“Proletarian Modernism in the Long 1930’s,” a talk by Professor Benjamin Kholmann (University of Freiburg)


Please join us for another talk for COMMA’s 2016-17 series, “Modernist Energies.” We continue the year with a talk by Professor Benjamin Kholmann on Tuesday, November 22nd at 3:00 in the Sankey Room (SH 2623).

Professor Kholmann is Assistant Professor at the University of Freiburg.  He is author of Committed Styles: Modernism, Politics, and Left-Wing Literature in the 1930s (Oxford UP, 2014) which cuts against the long-standing tradition of an apolitical modernism to offer a novel reading of modernism of the 1930s as highly political. Professor Kholmann has also edited several volumes, including the forthcoming A History of 1930s British Literature (Cambridge UP); a special issue of Literature and History on Literatures of Anti-Communism (Spring 2015); Edward Upward and the Left-Wing Literary Culture in Britain (Ashgate 2013); and, Utopian Spaces of Modernism: British Literature and Culture 1885-1945 (Palgrave 2012).

Professor Kholmann will deliver a talk entitled “Proletarian Modernism in the Long 1930’s.” This paper identifies a modality of modernist writing that he calls “proletarian modernism”. The writing subsumed under this label is significant for several reasons. First, it usefully defamiliarizes the popular notion of “late modernism” by highlighting an alternative route taken by interwar writing: proletarian modernists, he suggests, aimed at a retooling of modernism, opening up new futures for modernism rather than anticipating its end. Second, proletarian modernism effected a wide-ranging politicization of modernist formal experiment: in works of proletarian modernism, the question of what a properly classless aesthetic looks like is inseparably bound up with the vision of a genuinely classless society. Proletarian modernism thus reopens the question of modernism’s political valences by asking us to think about modernism in proletarian terms; at the same time, it requires us to think about the proletarian aesthetic not in relation to some content (writing which is by and about the working class) but in more specifically formal (or aesthetic) terms.

“Conjectures on World Energy Literature,” a talk by Professor Imre Szeman (University of Alberta)


Please join us for COMMA’s first event of the 2016-17 series, “Modernist Energies.” We begin the year with a talk by Professor Imre Szeman on Thursday, November 10th at 3:00 in the Sankey Room (SH 2623).

Professor Imre Szeman is Professor and Canada Research Chair in Cultural Studies in the Department of English and Film Studies at University of Alberta. In addition to editing Cultural Theory: An Anthology (2010) and The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism (2nd Ed., 2005), Professor Szeman is author of Zones of Instability: Literature, Postcolonialism and the Nation (JHU 2003) and After Globalization (2011) with Eric Cazdyn. His current work spans the  politics of cultural theory to the cultural politics of oil, entitled On Empty: The Cultural Politics of Oil. In addition to these monographs, Szeman is also the co-director of the Petrocultures Research Group and director of the collaborative group research project, After Oil: Explorations and Experiments in the Future of Energy, Culture and Society.

Professor Szeman will deliver a talk entitled “Conjectures on World Energy Literature”


Film Screening of Dziga Vertov’s “Enthusiasm” (1931)



Please join us for the first event in our 2016-17 series, “Modernist Energies.” On Friday, Oct. 28th at 12:00 in SH 2635 we will screen Dziga Vertov’s 1931 film, Enthusiasm. Vertov’s first sound film tracks the efforts of Ukrainian miners in the Donbass coal mines to fulfill their part of the first five-year plan in only four years. Following the screening, there will be a discussion of the film and two essays by Jonathan Beller and Sergei Tret’iakov (copies available in the CRC). As always, pizza and drinks will be provided!

“A Shade or a Shape of You: Theory of Mind in Lily Briscoe’s Vision,” a talk by Professor Sowon Park (English, UCSB)


The Literature and the Mind Initiative will host its Inaugural Talk on Monday, October 24th at 5:30 in South Hall 2635. Professor Sowon Park (UCSB, English) will deliver a lecture on Theory of Mind in To the Lighthouse that will be of great interest to all COMMA members.

Professor Sowon Park specializes in British Modernism, Political Fiction, World Literature, and the relationship between Literature and other forms of knowledge, in particular Cognitive Neuroscience. Before coming to UCSB, she taught at Oxford University for over a decade, where she was Lecturer and Tutor in English at Corpus Christi College. Her previous academic appointments were at Cambridge University and Ewha University, Seoul. She has also held visiting appointments at UCSD and ZFL, Geisteswissenschaftliche Zentren, Berlin. She received an M.Phil and D.Phil in English from Oxford. Recently, she was awarded a four-year AHRC grant to work on “Prismatic Translation’. Her latest publication is a special issue of The Journal of World Literaturethat she guest-edited, titled, The Chinese Scriptworld and World Literature (June, 2016). She has published her academic work in The Review of English Studies, MLQ, ELT, European Review, Arcadia,Neohelicon and Comparative Critical Studies.

“A Shade or a Shape of You: Theory of Mind in Lily Briscoe’s Vision”:

In the last fifteen years, “Theory of Mind (ToM)” has been the object of intense investigation in developmental psychology, cognitive neuroscience, anthropogeny, philosophy and literary studies, producing a number of related concepts to develop our understanding of how we impute mental states to ourselves and others. The first part of the paper will provide a brief overview of current research and consider issues that emerge when these terms are translated across disciplines. The second part will discuss relevant findings in ToM research in neuroscience and bring them to bear on the private vision of Lily Briscoe in To the Lighthouse. The aim of the paper is to reflect on what ToM might mean for literary research that makes it distinct from other lines of inquiry and to consider Intersubjectivity from a ToM angle.

Professor Christopher Prendergast’s public lecture “Culture, Politics & Comparative Philology in the Nineteenth Century”


UCSB’s Graduate Center for Literary Research will host Professor Christopher Pendergast as the Distinguished Visiting Professor for 2016-2017. Prendergast is Emeritus Professor at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of King’s College. He was formerly Distinguished Professor in French and Comparative Literature at the Graduate Center, City University of New York.

His visit will feature two events open to the public:

1) A public lecture on Thursday, Oct. 20th, 5-7 at Mosher Alumni House:

“Culture, Politics & Comparative Philology in the Nineteenth Century” 

The harnessing of the developing discipline of comparative philology to various agendas centered on ethnicity, nation and race is well-known as one of the key junction points at which nineteenth-century intellectual and academic history connected with political ideology. Christopher Prendergast returns to that scene, but in order to bring into the foreground that yoking of the study of language to politics. He does so principally by way of the key figure of Michel Bréal, the first Professor of Comparative Grammar at the Collège de France.

2) A Graduate seminar on Wednesday, Oct. 19th, 4-6 at Phelps 6206C:

“History and Periodization: The Invention of the Century”

 One of the basic organizing principles of historical study is the division of historical time into units and periods, so basic indeed as to be effectively taken as a kind of intellectual second nature. On the other hand, historical periodization of history has its own history (as well as cross-cultural variations). Professor Prendergast takes the practice of ordering time into units of 100 years and discusses when, how and why this came about, focusing in particular on the history of the French term ‘siècle’.

COMMA’s 2016-17 Organizational Meeting will be held Thursday, Oct. 20th


Please join us for COMMA’s first meeting of the year on Thursday, Oct. 20th from 3:30-4:30 in South Hall 2617 (the Sankey Room). At the mixer we will discuss programing for the year including upcoming speakers, the film series, and reading group. Wine and snacks will be served.

British Art from Whistler to World War II


From September 18, 2016 through January 8, 2016, the Santa Barbara Museum will host an exhibit of British art from 1890-1945. In conjunction with the exhibit, COMMA will host a series of events and with the generous support of an Arnhold Collaborative Research grant will develop project connecting faculty, graduate and undergraduate student researchers. Details on events and the project will be coming soon. If you would like to learn more British Art from Whistler to World War II, you can find it here.


COMMA’s 2016-17 Program: “Modernist Energies”

“Lightening Fields” (2008), by Hiroshi Sugimoto.

In 2016-17, COMMA will host a program of speakers, films, and reading groups centered on Modernist Energies.

Film Screening of George Miller’s “Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior” (1981)


Please join COMMA for the final meeting in our 2015-16 series, “In The Desert of the Real” with a screening of the second film in George Miller’s Mad Max series. Set in a post-apocalyptic desert landscape, the film interweaves themes of war, energy, resource scarcity, and environmental justice. The screening will be followed by discussion, and pizza will be provided.

“From Craft to Art: Communicating Through the Medium of Book Art,” a talk by Book Artist Lyall Harris


Please join us for COMMA’s next event in our year-long series, “The Desert of the Real.” Award-winning book artist Lyall Harris will be presenting “From Craft to Art: Communicating Through the Medium of Book Art” on Thursday, May 5th at 3:00. This event, hosted in conjunction with UCSB Special Collections, will be held in UCSB Library’s Special Collections Conference room (3rd Floor of Davidson Library) with a reception immediately to follow.

Since the late 90s, Lyall Harris’ artwork has been exhibited in more than one hundred solo and juried group shows and recognized with over twenty awards, including The George Hitchcock Prize for painting from the National Academy Museum, NY, and a Purchase Award in Book Art from the University of Utah for a fifteen-book site-specific project. Her book art can be found in numerous Special Collection libraries across the United States, among these, Yale (Haas Arts Library), Stanford (Green Library), Indiana University (Lilly Library), Davidson Library (UCSB) and Smith College (Mortimer Rare Book Room). Harris has been the recipient of fellowships at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, NALL Foundation in Vence, France, and San Francisco’s Grabhorn Institute.

“From Craft to Art; Communicating Through the Medium of Book Art”

Book art at its best is a medium where the maker’s keen use of the material components creates a faceted, more comprehensive and potent language to express content. In this way, the parts themselves, in the context of the piece, become bearers of meaning that work collectively to cause a kind of “transcendence,” from material to conceptual. This is where craft becomes art. Lyall Harris  will present an array of these “literary art objects”—variously spawned by particular texts, “book” forms, specific materials, or images—to illustrate my creative process and the unique potential of book art as medium.