You are here: Home People Areas of Specialization Modernist Studies

Modernist Studies

Penn State’s English department has played a major role in fostering exciting new directions in modernist studies. The Modernist Studies Association was founded here in 1998 by Penn State faculty Sanford Schwartz and Mark Morrisson, and faculty from other institutions. The first MSA conference, “The New Modernisms,” was held at Penn State in October 1999, and was featured in the cover story of the Chronicle of Higher Education, "New Life for Modernism." The English department continues to play a part in the MSA, and Morrisson was recently elected 2nd Vice President (rising to the presidency in 2011).

The department is committed to sustaining, developing, and enhancing the international field of Modernist Studies scholarship. We are made up of a vibrant group of scholars whose research interests reflect the interdisciplinary and international emphases of the “new modernisms.” Our scholarship intersects with numerous fields of critical inquiry--British and American literatures, Hemispheric Studies, Comparative Literatures, Philosophy, Cultural Studies, Print Culture, Film Studies, Visual Culture Studies, Post-Colonial Studies, Sex/Gender Studies, Critical Race Studies, and Disability Studies, among others. Our projects--both collective and individual--examine a wide range of literary and cultural phenomena that constitute this rich and lively field including salon cultures, slumming, nature and modernist literatures, surrealism and crime, the role of the Caribbean in U.S. empire building, little magazines, manifestoes, and the culture of modern science. Further, we are committed to the production of scholarly editions of some of Modernism's most vaulted authors such as Ernest Hemingway, Marianne Moore, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Recent Grad Courses

  • Modernism, Gender and the Cultures of Modern Science
  • Yeats and the Ghostly Nation
  • James Joyce
  • Intellectual Backgrounds to Modernism
  • Sexologies
  • Modernity
  • Decadence, Modernism, Avant-garde
  • Cosmo-Modernism
  • Faulkner and His Literary Descendents
  • The Cinema of Alfred Hitchcock
  • Three Modernisms
  • Queer Modernism
  • British Avant-Gardism
  • Research in Modernist Little Magazines
  • Modernism and the Masses
  • Expatriate American Modernists
  • Hemingway: Author and Icon, Texts and Contexts
  • Modernist Duet: Kay Boyle and Ernest Hemingway
  • Modern, Postmodern, & Beyond
  • Editorial Projects in Modernist Studies

    The department features several editorial projects that involve graduate students. James West is general editor of the Cambridge Fitzgerald Edition, and has involved several graduate students in the ongoing research for the multivolume project. Sandra Spanier is Editor of the Hemingway Letters Project, a 12-volume publication by Cambridge University Press that has been supported by an NEH grant. Students involved in the Hemingway Letters Project have gone on to publish articles on Hemingway and participate in international Hemingway conferences. Mark Morrisson and Sean Latham (at the University of Tulsa) have recently founded a new Journal of Modern Periodical Studies, a biannual publication that fosters scholarship in the burgeoning new field of modern periodical studies, and Morrisson and Janet Lyon are editors of the multidisciplinary Refiguring Modernism: Arts, Literatures, Sciences book series published by Penn State University Press.

    The Modernist Studies Workshop

    The Penn State Modernist Studies Workshop is a group of graduate students in English and Comparative Literature who share an interest in the study of American, Anglo-Irish, and transatlantic modernisms. Transnational in scope and interdisciplinary in approach, the organization encourages collaboration between MA and PhD students in various sub-specialties of modernist studies. Founded in 2004, the group has evolved from its humble origins as a small reading group and now supports additional activities including a film series, symposia, a dissertation writing workshop, and an upcoming speakers' series. In addition to its scholarly pursuits, the group promotes pre-professionalization and social networking among its members. Members work to create a visible presence at departmental events, and play a role in the recruiting and mentoring of new MA and PhD students.

    Research Libraries

    Centrally located in the heart of Pennsylvania's mountains, we are within a day's drive of many of the major archives for Modernist Studies--Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection, the New York Public Library Archives, Princeton's Firestone Library, and New York's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, to name but a few. Our own Pattee Library also boats a fine selection of original manuscripts and letters from modernists such as Kenneth Burke and Rebecca West.

    People specializing in this area

    Tenure-Line Faculty

    Janet Lyon

    Theories of modernism and modernity; Irish, British, transnational modernism; Disability studies, embodiment, sensoria; Modernist sociability/sociology; Feminism, sexuality; Roma culture in Europe/modernism

    Aldon Lynn Nielsen

    Theories of modernity and race; Modernist poetry; Latin American literature.

    Benjamin Schreier

    Post-1900 American literature and culture; New York Intellectuals; Cold War liberalism; Statism, identitarianism, and national discourse; Modernism and postmodernism; Habits of thought and recognition; Literary history

    Susan Merrill Squier, Ph.D.

    I have published on Virginia Woolf, modern women writers and the city, Aldous and Julian Huxley, and modern science fiction writers from Wells to Wyndham.  My current work in the area focuses on the feminist new materialist implications of the concept of the epigenetic landscape (the metaphor/model used by embryologist C.H. Waddington to model the way an individual emerges from the broader gene pool and set of environmental influences.)