates, which include a subscription to Modernist Cultures, are £45 standard; £32 student; £55 international standard; £45 international student. Membership with online-only subscription to Modernist Cultures is £28 standard; £23 student.

For more information about BAMS membership, click here. We will be offering some bursaries to enable postgraduate members of BAMS to attend the conference.

How to submit

Proposals are welcomed for individual 20 minute papers, or panels of 3-4 speakers. As one of the aims of the conference is to showcase the work not only of individuals but of groups, societies, institutions and research projects, we warmly welcome proposals from, for example, author societies, research projects, and departmental research centres. Proposals for papers should be 250 words long.

Panel proposals should include a short paragraph naming the organiser of the panel and explaining its rationale as well as a 250 word abstract for each paper. For all proposals, please also include a short biographical statement in the same document. Word format preferred.

Proposals should be emailed to by February 28th 2017.

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