What is the Modern? Temporality, Aesthetics, and Global Melancholy (Video)


This talk from TORCH Global South Visiting Professor Supriya Chaudhuri interrogates the temporality of the modern, the aesthetics of the modern, and as a somewhat cryptic afterthought, the mood of the modern, here categorized as melancholy.

But it also asks how this term travels, how it is translated between cultures, and what it means in specific contexts of use.

The terms ‘modern’ and ‘modernity’ are notorious, global itinerants, on the one hand associated with a narrative of power, and on the other with a profoundly asymmetrical reading of history, producing its own internal disjuncture through the tendency of ‘aesthetic modernity’ to deny or refuse history, and to produce a characteristic, melancholic, ‘hollowing-out’ of the world of technological modernization.

How are these terms, and the narratives associated with them, read back in contexts of translation or re-use? Professor Chaudhuri looks at some examples from 19th and 20th century India to examine how the term ‘modern’ is translated, understood, and incorporated into aesthetic and social practice.

Professor Supriya Chaudhuri is Professor Emerita in the Department of English at Jadavpur University, India and specialises in renaissance studies, philosophy and critical theory, Indian cultural history, urban studies, sport, travel, translation and modernism. This talk was given as part of her TORCH Global South Visiting Professorship in 2018.