Thinking Ahead to NASSR 2014: “Romantic Organizations”

Library of Congress Reading Room

We’re nearing the end of Spring Semester 2013, which means NASSR 2013 is also near, in August, and NASSR 2014 organizers are already planning away.

The co-organizers of NASSR 2014, Professors Richard C. Sha and Patrick O’Malley, would like our input as to what topics graduate students would like to learn about at this wonderful annual conference for Romanticists. The NASSR 2014 theme is “Romantic Organizations” and it will be held 10-13 July 2014 in Washington, D.C.

Professor Sha tells us “Already, 25 special sessions have been planned with such speakers as Tim Morton, Marjorie Levinson, Tilottama Rajan, Robert Mitchell, Rei Terada, Nora Crook, Julie Carlson, Mark Lussier, Michael Macovski, Orrin Wang, Joel Faflak, Adrianna Craciun, Nick Halmi, Peter Otto, and others.  Co-organizers have invited the NEH to come speak about funding. In addition, The Library of Congress is opening its doors, and will prepare a special exhibit of Romantic items in its collections, including manuscripts of Beethoven, Blake, and from Napoleon’s Egyptian Campaign.”

Professor Sha’s generous email inquiry asks us to respond with a few ideas for the following questions. This is a wonderful opportunity to suggest our research questions and professionalization interests to conference planners.

  1. What topics, related to the conference theme of “Romantic Organizations,” would graduate students most like to see presentations on? In other words: what are we working on that might fit this theme?
  2. If we were to have a special session, what topic might it focus on?
  3. Do you have requests for our annual Caucus-sponsored roundtable event that focuses on professionalization?

Let’s get this conversation started so that we can give co-organizers our responses promptly. Thanks for your input!

10 thoughts on “Thinking Ahead to NASSR 2014: “Romantic Organizations””

  1. Personally and research-wise, i would really like to learn more about scientific organizations during the Romantic period. In a related vein, I would also like to learn about how labor organizations or groups and scientists interacted — I’m thinking of miners and Davy’s mining light as one example. I’m also thinking of the masses of laborers needed to produce scientific tools that were used both for data collection and aesthetic projections.

    Secondly – and in terms of research – I would love to learn about touring organizations and management groups of travelers or tourists.

    For professional topics, I might suggest (and this is a no-brainer for me) how Romanticists are organizing and organized by teh Digital Humanities. DH projects are collaborative by necessity — there’s too much labor and there are too many skill sets required to not be collaborative, generally.

    Other research interests or professional ideas? Thanks!

    1. I’ve spent the last week or so attempting to refine my Romantic collectivities idea, but I’m really taken by your thoughts regarding Romantic-era scientific organizations. In the animal studies avenue, I’m really interested in the way artists like Joseph Wright of Derby are engaging with scientific experimentation on animals during the period. It’s come up a few times in my equestrian research–in unrelated ways–but I think this topic could interestingly cross some disciplines.

      Beyond myself, I’m also wondering what the conceptual relations are between mathematics and science studies in the period, and about what connections there might be from that to Romantic cultural production. I’m betting Aaron might have some thoughts in this regard.

      And of course I’m behind the possibility of a DH professionalization roundtable!

      1. Thanks, Jake. You know who I bet has some ideas related to this? Kurtis Hessel.

  2. Here’s what Kurtis posted as a reply on our FB group: “I was thinking it might be a worthwhile exercise to have an opportunity to consider related but divergent possibilities for expanding/changing/improving academic community. This could function either as a panel or a roundtable, I think, but now that you mention it, it might work best as a roundtable where the audience could participate more directly in the conversation. One dimension of this that seems important is digital community, so we’d likely have an expert who could speak to that. Another that might be fruitful would be someone who might speak about the possibility for increasing the amount of collaborative work/publishing in the humanities. I’ll give it a little more thought and see what comes to mind.”

  3. Any enthusiasm for “unconference” formats, such as an open fishbowl?

    Five chairs are placed in the center of the room, with one chair empty. The audience is seated around the fishbowl. Four assigned speakers begin the conversation. One chair must always be left empty. Anyone from the audience can join the fishbowl, but one of the present speakers must willingly vacate a chair.

    1. Thanks for your comment! I posted it to our Facebook group, as well, and will collect the responses.

      I like the idea of thinking about different formats. I think the fishbowl model would work for regular concurrent panels if the moderator is able to protect a good amount of time after talks for discussion. Perhaps this requires asking for slightly shorter talks or scheduling longer time slots for each concurrent session.

      Another idea borrowed from teaching: During Q&A, have listeners assigned to small groups where each small group responds to a certain speaker. Perhaps the speakers could sit with their group. Bring all of the small groups back together for a short, larger group discussion that shares their discussion with the audience as a whole and enables those in small groups to ask follow-up questions of any speaker (not just the one they were assigned to respond to). This idea also requires a slightly longer discussion period following talks.

      1. I think Kirstyn is identifying a smart trend that we should consider embracing: shorter papers, longer Q&A sessions.

        1. To follow up: at this year’s NASSR, my roundtable session on Moving Pictures, chaired by Sophie Thomas, used the fishbowl model. She protected time after short paper presentations (we each took 7-9 minutes) for panelists to respond to each other’s papers. We also had the benefit of circulating and reading each other’s presentations — sometimes longer versions of the presentation — before our session took place. We responded to each other for a good 10 minutes and then opened the conversation up to general audience members. Panelists had a long of interesting questions and comments for one another! I thought it worked quite well.

  4. I hope there is still time to compile thoughts for the NASSR organizers (is this a self-referential conference or what?!). With respect to organization and romanticism, I think it would be useful for us to reflect on the ways that theories of organization were replacing the dominant view that imitation (mimesis) accounts for how humans learn. While this is not my dissertation topic, in my research I started to see a de-prioritization of imitation as the underlying principle that accounts for how humans know how to do what they do. What is interesting about this shift is that it does not require the eighteenth century physiologist/”psychologist”/or even the poet to abandon what he or she has learned from Aristotle (regarding mimesis); rather, it requires that any rigorous study of Aristotle move the stress from mimesis to organization of events, i.e. plot. From encyclopedias to maps, the eighteenth century is teeming with artifacts that stress the organization of things and ideas; plus, we start to see less “natural” representations of this organized information and more mathematical models. If we are living in an age today that privileges the visualization of information, it would seem that the emphasis on the organization of this information begins with Bacon and takes off in the eighteenth century. Now I’m rambling. So what I’m saying is, how about a panel on “from Imitation to Organization.”

    1. Thanks Aaron! Not too late and a really wonderful idea — thank you. Jake and I have a few more ideas to pull together today and we’ll submit an email response tonight.

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