Stephanie Edwards’ Recap
Day three of the NASSR conference, for me, signaled the beginning of a shift in my conference-going interests. On Friday, I attended the roundtable on Romanticism after Black Lives Matter, a roundtable that I plan to discuss at length in my conference postmortem blog post. What is important in the context of day three, however, is how that roundtable influenced what panels I attended today. I decided this morning that I would attend all (possible) panels that featured a paper on a writer of colour or that dealt with issues of race. This decision not only enriched my overall conference experience but brought forth some of the most engaging papers and Q&A discussions of the week.
The first panel, “The Politics of Life,” looked like it may be off to a rough start, with two out of three panelists unable to attend; however, Deanna Koretsky easily made the panel a standout with her paper “Impossible Life: Equiano’s Black Ecology.” Weaving together the parahuman, sea creatures, and suicide, Koretsky provided a sobering look at Equiano’s narrative. I feel that I cannot adequately summarize Koretsky’s intricate argument nor easily convene the impact that it had on me, at both the personal and scholarly level. However, I can quickly mention one major lesson that I learned, a lesson I will be discussing in greater length in my future post: that, although it may perhaps be met with institutional and collegial resistance, it is crucial for us to start interrogating the work that we do, the definitions of our discipline, and the methodologies we inhabit.
The final panel I attended today brought me the pleasure of hearing Atesede Makonnen’s prize-winning paper, “‘Our Blackamoor or Negro Othello’: Rejecting the Affective Power of Blackness.” Makonnen’s thorough and beautiful takedown of Kant, Coleridge, Hazlitt, and Lamb, in regards to their racist remarks about black affectivity on the stage, may end up being my favourite moment of the conference. Additionally, she, like Koretsky, increased my awareness about racial problems that found their footing during the Romantic era; in this case, the Romantic era birthed the first major occurrence of the whitewashing we are so familiar with in the media today.
Day three ended with a bang in the form of Mary Favret’s elegant, layered, yet accessible keynote on Mary Wollstonecraft and Antigone. Now, I’m off to prepare for day four and my own panel presentation!