LOOKING BACK ON THE END OF TIME:MODERNISM AND BEYOND. Keynote speakers: Randall Stevenson, Bryony Randall


spiralclock1Looking Back on the End of Time: Modernism and Beyond,

University of East Anglia,

September 4th, 2009.




Around the turn of the twentieth century many artists, writers, philosophers and scientists, conducted conversations and debates about the nature of time. Developments in science, technology, and society seemed to necessitate a radical review of the nature, perhaps even the existence, of time. In 1908 the physicist Herman Minkowski announced that ‘space by itself, and time by itself, are doomed to fade away, and only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality’. The philosopher J. M. E. McTaggart did not even wait for time to fade away but declared in the same year that it was ‘unreal’.


Nevertheless, more than a hundred years have (apparently) gone by.




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Did time change forever a century ago? How did the ways in which people think about time change? How did the ways that writers and artists represent time change? Did these developments alter our understanding of space? How can the changes be related to their historical context? How have they been understood and represented since? Is there a distinctively ‘modernist’ version of time, and what is its status today? Can science, philosophy, and the arts talk to each other about time, or do they each have their own times?







We invite proposals for twenty-minute papers from the fields of English studies, American studies, philosophy, history of science, history of art, and others, on topics relating to the conceptualisation and  representation of time a century ago. Whilst the period 1890-1930 focuses our attention on specific developments in the history of science and philosophy, we welcome papers that discuss any subsequent responses to these ideas. Examples might include:

         Einsteinian physics, and its appropriation by novelists, poets, occultists, and mystics;

         Henri Bergson’s concept of durée, the hyperspace theories of Charles Howard Hinton and Claude Bragdon , the writing of de Noircarme;

         The literary responses of authors such as James Joyce, May Sinclair, Gertrude Stein, H. G. Wells, and Wyndham Lewis to revisions in our understanding of time.  Did some writers develop alternative or reactionary ideas of time that drew on ancient or non-empirical traditions such as Buddhism?  Did specific events such as World War One give rise to their own temporalities within fiction and other forms of writing?

         The emergence of scientific romance and science fiction as genres, time travel in fiction and film;

         The influence of developments in science and geometry on art movements such as Cubism and Futurism;

         Has time recovered from McTaggart’s assault?


Abstracts of 300-400 words should be submitted by June 4 2009.

Send to Kate Armond – K.Armond@uea.ac.uk

Posted by Alex Pheby.