May 11 2023


10:00 am - 11:30 am


Department of Comparative Literature

Department of Comparative Literature

To the Collector Belong the Spoils: Modernism and the Art of Appropriation

Annie Pfeifer
, Assistant Professor, Department of Germanic Languages, Columbia University


Beth Harper, Assistant Professor, Department of Comparative Literature, HKU


Alvin K. Wong, Assistant Professor, Department of Comparative Literature, HKU

Date: Thursday, May 11, 2023
Time: 10:00 am Hong Kong Time (10:00 pm/May 10, New York)
Venue: On Zoom

All are welcome. Registration is required.

“To the Collector Belong the Spoils” rethinks collecting as an artistic, revolutionary, and appropriative modernist practice, which flourishes beyond institutions like museums or archives. Positing a shadow history of modernism rooted in collecting and hoarding, this book traces the movement’s artistic innovation to its preoccupation with appropriating and rewriting the past. By despoiling and decontextualizing the work of others, modernist authors like Henry James and Walter Benjamin engaged in a form of creative plunder that evokes collecting’s long history in the spoils of war and conquest. An apt figure for modernity, the collector is caught between preservation and transformation, order and chaos, the past and the future.

Annie Pfeifer is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Germanic Languages at Columbia University. Her first monograph, “To the Collector Belong the Spoils: Modernism and the Art of Appropriation,” was published by Cornell University Press in February 2023. She edited “Walk I absolutely Must,” a 2019 collection of essays on Robert Walser and the culture of walking. Her articles have appeared in “The New German Critique,” “German Life and Letters,” “The Germanic Review,” the “Los Angeles Review of Books” (LARB) as well as the opinion section of “The New York Times.

Enquiries: Georgina Challen –


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