So, this is the last of my 2016 conference japes (read about the others on the #conferences tag).
The schedule put together by Arizona State University was wildly full, and although the theme of the conference was ‘Social Victorians’, there were a number of other interweaving strands to follow.
I moderated one of the opening panels, on ‘Ways of Seeing’. Presentations covered forms of mediated sight and the social function of seeing in non-fiction (Sari Carter‘s paper on Ruskin’s Fors Clavigera), novels (Jayda Coons‘ paper on Dickens’ Little Dorrit and Megan Hansen‘s paper on Collins’ Poor Miss Finch), and in galleries themselves (in Linda Shires‘ paper on the National Gallery).
After that, I mostly kept my panel attendances focused either on my thesis research or my digital humanities alt-ac writing project (*cough* NaNoWriMo *cough*). One of the threads that I followed was on hauntings and ghosts, as that speaks to my research into Vernon Lee and Wilde in particular (Lee Week to come next week!). The panels that I made it to along that theme included topics such as The Social Ghost & Occult Sociability (Roger Luckhurst, Nicholas Daly and Christine Ferguson), Haunted Victorians (Aviva Briefel, Elaine Auyoung, and Jonah Siegel), and Monstrous Victorians (Emily Zarka, Shannon Zellars-Strohl, Elizabeth Macaluso, and Terra Joseph).
Other themes included a focus on forms and formalism, and issues of materiality. I made it to a panel about Poetry’s Sociable Forms (Elizabeth Helsinger, Naomi Levine, and Erin Nerstad), as well as about Materiality and Modernity in Tennyson’s Idylls of the King (Allen MacDuffie, Amanpal Garcha, and Claire Jarvis).
A number of the panels that I attended included presentations by people affiliated with the V21 Collective. In particular, I had a great time at the Rethinking Ideology panel (Zachary Samalin, Nasser Mufti, and Nathan Hensley, whose paper at the Swinburne conference I also really enjoyed!). Although Marx, Engels and Althusser are not my usual bedfellows, it was a nice change of pace, and really thought-provoking. I particularly enjoyed Hensley’s focus on the critical langauge of past scholarship. Analysing our own metaphors and lexical/stylistic choices helps to draw out the (deliberately or unintentionally) hidden elements of our scholarship.
I didn’t take part in the professionalisation workshop, in part because of the additional cost, but also because I feel like as an experienced professional already, albeit in a different field, I would be taking the space of someone else who might get a lot more out of it. I did take part in one of the mentoring lunches, though, about completing a first book, which was interesting and professionally and practically very relevant! There is a real role for conferences in tackling these professional topics at all levels, so it was good to see NAVSA grasping that opportunity.