Modernity is a key term in literary and cultural studies. It designates both a distinctive period in time, dating, roughly, from the sixteenth century to the present, and a specific quality of cultural and social experience. Typically modern innovations – such as the ideological concept of the individual, the economic principle of the market, the political principle of the nation-state, the technological mediatisation of communication, or the literary genre of the novel – have served to shape the basic framework of our contemporary world. Modernity is a highly dynamic formation, subjected to constant renewal and transformation: characterized, in other words, by permanent self-modernization.
However, while most theories construct modernity as a phenomenon that originated in Europe and only later was ‘exported’ to other parts of the world, this MA programme conceives of modernity as the outcome of global exchange and interaction. By covering diverse regions of the Anglophone world including Britain and the USA but especially their former colonies, the programme addresses how these different regions have historically produced a plurality of MODERNITIES.
Modern societies and cultures may be characterised by such diverse features as:
• nation-states and national cultures • commodification • secularity • media revolutions • individualism • market economies • autonomisation of the arts • coloniality • dynamic social and gender roles • aesthetisation of the everyday • distinction of private and public domains • rationalisation • the rise and fall of the author/genius • translation of cultures • social and geographical mobility • flexible literary genres • urbanisation • governmentality • cultural transfer and transformation • gender trouble • constant self-modernization and a preference for newness • technical reproduction of the work of art • popular cultures • invention of traditions • counter-cultures • migrations and diasporas • cultures of piracy • a renewed interest in the past.
Literary and cultural practices do not simply ‘reflect’ these dynamics but effectively contribute to them as modes of cultural meaning production and value preservation.