American Literature Association (ALA) 2019 Conference Recap

This post was co-authored by Charlene Avallone, Elizabeth Dean, and Christina Katopodis. Photos courtesy of Noelle Baker, and paper abstracts provided by Sonia Di Loreto.

On Thursday, May 23rd, Margaret Fuller Society (MFS) members gathered at the American Literature Association conference in Boston. MFS President Charlene Avallone and MFS Treasurer Noelle Baker delivered papers on the “Recovering the 19th-Century Women’s Rights Movement” panel moderated by Jen McDaneld. Avallone discussed “Laura C. Bullard, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and George Sand in the Nineteenth-Century American Woman’s Movement,” and Baker presented “Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Women’s Reproductive Rights.” A vibrant discussion followed focusing especially on women’s reproductive rights then and now. MFS Website Editor Christina Katopodis presented her fold/unfold pedagogical exercise in “Unfolding Fanny Fern’s Ruth Hall and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘The Birthmark’” on the Hawthorne Society panel. Following the day’s panels, there was a welcome reception in Essex South and a roundtable on “The Old Corner Bookstore; or Why is the Most Important Literary Site in Boston a Fast-Food Court?”

For a more comprehensive list of MFS members who presented on panels and roundtables at ALA, see the list at the end of this post.

On Friday, Mollie Barnes of University of South Carolina Beaufort gave an engaging paper on the panel “Anonymity, Access, Absence: Challenges of Recovering Nineteenth-Century Literature,” titled “Transatlantic Recovery: How Margaret Fuller’s Lost History Teaches Us to Read,” which moved away from Fuller’s own texts to examine the development of Fuller’s mythos and legacy through periodical reports of her death.

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From the session “Winged Sphinxes: MF’s Poetry and Poetics,” left to right: Ariel Silver (MFS member), Joan Wry (former MFS Board), Katie Simon, Thomas Sorensen, and Katie Kornacki (MFS newsletter editor)

The Saturday, May 25th session of the ALA conference featured well-attended back-to-back panels sponsored by the MFS. First Vice President Sonia Di Loreto chaired the first panel sponsored by the MFS, “Margaret Fuller’s Languages.” The papers focused primarily on Fuller’s prolific translation work and the ways these translations fit into her overarching intellectual projects. Board Member Fritz Fleishman presented on “Translating Fuller: The Play of Interpretation.” Brigitte Bailey of University of New Hampshire gave her paper, “Translating Urban Radicalism for the New-York Tribune: Fuller’s Readings of the Deutsche Schnell post,” which connected directly with the attention to Fuller’s interest in German language and philosophy as covered in the paper given by Christina Zwarg (Haverford College), “Glimpsing Goethe’s Corpse: Translating the Now in Fuller’s Eckermann. Chaired by Katie Kornacki, editor of “Conversations,” the panel he second panel also approached Fuller from a formal/generic angle, focusing particularly on her poetry, and was titled “Winged Sphinxes: Margaret Fuller’s Poetry and Poetics.”  The papers were “Fuller and the Flowering a Female God: Male Sacrifice and Female Transfiguration in ‘Raphael’s Deposition from the Cross’’” from Ariel Silver of Claremont Graduate University, “Portals of Transformation: Object Studies in Fuller’s 1844 Poems” by Joan Wry of Saint Michael’s College, “The Vanishing Indian in Margaret Fuller’s ‘Governor Everett Receiving the Indian Chiefs, 1837’” by Thomas Sorensen of University of Western Ontario, and “Fuller’s Hauntological Poetics” by Katie Simon of Georgia College. This panel was followed by a particularly lively conversation regarding the potential intersections of thing theory and Margaret Fuller’s poetry, particularly growing out of Silver’s and Wry’s papers. Read the full abstracts and panel CFPs here.

These two excellent panels were followed by the Margaret Fuller Society’s businesses meeting, for which full notes are available here.

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Phyllis Cole (left), Past President of MFS, and Noelle Baker (right), MFS Treasurer

On Sunday morning a dozen Fullerites–Society members and guests–ended the conference by sharing brunch at Brownstone’s, billed as “a star on Boston’s vibrant culinary scene.”  Thanks to the planning of VP1 Jana Argersinger, we enjoyed good conversation over eggs Benedict and granola. Talk of Fuller ranged over the past and future, as guests included Peter Wiley, whose ancestor John Wiley published (and censored) the author, and members discussed plans and dreams for the next international conference the Society will sponsor, to be co-ordinated by Mollie Barnes. 

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Margaret Fuller Society members at Sunday brunch

Many society members participated in panels and roundtables at the conference, including:

Noelle A. Baker and Sarah Connell (Women Writers Project, Northeastern University), “Mary Moody Emerson’s Almanacks and Women Writers Online: A Casebook on Collaboration”
Mollie Barnes, participant in “Round Table on Today’s Academic Job Market: Strategies and Considerations”
Phyllis Cole, participant in “The Emerson Society at 30: A Roundtable Discussion”
Lucinda Damon-Bach, “Mining Letters for Fictional Purposes”
Elizabeth Dean, “Queer(ed) Kinship and the Sketch: A Genealogy of Political Care in Child and Alcott”
Helen Deese, “The Emerson Society at 30: A Roundtable Discussion”
Len Gougeon, “The Emerson Society at 30: A Roundtable Discussion”
Daniel S. Malachuk, “Settler Colonial Studies and O Pioneers!
Joel Myerson, “The Emerson Society at 30: A Roundtable Discussion”
Sandra Harbert Petrulionis, “’Emerson Seems to Have Arrived’: The Reform Network of Mary Merrick Brooks”
Audrey Raden, “Stowe, Thoreau, and the Vanishing New England Forests”
David Robinson, “The Emerson Society at 30: A Roundtable Discussion”
Ariel Silver, “Stowe and Stanton in Conversation over the Religious Representation of the Female”
Lisa West, “Gothic, Supernatural, or Enchanted Flights in Sedgwick’s Novels”

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