Making Modernism: Literature and Culture in Twentieth-Century Chicago, 1893-1955 | Newberry

Making Modernism: Literature and Culture in Twentieth-Century Chicago, 1893-1955

Newberry Librarian Stanley Pargellis and Newberry Fellow Era Bell Thompson, 1944.

An NEH Summer Institute for College and University Teachers
Monday, June 12, 2017Friday, July 7, 2017
Directed by Liesl Olson, The Newberry


The Newberry is pleased to announce a 2017 NEH summer institute, Making Modernism: Literature and Culture in Twentieth-Century Chicago, 1893-1955. The 4-week institute will explore Chicago’s contribution to the modernist movement, with particular attention given to literature and the visual arts. The program of lectures, discussion, and site visits will consider the dimensions of a Chicago “style,” from the turn of the century through the Second World War. Participants will also consider how Chicago’s cultural output during these decades is connected more broadly to transatlantic modernism. We will begin with the persistent cultural resonances of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago—better known as the World’s Fair—which gave rise to many of the city’s key cultural institutions, clubs, and smaller arts organizations. We will then explore what scholars have called the “Chicago literary renaissance” of the 1910s and 1920s, particularly the work of writers who challenged the subjects and styles of a genteel literary tradition. From the interracial collaborations supported by the Works Progress Administration in Chicago through the creative ferment of Bronzeville, the institute will also engage a rapidly growing body of scholarship on the Chicago Black Renaissance. Importantly, the institute aims for an inclusive and expansive history of modernist literature and art in Chicago across racial lines.

Each week of the institute will include site visits to Chicago museums, clubs, neighborhoods, landmarks, or archives, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Arts Club of Chicago, and the Poetry Foundation. There also will be an organized trip to the Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature at the Carter G. Woodson Library, the oldest and largest African American Studies repository in the Midwest.

Applications are due by March 1, 2017.


The institute will feature guest faculty members in the fields of literature, history, art history, print culture, and African American studies. These faculty include:

Liesl Olson, The Newberry Library
Jennifer Fleissner, Associate Professor, Department of English, Indiana University
Diane Dillon, Director of Exhibitions and Major Projects, The Newberry Library
Sarah Kelly Oehler, Henry and Gilda Buchbinder Associate Curator of American Art, Art Institute of Chicago
Martha Briggs, Lloyd Lewis Curator of Modern Manuscripts, The Newberry Library
Kenneth Warren, Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor, Department of English, University of Chicago
Davarian Baldwin, Paul E. Raether Distinguished Professor of American Studies, Trinity College

Contact Us

Dr. William M. Scholl Center for American History and Culture

The Newberry

60 W. Walton Street

Chicago, IL 60610

(312) 255-3602

This Summer Institute is supported by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, an independent federal agency. The Newberry Library is an independent library for research and reference in the humanities.

Any views, finding, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.