Leonard Diepeveen

Professor Emeritus

headshot diepeveen

Email: Leonard.Diepeveen@dal.ca
Phone: 902-494-3331
Mailing Address: 
Room 3194, McCain Building, 6135 University Avenue
PO BOX 15000, Halifax, NS B3H 4R2
Research Topics:
  • American literature
  • Modernist literature
  • Textual studies
  • Reception history
  • Visual art and literature
  • Fraud and modernism

Teaching and Research Areas: Anglo-American modernism; contemporary American literature; poetics; reception history; literature and visual art. 

Current Research

Modern Literature and visual art, fraud and Modernism, and reception history.


  • BA (Calvin College)
  • MA, PhD (Illinois)

After writing about the place of difficulty in twentieth century culture, I am turning my attention to fraud. The project, tentatively titled Dubious Modernism, looks at how suspicion worked as an interpretative practice in the creation of modernism. How did suspicions that modernism was a fraud shape the aesthetic landscape of the first half of the twentieth century? This project explores how fraud discourse unleashed some major conceptual battles: 1) a struggle over the place of theory in art, with skeptics arguing that reliance on theory was both banal and an ethical failing; 2) sincerity's nervous place in modern aesthetics; 3) the relationship between mass behaviour and trust in gaining cultural power; and 4) the awkward place of intent in twentieth-century aesthetics. As a companion to this book, 2014 saw the publication of Mock Modernism, an anthology of early twentieth-century parodic interventions into modernism, including hoaxes, doggerel, cartoons, staged trials, mock interviews, parodies in adjacent media (such as futurist fashion shows), and mock manifestos.

My current co-authored projects of art criticism include a recently-published book, Artworld Prestige. This book, co-authored with Timothy van Laar, is about the process of valuation in twentieth-century art. Primarily about the loss of status, the book offers a demonstration of how prestige works, particularly as it disappears, as it eludes one's grasp and one is left behind, as reviews dwindle, curators look elsewhere, work gets deaccessioned. This dispiriting process is larger than the reputations of individual artists: modes of artmaking take a back seat, subject matters become banal, and forms of aesthetic experience lose their luster. A new project, tentatively titled Shiny Things, nervously waits in the wings. It really is about shiny things—or rather, the place of shininess in art and culture.

Selected Publications

  • ed., Tender Buttons, by Gertrude Stein (Broadview, 2017)
  • Mock Modernism: An Anthology of Parodies, Travesties, Frauds; 1910-1935 (Toronto, 2014)
  • Artworld Prestige: Arguing Cultural Value (co-author Timothy van Laar. Oxford, 2013)
  • The Difficulties of Modernism (Routledge, 2003)Mock Modernism: An Anthology of Parodies, Travesties, Frauds; 1910-1935 (Toronto, 2014)
  • Art with a Difference: Looking at Difficult and Unfamiliar Art (co-author Timothy van Laar. Mayfield, 2001)
  • “The Visual Arts,” in A Companion to Modernist Poetry (Wiley-Blackwell, 2014)
  • “Modern Proliferation, Modernist Trust,” in Incredible Modernism - Literature, Trust and Deception (Ashgate, 2013)
  • ”'Taking Literature Seriously:' Essays to 1927,” in The Blackwell Companion to T.S. Eliot (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009)
  • “The Newspaper Response to Tender Buttons, and What It Might Mean,” in Transatlantic Print Culture, 1880-1940, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008)
  • “Learning from Philistines: Suspicion, Refusing to Read, and the Rise of Dubious Modernism,” in New Directions in American Reception Study (Oxford, 2008).


SSHRC Research Grant, 1995-1998, 2005-2008.