Making Modernism: Announcing an NEH Summer Institute on Chicago's Literary Renaissance

H.L. Mencken with Chicago Tribune literary editor Fanny Butcher. Midwest MS Butcher Bx. 44, Fl. #1861

In 1934, Gertrude Stein visited Chicago as part of a lecture tour following publication of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. She spoke to massive audiences across the city, including a book signing at Marshall Field’s. The academic elite and the lay middle class alike flocked to her lectures, and the expatriate Stein chose to make additional stops in Chicago during the lecture tour before returning to Paris. Two decades before, Harriet Monroe founded Poetry magazine thanks to the largesse of some of the city’s Captains of Industry, as noted in this month’s Origins post “Women of the Little Magazine in the City of Big Shoulders”; the work of E.E. Cummings, T.S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound appeared in its issues. Indeed, Chicago has been central to modernist literary movement.

The Scholl Center is therefore pleased to announce that in June of 2013 it will be hosting an NEH Summer Institute on Chicago’s centrality to modernist literature and aesthetics. Titled “Making Modernism: Literature and Culture in Twentieth-Century Chicago, 1893-1955,” the four-week will bring university and college faculty together with renowned scholars in the fields of literature, history, art history, print culture, and African-American studies for reading, discussion, and research. The institute will begin by considering the cultural resonances of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and end by analyzing mid-century literary representations of African-American experience. It will be led by renowned scholars in the fields of literature, history, art history, print culture, and African-American studies. Four themes will be emphasized: 1) the geographic centrality of Chicago both locally and internationally; 2) modernism’s distinctive reception history in Chicago; 3) the women in Chicago who served as key cultural arbiters; 4) and the connections between the Chicago Renaissance and the Chicago Black Renaissance.

Scholl Center Director Liesl Olson will direct the instute, and participating scholars include Carl Smith, Neil Harris, Tim Spears, and Jacqueline Goldsby among others. “Making Modernism” welcomes university and college faculty—full-time, part-time, and adjunct—with interests in American literature and cultural history. The institute is tuition-free and provides a stipend to cover travel and living expenses. Participants will have the opportunity to conduct their own research at the Newberry in addition to discussions. For more information, a complete list of institute faculty and how to apply, please visit the project’s website.

By Carmen Jaramillo

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