I grew up in Toronto, but having lived on the west coast for the last five years, for me, one of the highlights of this year’s Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (CSECS-SCEDHS) conference was the chance to see snow! The conference was held in Kingston, Ontario, from October 26–30, 2016, and was sponsored by Queen’s University and the Royal Military College of Canada. I watched the weather change from sunny and clear to grey and snowy on the train from Toronto to Kingston, and the stormy skies in Kingston were a fitting backdrop for the conference’s theme of Secret/s & Surveillance.
Saturday’s tweets about NASSR 2016 via Storify
Saturday at NASSR was a marathon day for me, starting with an 8:30 am seminar run by the brilliant Mary Favret. Cheekily titled “Affect: Enough Already!” the seminar examined the role affect studies has played in the field. Among other questions, Favret asked: What has a focus on affect taught us to see? What has it taught us not to see? What are the historical conditions (academic, political, socioeconomic) that have promoted the study of affect, and to what ends?
Over the course of the two-hour seminar, we grappled with the always difficult question of how different affect authorities (eg: Baruch Spinoza, Sylvan Tompkins, or Adam Smith) shape our understanding of what “affect” even means. Among other topics, we discussed the relationship of affect to excess, and the possibility of recycling or recuperating affective excesses. We also pondered the sometimes problematic ways affect gets attached to questions of freedom – freedom of individual feeling in particular – and the tacit assumption that affect has positive connotations, while “ideas” tend to be viewed negatively. And we addressed the way affect’s mobility can (sometimes troublingly) erase distinctions, as well as affect’s tendency to take material or embodied form, even as we often insist on its immateriality. We also asked how and why affect gets deployed, both in the literature we study, and in our own literary analysis.
Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the annual conference of the Canadian Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (CSECS), which was held from October 14–17 in Vancouver, BC. The theme of the conferences was “States of the Book.”
We would all agree that conferences are an essential part of the job of academic. However, I’ve recently discovered firsthand that fulfilling this part of our job is extremely difficult for those scholars and graduate students who have disabilities, in ways that are often overlooked – not out of malice, but out of a lack of understanding or foresight. On a recent trip to two conferences in the span of two weeks, I encountered many of the obstacles I’m referring to while using my wheelchair to try to navigate the conference atmosphere. I’d like to share these obstacles in the hope of promoting more foresight and more activism for the rights of disabled conference attendees. Since my disability is largely related to mobility, that is my focus here, although I hope that more conversation can occur about sensitivity and accessibility for all disabled scholars. As a part of our job, we shouldn’t struggle as much as we do to engage with these events, and I hope to encourage those who notice some of these issues at conferences you attend to speak to organizers about promoting accessibility.
I haven’t been to too many conferences yet, but I imagine that blithe comments about necrophilia and incest are relatively rare, and them being met with easy laughter is rarer still. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised that this happened at the conference of the International Gothic Association (IGA), but I didn’t expect the atmosphere to be so lighthearted. That’s not to say that there wasn’t serious scholarship happening; to the contrary, the amount of fascinating research presented on everything from Shakespeare to Supernatural was a little overwhelming.
June 18, 2015 marked the two-hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, that decisive event that signaled the end of the Napoleonic Wars and, more broadly, constant military conflict on the European continent since 1756. Notable not only for Napoleon’s defeat by the combined forces of England, Prussia, and the Netherlands under the command of the Duke of Wellington and the Prince of Orange, Waterloo remains one of the bloodiest military conflicts in history with nearly 48,000 causalities in only ten hours. Yet, even more than a political turning point, Waterloo left an inedible mark on the period’s cultural productions; as graduate students studying Romanticism, we remember the battle in terms of the massive literary and artistic output it inspired. From Wordsworth’s “Thanksgiving Ode” to a theatrical production at Sadler’s Wells that included the song ‘The Bellerophon, or Nappy napped,'” Waterloo became a permanent fixture in Europe’s cultural memory. Continue reading Report from the Front: Professor Jeffrey N. Cox on the Waterloo Bicentennial
I love conferences; I might even call myself a conference junkie. I’ve been to about a dozen of them in my academic life, and I’ve enjoyed pretty much every single one: visiting new places, staying in hotels, meeting the same people over and over, getting conference food and coffee and drinks and swag… not to mention attending panels and getting feedback on my work. It’s all my favorite part of being an academic.
But, I will never look at a conference the same way again after co-organizing our department’s first Annual Literature and Social Justice Grad Conference. I have a new appreciation for all of the stuff I love about conferences, which is painstakingly planned by people behind the scenes, people who usually don’t even get to participate in much of the conference once it happens. After almost two semesters of planning and a successful final product last weekend, here is my guide to organizing a conference.
Geology is ever-present and abundant in the most expansive and also the most microscopic ways. I’ve been asked to serve on a panel next month at Southern Graphics Council International with three other printmakers who also incorporate geology as major themes in their work, and I’ve used this post as a research opportunity to develop my opening remarks. There are many ways that we use the history of the earth, rocks, and the crisis of the Anthropocene to make artistic statements. Some artists approach the work through the realm of the story teller. Others realize that our societal and economic structures depend on geological resources. Still others are interested in the multitude of phenomena that shape our world to create the landscapes we see before us. In all these ways we become thinkers that overlap artistic training with scientific thought and experimentation.
Hello and happy summer! Since I last blogged, I passed my Ph.D. comprehensive exams and spent two weeks in England. I presented at the Keats and his Circle conference along with my fellow blogger, Arden Hegele, and of course the conference was everything a Keatsian (or Romanticist) could wish it to be. Our weekend at Wentworth Place came complete with three days of really smart and innovative Keats studies, phenomenal featured lectures, and a “Keats walk” through Hampstead. But what I will talk about today is what I learned in the week after the conference. Continue reading Archival Research: The Poetic Personalities Of Keats And His Circle
I’m on the train, heading in the direction of Germany, with Lake Neuchâtel slipping by in gray-blue early morning light. The experience of “Romantic Prospects” has been saturated by landscape. From the window of our student housing accommodation each morning the Swiss Alps marched sharply around the lake, appearing to advance and retreat with the shimmering heat. Last night at the closing dinner, held at the picturesque house in which once Rousseau lived, rows of verdant grapevines crawl up steep slopes and crumbling stone-walls demarcate historical pathways. I watched swallows like scraps of silver wheel in flight.
I won’t pretend that this is a comprehensive overview of the conference because in actual fact it’s quite personal and particular. I attended many sessions, and I even chaired one for the first time. Of the sessions I attended, the conversations, debates and experiences I had, and the people I met, the very best part was prospective: thinking about a future filled with more conversation, debate, learning, language and poetry. A romantic prospect, to be sure.
Best represented at NASSR 2012 were the fields Digital Humanities, Book History, and German Romanticism, though it seemed the most popular sessions were DH and Book History. Beginning with the DH Workshop on the first day, the idea of books containing “data” (words) to be text-mined and topic-modeled took hold of many of our imaginations. The general mood about DH seemed both skeptical and intrigued, with many scholars having already implemented these fairly new (to the study of the humanities, anyway) technologies in their research.
DH also has major pedagogical implications. Using DH as a teaching tool, according to Neil Fraistat, “won’t be optional in the next 10-15 years.” Probably sooner, I’d say, as class blogs become more commonplace and Franco Moretti’s Graphs, Maps and Trees (required reading) has launched a generation of graduate students interested in “distant reading.”
The words “Book History” appeared in the title of three different sessions and the topic was a major theme in many more. From a special session organized by Alex Dick and Nicholas Halmi about “Textual Prospects: Poetry, Bibliography, and Book History,” to the “Prospects for Book History” panels 1 and 2, and evident in panels on Media Studies, “Varieties of the Novel,” and Genre Theory, the study of books as historical objects has truly permeated Romantic scholarship. Taken over, perhaps. I was interested to see how the broadening of the definition of “books” has lead to the inclusion of scrapbooks, collections of letters, keepsakes and “Books in Pieces” as Michael Macovski puts it, under the auspices of Book History. Thus the physical manipulation of books (with scissors, as Deirdre Lynch illustrated) played an important role in this conference, by providing insight into the Romantic-era readers, writers, and literary participants.
Books as nooks took center stage after Robert Darnton’s plenary lecture, “Blogging: Now and Then,” in which he illustrated the ways in which scraps of information embed themselves in the cracks and crannies opened up by communications technologies. Darnton described how printed information in the early modern and Romantic periods created places to organize their fragmentary materials—such as in the tell-all books about public figures’ private lives, in early newspapers, and in the scandalous dailies. You can read my live-blogging during the reactions and responses seminar to Darnton’s lecture HERE.
German Romanticism was also represented in multiple specific sessions. My own special research interest, the poetry of Friedrich Hölderlin, got more attention than is usual in North American conferences and in fact, the special session on Hölderlins Ströme (Hölderlin’s Rivers), organized by the Bernhard Böschenstein was completely German-language. I don’t know if non-English panels have been done before at NASSR, but it was a fitting addition to the conference’s Swiss iteration. In addition, on the panel I chaired, I very much enjoyed Elena Pnevmonidou’s paper on Hölderlin’s Hyperion and questions of language, landscape and the body.
Overall, the two academic experiences that stood out for me at NASSR 2012 were the “Romantic Media Studies” session and Thomas Pfau’s seminar “After Sentimentalism: Liberalism and the Discontents of Modern Autonomy.”
For “Romantic Media Studies,” Lauren Neefe from SUNY Stony Brook read her paper “General Indistressible: Towards a Theory of Romantic Epistolarity,” with charm, panache and sharp insight. Her paper was fascinating and her dissertation sounds even more so. Yohei Igarashi from Colgate University discussed DH pedagogies alongside ideas of Romantic perception in his timely presentation, and Celeste Langan brought an inspired reading of the efficacy of news reports in her paper “The Future of Propaganda.” This session stood out for me because it both recognized the materiality of books (in the broad sense described above) and treated texts as particular sites for close reading and critique. I found Lauren’s characterization of Coleridge’s letter to himself in the Biographica Literaria to be unique as well as creative of openings in which more questions, more avenues for investigation, and more texts to read and re-read arose. I have so many excitedly scribbled notes from that session.
Thomas Pfau’s special session was so necessary and deserves the highest praise. It was totally en point, the kind of session that is a call for change, a meta-analysis of the state not only of Romantic scholarship but of our most pressing current philosophical and political issues, and that makes a strong argument for more wide-ranging, philosophically-sophisticated and responsible. To complain of Romantic scholarship’s irrelevance to practical contemporary concerns is not to have read Pfau.
The sun is now past noon. We’ve already sped through the Black Forest and the landscape is flattening out, dotted with farms and polka-dot Austrian flower boxes. I’m left with a feeling of satisfaction and fatigue, as well as a deep gratitude for the conference organizers, Angela Esterhammer of the University of Zürich (soon to be of the University of Toronto) and Patrick Vincent of the University of Neuchâtel. Merci beaucoup, Vielen Dank, and thanks.