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This conference investigates the wide cultural and aesthetic reach of pragmatist thought in the early twentieth century. From the experimental art practices at Black Mountain College to social scientific techniques in the New Negro Movement, from the formation of the “history of ideas” and literary studies as academic disciplines to modernist poetic practice and the social thought of W. E. B. Du Bois, pragmatism played a profound yet understudied role in the styles and institutions of U.S. culture. Using the rubric of the “culture of experience,” we hope to expand the understanding of what pragmatism was—as a philosophy, as a set of cultural tendencies, as a network of institutions and people—and how it helped to define the production and reception of modern U.S. literature.



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Keynote Speakers

Joan Richardson HeadshotJoan Richardson is Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the CUNY Graduate Center. She is the author of Pragmatism and American Experience: An Introduction (Cambridge 2014), A Natural History of Pragmatism: The Fact of Feeling from Jonathan Edwards to Gertrude Stein (Cambridge 2007), and a two-volume biography of Wallace Stevens (Beech Tree Books, 1986 and 1988).




Livingston 400x400James Livingston is Professor of History at Rutgers, New Brunswick. He is the author of many books, including Pragmatism, Feminism, and Democracy: Rethinking the Politics of American History (Routledge 2001), Pragmatism and the Political Economy of Cultural Revolution, 1850-1940 (UNC 1994), The World Turned Inside Out: American Thought and Culture at the End of the 20th Century (Rowman & Littlefield, 2009), and No More Work: Why Full Employment Is a Bad Idea (UNC 2016).




Conference Schedule


Thursday, March 2

4:15-4:30pm | Introduction (Nick Gaskill and Jeffrey Lawrence)


4:30-6:10pm | Panel 1: Bodies and Culture

♦ Patrick Redding (Manhattanville College) - "The Egalitarian Sensorium"

♦ Hannah Wells (Drew University) - "Du Bois's Bones: Pragmatism, Race, and the Black Body"

♦ Brad Evans (Rutgers) - "Can Pragmatism Support a Concept of Culture?"

 Respondent: Steven Mailloux (Loyola Marymount)


6:10 - 6:20pm | Break


6:20 - 7:30pm | Keynote 1

 Joan Richardson (CUNY) - "'E Pluribus Unum' and 'In God We Trust'"


7:30 - 9:00pm | Dinner


Friday, March 3


9:30 - 10:10am | Coffee


10:10 - 11:50am | Panel 2: Pragmatism's Institutions

♦ Lisi Schoenbach (University of Tennessee at Knoxville) - “Chances, Mischances, Lost Chances: Contingency, the Literary, and Du Bois’s Institutionalism”

♦ Kate Stanley (University of Western Ontario) - “Pragmatism and Pedagogy”

♦ Steven Meyer (Washington University), "Caveat Lector: Jamesian Pragmatism and the History of the History of Ideas"

Respondent: Casey Nelson Blake (Columbia)


11:50 - 12:50pm | Lunch


12:50 - 2:30pm | Panel 3: Pragmatism and Criticism

♦ Dora Zhang (University of California at Berkeley) - “Pragmatism, Modernism, Suspicion” 

♦ Jude Webre (Columbia University) - “Contact vs. Culture: Kenneth Burke’s Path from Symbolism to Radical Democracy”

♦ Kristen Case (University of Maine at Farmington) - “‘Whimsies and Crochets’: Pragmatism, Poetry, and Literary Criticism’s Founding Gestures”

 Respondent: Ross Posnock (Columbia)


2:30 - 2:50pm | Coffee Break


2:50 - 4:30pm | Panel 4: Pragmatism in Harlem

♦ Jay Garcia (NYU) - “Alain Locke and Social Thinking” 

♦ John Lowney (St. Johns University) - “Langston Hughes, Jazz Performance, and New Negro Pragmatism”

♦ Autumn Womack (University of Pittsburgh) - “Black Literary Expression and the U.S. Social Survey Movement”

 Respondent: Cheryl Wall (Rutgers)


4:30 - 4:50pm | Coffee Break


4:50 - 6:00pm | Keynote 2

James Livingston (Rutgers) - “The Intellectual Earthquake: A Global History of Pragmatism, 1898-1948"


6:00 - 6:20pm | Closing Remarks


6:20 - 7:30pm | Reception



Alexander Library Teleconference Lecture Hall
169 College Ave
New Brunswick, NJ 08901



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