The Time of the Unconscious

A symposium exploring alternative histories of 'the unconscious" in Modernism and modernity


Fields of Knowledge
  • Pedagogy
  • Philosophy / Theory

Organizing Institutions

University of Pennsylvania, Slought


Andy Gaedtke, Benjamin Kahan, Heather Love, Jean-Michel Rabate, Joshua Schuster,


University of Pennsylvania Research Foundation Conference Support Grant


English Department of the University Of Pennsylvania, the Gender and Sexuality Studies Reading Group, the LGBT Center at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Program in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory

Opens to public



4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104


100% Formal - 0% Informal

Slought and the University of Pennsylvania are pleased to announce "Modernism: The Time of the Unconscious," a one-day symposium on Friday, February 8th, 2008 from 10-6pm exploring 'the unconscious' beyond the Freudian clinic. By highlighting how our understanding of the unconscious has functioned as a cultural formation answering to specific social needs, this event seeks to uncover unofficial histories of 'the unconscious.'

Presentations will address the philosophical and medical prehistory of the psychoanalytic 'discovery' of the unconscious, along with the adaptations and deformations that the concept underwent as it became a resource for Modernist literary, cinematic, and visual culture. In addition, the concept of the unconscious both inaugurated and organized alternative orders of temporality unique to the lived experience of modernity. We might thus consider the unusual temporality of the symptom and psychoanalytic understandings of experience that exceed conventional orders of past, present, and future.

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Karen Beckman is Jaffe Associate Professor of Film Studies and History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Vanishing Women: Magic, Film and Feminism (Duke 2003). She is currently completing a book on car crashes and film and is co-editing a volume entitled, Still Moving: Between Cinema and Photography (forthcoming Duke).

Andy Gaedtke is a doctoral candidate in English at the University of Pennsylvania. He is completing a dissertation on madness, technology, and modernism entitled The Modern Machinery of Psychosis and is co-organizer of the Penn Modernist Studies Group.

Benjamin Kahan is a Lecturer in Queer Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. He will take his PhD in English at the University of Pennsylvania this spring. An article drawn from his dissertation, "Modern American Celibacies, 1886-1969," is forthcoming from GLQ this coming December.

Steven Meyer is Associate Professor of English at Washington University. He is the author of Irresistible Dictation: Gertrude Stein and the Correlations of Writing and Science (Stanford 2001) and articles on Modernist poetry and culture including "Writing Psychology Over: Gertrude Stein and William James," in The Mind of Modernism (Stanford 2004).

Jean-Michel Rabate is the Vartan Gregorian Chair in the Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania and a Senior Curator at Slought Foundation. He is the author and editor of more than twenty books on modernism, literary theory, and psychoanalysis.

Paul Saint-Amour joined the Penn English Department in fall 2007 before teaching at Pomona College. He is the author of The Copywrights: Intellectual Property and the Literary Imagination and several articles on modernist literature and culture. He is presently at work on a book about total war, temporality, and modernist narrative.

Joshua Schuster recently received his Ph.D. in English from the University of Pennsylvania. He has articles in the Journal of Modern Literature, Open Letter, and Other Voices. Some of his forthcoming essays are on Arakawa and Gins, Emmanuel Levinas, and Louis Zukofsky. He is a co-organizer of the Modernist Studies Group.

Pamela Thurschwell is a senior lecturer in English at the University of Sussex. She is the author of Literature, Technology and Magical Thinking, 1880-1920 (Cambridge, 2000) and the co-editor of The Victorian Supernatural (Cambridge, 2004) and Literary Secretaries/Secretarial Culture (Ashgate, 2005). Her current project is tentatively titled Out of Time: The Temporality of Adolescence in the 20th century.

Marina van Zuylen is Professor of French and Comparative Literature at Bard College and is currently a Stanley Kelley, Jr. Visiting Professor at Princeton University. She is the author of Difficulty as an Aesthetic Principle (Tübingen, 1993) and Monomania: The Flight from Everyday Life in Literature and Art (Cornell University Press, 2005).

Liliane Weissberg is Professor of German and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. Among the books that she has authored and edited are Romancing the Shadow: Poe and Race (Oxford 2001), Cultural Memory and the Construction of Identity (Wayne State 1999), Rahel Varnhagen: the life of a Jewess (Johns Hopkins 1997), and Weiblichkeit als Maskerade (Fischer Taschenbuch 1994).

Symposium Schedule

10:00-12:00 | 'The unconscious before The Unconscious'
Moderator: Detlef Mertins

Jean-Michel Rabaté: "Complaint to the Unconscious: Laforgue, Hartmann, Schopenhauer"

Marina van Zuylen: "Janet, Ribot, and Therapeutic Dissociation"

Andy Gaedtke: "Mina Loy's Clinical Fantasy, Modernism's Pre-Freudian Sources"

Steven Meyer: "Taking Time Seriously: The Emergence of Jamesian Modernism"

1:30-3:30 | 'Words and Images: Textuality and Visuality of the Unconscious' Moderator: Michael Leja

Karen Beckman: "Doing Death Over: Unconscious Motion Studies"

Joshua Schuster: "The Unconscious After the Modernist Imagination: Wallace Stevens and the Poem of the Mind"

Liliane Weissberg: "Ariadne's Thread: Reflections on Freud's Metaphors"

4:00-6:00 | 'Narrating the Symptom: Pathologized Bodies and Narrative Control' Moderator: Heather Love

Benjy Kahan: "The Walk-in Closet: Sexology, Etiology, and Situational Homosexuality in Lillian Hellman's The Children's Hour"

Paul Saint-Amour: "Cicely Hamilton: Untimeliness and Air War"

Pamela Thurschwell: "Adolescent Time"