Honoring Christina Asquith with MFS Award for Social Service

A Message from MFS Past President Phyllis Cole:

It’s a great pleasure to let Fuller Society members know that on July 9 we presented our triennial Award for Social Service to pioneering journalist and educator Christina Asquith.  The setting was our society dinner party at the American Literature Association meeting, with thirteen of us, including Christina and her ten-year-old daughter Marianna, gathered around a conversational table at Piattini in Boston’s Back Bay. 

The Social Service Award recognizes ”extraordinary achievement in extending the social ideals advanced by Margaret Fuller,” and the award committee realized immediately that this year’s honoree had to be Christina Asquith.  You may remember that in 2018 Megan Marshall offered an interview with Christina in Conversations, which you could access here.  But now we have caught up with her more recent career as well.   

Through the interview we heard about Christina’s amazing work in establishing the Fuller Project for International Reporting, designed to support the investigation of women’s issues around the world.  Christina had personally experienced the difficulty of getting such issues recognized by major press outlets as a freelance reporter in Baghdad and Istanbul in the years after 2003.  A decade later, reading Megan Marshall’s biography of Fuller as she organized this collaborative project was like ”gasoline poured on a simmering fire,” she said, and as a result the project honored Fuller in its official name.    Christina Asquith served as editor-in-chief of the Fuller Project from 2014 to 2020, during which time the organization raised $5 million for its work—with more in the pipeline—and grew incrementally in scale and visibility.  Some of their early stories concerned a Syrian girl who lost her violin and music career in the war, a tragically large number of Russian women murdered through domestic violence, and a Turkish woman with an MBA inheriting her father’s confectionary business.  But Christina also landed a cover story in Time magazine (9-2-2019) about women living less far away, in the “Left Behind Economy” of waitress work for minimum wages in this country.  By 2020 the Fuller Project had become an established part of the international press, and you can see its range of current publications here.   

At this point, however, Christina was ready for a new initiative.  The burgeoning of the Fuller Project, she felt, owed a lot not just to its unfolding in times of #MeToo, Mideast war, and Hillary’s well-publicized campaign.  In addition, a new generation of women around the world was getting educated to use Twitter and the internet and do their own coding.  And so she took on direction of the new Hack Club, an educational initiative to accelerate such literacy, through an alliance of school-based clubs around the world with the most advanced women in tech spaces, from bitcoin to artificial intelligence and space technology.  “I wanted to be part of something radical,” she wrote to me about this in one email.  We live in an internet-driven world; collectively we create a new kind of journalism, with many people rising with skill to tell their own stories. And yes, she assured me, this social justice campaign was equally in the spirit of Margaret Fuller.  Our committee agreed right away!   “Learning to code,” declares the club’s website, “is uniquely like gaining a superpower—turning you from a consumer of technology into a creator.”  

And so the Social Service award recognizes Christina Asquith as both a journalist and an educator.  At the dinner in Boston she was given a carved wooden plaque, as well as a modest donation to the Hack Club and lifetime membership in the Margaret Fuller Society.  To Marianna we gave a book sack with the motto “Let them be sea captains,” courtesy of the website for Peter Reilly’s Fuller documentary.  Christina warmly embraces her membership and hopes to stay in touch as we move forward toward an international conference on “Journaling for Justice.”   

Three years ago the Social Service award was given to me (indeed given my name), recognizing work simply to further the society’s connection with the Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House in Cambridge.  As I hope you know, this was her birth home, not far from Central Square; but since the early twentieth century it has also been a service center for the working, often immigrant and economically struggling, people in its area. I’ve been happy to increase the contact between this place and Fuller’s legacy, including her own calls for justice to the poor. But this year, heading the search for the next recipient of the “Phyllis Cole Award for Social Service,” I have welcomed the opportunity to flip the picture and recognize communications about women around the world. Both are authentic Fuller. Writing to the Tribune from Rome in 1848, she described violence against women in the very midst of revolution as a subject she would take up again “if I live.” Instead, she had to rely on the efforts of others, among whom we’re happy to recognize Christina Asquith and her expanding network. 

Please join me in welcoming Christina to the Margaret Fuller Society. 

Phyllis 

Past President, Margaret Fuller Society 

Growing a Beauteous Art Exhibit

This post was written by Contributing Author Jenessa Kenway, a doctoral student at University of Nevada Las Vegas. Her dissertation work explores links between pastoral and botanical imagery and the expression of feminine consciousness.

I was deeply inspired by a 2018 conference organized by the Society for the Study of American Women Writers (SSAWW). The conference showcased a dazzling array of feminine scholarship and women authors of every rank and file and it was my first time presenting a paper at a conference. SSAWW scholars introduced me to a new realm of the academic world and the interconnected nature of that world. I left with a hurricane of ideas, and two lasting things: friends in the Margaret Fuller Society and the idea for an art exhibit.

I was already interested in Fuller and the visual arts. The essay I presented, “The Visual Genealogy of Margaret Fuller,” explored Fuller’s feminine aesthetics and potential interest in women artists. I owe many thanks to the supportive Fullerites on the panel and in the audience whose friendly presence and support helped calm my nerves.

The Seeds

After my panel, I attended loads of others, one of which­–a roundtable on Louisa May Alcott and the humanities­–stood out from the rest. The presenters all covered innovative strategies for teaching Alcott that were applicable to literature in general. Last to present was Mark Gallagher, who overviewed the exhibition he put together for the UCLA Library for the 150th anniversary of Little Women. His exhibit displayed artifacts from Alcott’s life and showed Alcott’s continuing influence by featuring the work of women writers and leaders who were inspired by the rebellious protagonists of Little Women.

An art exhibit about literature: I was hooked. At the Friday night mixer, Gallagher generously shared with me more about his exhibit, and I began to plan my own.

My background is in visual art. In a former life, I pursued a career as a visual artist, that is until I discovered that I loved writing about art. I’ve come to realize that writing is as much an art form as the plastic arts. While they have their distinctive qualities, text and image share much in common and complement one another.

A literary art exhibit seemed to be the perfect way to merge my past with my present, the world of art with the world of literature. Soon Fuller’s visionary essay, “The Magnolia of Lake Pontchartrain,” became the narrative inspiration for my own exhibit: A Beauteous Tree: Margaret Fuller’s “Femality,” which was open at the Marjorie Barrick Art Museum from May 28 to July 24, 2021. You can take an informal tour of the exhibit here (opens in new window).

I envisioned a hybrid exhibit: text and images nested within a space that is itself a work of art. In the exhibit, a thick green band, like a green scroll or long segments of chalkboard, circumnavigates the entire display space, elevating quotations to the level of paintings. Strategically placed magnolia leaf accents create viewing areas further uniting text and image pairings.

The Roots

The Magnolia tree of Fuller’s story explores the roots of feminine creativity through one of the oldest flowering trees on the planet. The use of a tree offers a means of expressing feminine identity while avoiding the gender indicators of the human body. The idea that feminine expression could occur without a female body, opens the story—and Fuller’s concept of “femality”–to a host of modern gender readings, of which she had never even dreamt, but nevertheless, renews the relevance of her work in our scholarly climate of diversity. This led me to organize the show around the magnolia story and Fuller’s concept of “femality.”

Like Gallagher’s exhibit, I was committed to showing how the literature of the past carries forward, impacting our lives today. I focused on tracking the appearance of Fuller’s concept of “femality” in other feminist texts and then paired these literary manifestations with works of visual art that enhanced the concept, providing a focal point for theory and story.

Thinking about how literature impacts us now makes me think about the different audiences of literature, from casual readers to university students to academic scholars. The format of an art exhibit was a good way to reach those different audiences and bring together different types of readers and find common interests. I think as scholars we don’t want to just be writing and making things for each other. It is important that the work of academia is accessible and has relevance and value to people outside of institutions.

The Fruits

In the wonderful zoom talk that she gave in conjunction with the exhibit, Dr. Christina Katopodis highlighted the benefits of biodiversity and the social and environmental dangers of allowing monocultures to dominate. People, plants, and insects thrive upon biodiversity that encourages, as Katopodis said, “diverse and vibrant” beings. At the 2018 SSAWW conference, within the Margaret Fuller Society, and in the organization of this exhibit, I experienced this vibrant diversity.

Activities during the zoom lecture demonstrated the diversity Katopodis talked about. She gave us three minutes and we each drew a magnolia flower that resulted in a host of floral interpretations that said as much about the one drawing as the flower they were thinking about. Later, we read passages from Fuller’s letters which included brief descriptions of plants such as amaranths, violets, and rose bushes. With each quote, we attempted to express the feelings and visuals of the plant imagery through the positioning of our hands and arms. In each exercise, we creatively expressed our observations. Watch the full lecture here (opens in new window).

For the exhibit, I held a drawing workshop on a Saturday afternoon, in which I talked about Fuller’s magnolia story, my own self-identification with the willow tree, and asked people to think about what they would look like as a tree. After a little hesitation, everyone began drawing. There was a tree with a fluffy bursting top; a long sinuous limbed tree of the savannah; a tree with ceremonial terracotta figures growing upon it, trees with hearts, lines of small trees representing children in front of big parental trees; trees blown by gusting winds.  Each tree was different, and everyone was able to find their own tree self.

The SSAWW conference is, of course, unrivaled feminine diversity. And the smaller circles of SSAWW also demonstrate diversity and interconnection. At a special luncheon, there were tables occupied with an assortment of nineteenth-century literature societies including Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Louisa May Alcott, Margaret Fuller, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, many of whom also have ties with the Emerson and Thoreau societies. While I’m not a member of all of these groups, I am connected through the cross-sharing of CFPs and the general spirit of cooperation. Talking to one another and allowing members to mingle, encourages rich conversation and an interconnected scholarly community.

My initial hazy goal of putting together an art exhibit inspired by Fuller taught me about myself and the kind of scholar I want to be and the positive effect of sharing ideas. The ideas and people I met through today’s vibrant network of scholarship grew into a beautiful art exhibit.

Jenessa Kenway is a Ph.D. candidate in literature at the University of Nevada Las Vegas studying feminine aesthetics and interconnections between art and literature from the 19th century to present. Her essay “Talking with a Magnolia Tree: Margaret Fuller and American Transcendentalism” was published in the 2019 Norton UNLV world literature essay collection, Sing Goddess. Her work tracking beauty and the sublime in Elizabeth Stoddard’s Two Men won the 2020 Brooks-Hudgins award and she was awarded the Dorothy Mae Freischel scholarship for excellence in interdisciplinary scholarship, projects, and classroom instruction methods. Her essay on visual and literary superrealism in the work of Karl Ove Knausgaard was published in 2019 in Penn State’s interdisciplinary journal Soundings. She writes on art and culture for KNPR’s Desert Companion and teaches courses in composition and world literature.Support for the exhibition came from the UNLV Jean Nidetch CARE Center, a Nevada Humanities Project GrantThe National Endowment for the Humanities, and the WESTAF Regional Arts Resilience Fund, a relief grant developed in partnership with The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support arts organizations in the 13-state western region during the COVID-19 pandemic.

19th-Century Women Writers and Archives

Image is an original illustration of the panelists by Jojo Karlin.

At the remote 2021 MLA Annual Convention, and the Margaret Fuller Society is hosted a roundtable on “19th-Century Women Writers and Archives,” presided by Margaret Fuller Society President Sonia Di Loreto. The panel fulfilled its promise to showcase the ongoing work of several scholars undertaking archival research to tell the stories of lesser known women writers and women musicians as well as the exciting digitization projects of several scholars working to publish women’s writing for the general public online.

Women mentioned included Julia Ward Howe, Lydia Maria Child, Edna Dow Cheney, Maria Zakrzewska, Susan Dimock, Caroline Healy Dall, Jane Austen, Mary Elizabeth Lucy, Margaret Fuller, Caroline Sturgis Tappan, and Catharine Maria Sedgwick, among others.

Click on the links below to read the full paper abstracts.

“The Margaret Fuller Society Archive,” Charlene Avallone, Margaret Fuller Society Immediate Past President, Independent Scholar [abstract]

“Digitizing Nineteenth-Century Women’s Writing Using Manifold,” Christina Katopodis, Margaret Fuller Society Advisory Board and Website Manager, The Graduate Center, CUNY [abstract]

“What Nineteenth-Century Women’s Music Collections Can Show Us,” Elizabeth Weybright, The Graduate Center, CUNY [abstract]

“Arcadia in the Archives: The Utopian Imagination of Margaret Fuller’s Conversationalists,” Ariel Silver, Columbus Ohio Institute of Religion [abstract]

“Transcendental Women Losing Their Religion,” David Faflik, University of Rhode Island [abstract]

“Persistence: From the Archives to the Digital Edition–Catharine Maria Sedgwick Online Letters Project,” Lucinda Damon-Bach and Alyssa Carrizales, Salem State University

Margaret Fuller at MLA 2020 in Seattle

On Saturday, January 11, 2020, we gathered at the MLA Convention in Seattle, WA, for a panel on “Margaret Fuller’s Ecologies,” presided by Margaret Fuller Society Vice President, Jana L. Argersinger. Below is the list of presenters and their paper titles.

“The Ecological Spirituality of Margaret Fuller’s Summer on the Lakes
Lucas Nossaman, U of Tennessee, Knoxville

“Traveling West through Womanhood: Indigenous Women and the Landscape of Developmental Time in Fuller’s Summer on the Lakes
E S Dean, Rutgers U, New Brunswick

“From Genial to Daemonic: Margaret Fuller’s Early Theories of Relationality”
William Bond, Northeastern U

Abstracts are available here.

 

Margaret Fuller at ASLE 2019

This post was authored by Guest Contributor and Margaret Fuller Society Member Nanette Hilton.

The 2019 Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment (ASLE) Conference uncannily presaged the November 2018 Camp Fire which destroyed the town of Paradise, California. The unsettling “resonance” between the conference theme, “Paradise On Fire,” and the affected California host communities prompted planners to issue an October 31, 2018 explanation that “the title was intended to be metaphorical” and drew “from the long literary imagining of California as another world” (ASLE).

June 26th through 30th, 2019 conference attendees came together to mourn “the loss of life, home and habitat in that fire” as a group “dedicated to grappling with difficult, long-term and often irresolvable issues,” not just in present-day California but since the Anthropocene’s impact on the global environment. Such exigencies were familiar to Margaret Fuller who likewise struggled to make sense of challenging concerns.

For this reason, Nanette Hilton organized an ASLE panel entitled “Margaret Fuller: Preserving Paradise in the 19th Century” in which she asked how Fuller champions, appropriates, and interacts with ecology in her texts? To what end, then and now? In what ways might Fuller’s personal struggles, or the struggles of those she represents in her texts, mirror socio-ecological struggles, past and present? Is Fuller’s a universal or microcosmic ecological awareness? How does Fuller resist or cross metaphorical or literal boundaries and in what ways might this impact Earth’s environment? The panel explored how Fuller was on the vanguard of form and genre hybridization and how she championed inclusivity long before it was politically correct. The panel hoped to mine the ecocriticism of Fuller’s heterogeneous works for models of rhetorical strategy as patterns for us, nearly two centuries later, in our efforts to preserve Paradise.

The response to this call for papers gave heartening evidence that Margaret Fuller is taking a front seat in literary studies, even in environmental humanities. Ultimately, four papers were chosen to be presented, including:

  • “The Book to the Reader”: Affect and Bioregion in Summer on the Lakes, by Jake McGinnis of University of Notre Dame;
  • Amalgamation of Sensibilities: Margaret Fuller Prophesying Paradise, by Nanette Hilton of University of Nevada, Las Vegas;
  • Ecology, Difference, and Boundary-Crossing, by Emily York of James Madison University; and
  • Troubling Paradise: Racialized Violence in Margaret Fuller’s Summer on the Lakes, by Katie Simon of Georgia College.

By coincidence, all four panelists centered their papers on Fuller’s Summer on the Lakes (Summer) to create a serendipitously cohesive analysis of her text.

Jake McGinnis observed how Fuller’s personal anxieties were juxtaposed with “the environmental, social, and gender crises that shaped the frontier of 1843” and provide a “crucially important model for our own processes of working through the growing problems of American regionality—from the urban/rural political divide to brain drain and pervasive gender inequality.”

Nanette Hilton focused on Fuller’s rhetorical choices in creating a mash-up of genres thereby foregrounding what feminist theorists today term Invitational Rhetoric which advances “equality, immanent value, and self-determination” amongst actors, human and nonhuman. Hilton explicated the first two poems in Summer, providing proof that Fuller invites her readers to participate in preserving Paradise.

Emily York provided an auto-ethnographic account of her re-engagement with Fuller’s work nearly twenty years after writing her BA thesis on Fuller. She explained her “current efforts to reflexively reconsider Science and Technology Studies” with the aim to cross “boundaries of discipline and genre” to “build solidarity toward a socially and ecologically inclusive future.”

Katie Simon discussed how Fuller “encounters a landscape haunted with racialized violence” and through her “hybrid forms and textual assemblages” created a model for us to “engage with both nonhuman nature, and humans who have been ghosted from the category of the human” to “appreciate its sublime effects.”

The session enjoyed an audience of about twenty people. After the session, the panelists and their guests got better acquainted and continued their conversation over a marvelous dinner at Seasons restaurant.

In keeping with the prescient nature of ASLE’s conference theme, it was unanimously agreed that Fuller foreshadowed in Summer rhetorical strategies for confronting the ecojustice challenges we face today and prophesied a future wherein all actors have a voice in preserving Paradise.

______________________________________________________________________________

Works Cited:

ASLE. asle.org/stay-informed/asle-news/2019-conference-call-papers/

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”

Updating Margaret Fuller’s Wikipedia Article in an Ongoing Edit-a-Thon

This post was written by Website Manager and contributing author, Christina Katopodis.

On February 28, 2019, Wikipedians new and old, expert and novice, met at The Graduate Center, CUNY, for “Revolutionizing Wikipedia: A Queer and Feminist Edit-a-Thon,” organized by Christina Katopodis. The event was sponsored by the Futures Initiative, GC Digital Initiatives, Teaching and Learning Center, and HASTAC at The Graduate Center, CUNY, as well as Wikimedia NYC.

The idea behind the event was to support greater inclusion in Wikipedia editing both in terms of who contributes, and in terms of what topics are covered. Currently, Wikipedia contributors are overwhelmingly male—about 90 percent. Only nine percent of Wikipedia editors surveyed in 2018 by the Wikimedia Foundation identified as “female,” and only one percent identified as “other.” Who contributes has a major impact on the topics and people considered noteworthy—so join us as we expand the range of both voices and subject matter.

In the first hour of the event, Megan Wacha from Wikimedia NYC led a workshop on Wikipedia, how to edit articles, and best practices for contributing to the Wikipedia community. In case you missed it, I made a slide deck that goes over the basics to help you get started.

After the workshop, we drank coffee, ate lunch and snacks, and worked on Wikipedia articles. Katie Kornacki, who edits the Conversations newsletter with Mollie Barnes, and I realized that Caroline Sturgis, Fuller’s friend and fellow Transcendentalist, didn’t have a Wikipedia article in English so I created my first new Wikipedia article from scratch. If you have updates or additions you would like to make, please contact me directly at ckatopodis [at] gradcenter [dot] cuny [dot] edu.

rev-wikipediaMore than 20 editors participated in our edit-a-thon, editing 18 articles and creating two new ones in the last 24 hours, and adding 1.76K words to Wikipedia. A total of 116 edits have been made thus far, and we look forward to seeing the impact these editors make in Wikipedia over time. Yes, we are still editing! Even if you couldn’t make it, take a look at our slide decks, set yourself up on Wikipedia, pick a stub article, and start editing!

Using what we learned from Megan Wacha and this edit-a-thon, we continue to edit and update Margaret Fuller’s Wikipedia article. Since Wikipedia is open to public editing, crowd-sourcing information about authors like Fuller, it’s important that we continue this work. While the article was already in good shape when we started, there were some parts of it that needed updating to really reflect Margaret Fuller’s intellectual contributions (e.g., her translations of Goethe, her Conversations with a capital “C”). Take a look at the article and contribute! Or, drop me a line at the email address above for help editing Wikipedia articles.

Margaret Fuller Society Panel at MLA 2019

Women at Work: Margaret Fuller and Nineteenth-Century Women Writers on Work

Saturday, Jan 5, 2019

This session, organized by Sonia Di Loreto and presided by Jana L. Argersinger, explored Margaret Fuller’s relation to and representations of labor from multiple perspectives, including the ways in which Margaret Fuller and other 19th c. women writers considered, debated, practiced, and critiqued labor.

Aimee Allard presented a paper focused on the labor of sewing, specifically the role of sewing within the asylum. Sewing was a tedious task designed to keep women busy, a punishment for women patients “who dared to read or write, and a system of unpaid labor from which unscrupulous asylum superintendents profited.” Allard writes, “For Fuller, sewing was a form of cloth confinement, so it seems only fitting that [Elizabeth] Packard and her contemporaries aligned needlework with straitjackets and fabric restraints.”

Hediye Özkan discussed how Lillie Devereux Blake approached issues faced by women in the nineteenth century in Fettered for Life or Master and Lord
(1874), “by using woman-slave analogy not only in a capitalist but also patriarchal society to reconstruct work, womanhood, and marriage.”

Jessica Horvath Williams approached nineteenth-century women’s labor through disability studies, examining journal entries related to the strenuous labor of nineteenth-century housework. In her paper she interrogated the impossible standard of the Colonial Good Wife, and asked what we mean when we apply the words “disabled” and “frail” to women in the nineteenth century.

Click here to read the full abstracts.

Presider

Jana L. Argersinger, Washington State U, Pullman

Presentations

‘Sent to the Sewing Room, and Compelled to Work’: Institutionalized Women’s Labor in Nineteenth-Century American Hospitals for the Insane

Aimee Allard, U of Nebraska, Lincoln

Solidarity across Classes and Women’s Labor

Hediye Özkan, Indiana U of Pennsylvania

The Disabled Superwoman: Disabling Domestic Labor in Mary Wilkins Freeman’s ‘Luella Miller’ and Elizabeth Stuart Phelps’s ‘No News’

Jessica Horvath Williams, U of California, Los Angeles

 

On the eve of the Margaret Fuller Society panel, Fullerites gathered in Chicago to have dinner together and discuss their research and their presentations at MLA.

fuller society dinner mla 2019
Photos courtesy of Jana L. Argersinger

SSAWW 2018 Conference Recap

This post was written by Margaret Fuller Society President Charlene Avallone, who also provided the photos from the event.

Margaret Fuller was very much in evidence at the 2018 Triennial Conference of the Society for the Study of American Women Writers in Denver (November 7-11), and the participation of Society members there was gratifying. The richly rewarding gathering around the conference’s timely thematics of “Resistance and Recovery across the Americas,” afforded many highlights.

The stimulating session on Thursday spoke to the conferences themes, while it both answered to the Society’s initiative of promoting attention to Fuller in the company of other women writers and extended genealogical excavation to include a male (proto)feminist and nineteenth-century women artists. Moderator and Past-President Phyllis Cole’s introduction linked the panel to the varied and complex models of relation alternative to lineal genealogy that are discussed in the essay collection that she edited with Second Vice President Jana Argersinger: Toward a Female Genealogy of Transcendentalism (University of Georgia Press, 2014). Fritz Fleischmann, speaking on “Margaret Fuller and John Neal,” expanded recovery of the nineteenth-century dialogue between women and men as they attempted to work their way out of patriarchal structures of thought toward expanded ideas of “woman” and women’s rights. Etta Madden, in “Genealogies of Translation: Fuller, de Staël and Caroline Crane Marsh, “explored direct influences among these three women as they found travel and translation means of crossing boundaries of nation, language, and culture to arrive at new knowledge and self-transformation. Yoshiko Ito’s paper, “Looking for Transpacific Genealogy in Early Feminism: A Study on the Analogy between Margaret Fuller and Ume Tsuda,” reflected on a serendipitous newspaper juxtaposition to present a critical model of how inspiration can travel across cultures even without direct influence. Janessa Kenway opened a largely uncharted topic in Fuller Studies with “The Visual Genealogy of Margaret Fuller” as she began to map Fuller’s Transcendentalist aesthetic beyond her own appreciation of contemporary artists to recover nineteenth-century female painters and sculptors of the ideal. Read the paper abstracts here.

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Phyllis Cole, Jenessa Kenway, Yoshiko Ito, Etta Madden, and Fritz Fleischmann

Fuller received attention at other panels, too. In the session “Resisting The Canonical Syllabus,” Lesli Vollrath’s talk, “Voices of Resistance Unfolding: Teaching Margaret Fuller as a Nasty Woman in Woman in the Nineteenth Century,” advanced the Society’s other current initiative, to promote the teaching of Fuller. And Sarah Salter presented “Margaret Fuller’s Italian Regionalism” at the session “Regionalism Beyond Fiction:  Women’s Resistance Across Periodical Forms.”

Additionally, the conference brought together Society members who spoke on a variety of other writers at other sessions: Treasurer Noelle Baker (Elizabeth Cady Stanton), Mollie Barnes (Charlotte Forten), Kate Culkin (Harriet Hosmer), Advisory Board Member Lucinda Damon-Bach (Anna Jameson and Catharine Sedgwick), Elizabeth Dean (Nella Larson), Mark Gallagher (Louisa May Alcott), Denise Kohn (Laura C. Bullard), Ariel Silver (Alcott), Lisa West (Sedgwick), and President Charlene Avallone (Bullard, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and George Sand). More details on the presentations can be found in the draft program of the conference. Mollie also volunteered her services at the (very early morning) CV Workshop to help graduate students and others polish their credentials for the job market.

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MFS members at the dinner organized by Noelle Baker

The Society hosted two well-attended social events on Friday. The afternoon tea, a collaborative event with the Sedgwick and Stowe societies, was organized by Jana Argersinger, Noelle Baker, Cindy Damon-Bach, and Beth Lueck (Past President, Harriet Beecher Stowe Society), with the adept direction of Jordan Von Cannon (VP of Publications for SSAWW). In addition to tasty pastries, the tea provided an occasion for new MFS members to introduce themselves and their work in a conversational setting and for all members to engage with scholars studying other American women writers. A hearty welcome to new members who joined the Society around the Conference: Kate Culkin, Elizabeth Dean, Jenessa Kenway, Etta Madden, and Lisa West. Noelle also arranged the dinner that spirited Society members away from the tourist district to experience something of a Denver neighborhood, as well as a delectable meal, at the Mexican restaurant El Jefe. Dinner offered further opportunity for that favorite discourse of Fullerites–conversation.

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Phyllis Cole being recognized for her award

The following day, a standing ovation from a packed ballroom at the conference Awards Luncheon welcomed Phyllis Cole to the podium to accept the Karen Dandurand Lifetime Achievement Award. The award, given every three years, recognizes committed and extended work that has furthered the goals of SSAWW “to support and broaden knowledge among academics as well as the general public about American women writers.” The award speech, delivered by Jana Argersinger, acknowledged the many dimensions of Phyllis’s outstanding career: her extraordinary teaching, public speaking, publishing, groundbreaking research on women writers, service, mentoring, and community-building. (Read the nomination letter here.) No applause was more heartfelt than as Phyllis was honored for “her passion for shaping, encouraging, and inspiring the next generation of readers, thinkers, and scholars that makes Dr. Cole such as strong role model for us all.”

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Noelle Baker, Mollie Barnes, Phyllis Cole at the tea co-sponsored with the Catharine Maria Sedgwick Society and the Harriet Beecher Stowe Society

In her acceptance speech, Phyllis invoked Fuller, too, as a model, a “model of resistance” for today in calling the women of her country to bring their “moral power” to protest the martial nationalism that was transpiring at the Mexican border in 1844.  One conference participant, following up on the conversation at a panel sponsored by the Lydia Maria Child Society, shared a practical model of such protest for teachers to post on a syllabus: “As an educator, I fully support the rights of undocumented students to an education and to live free from the fear of deportation. I pledge confidentiality to any student who wishes to disclose their immigration status, and I will work with students who require immigration-related accommodations.” The syllabus also included a web address for contacting the state’s New Mexico Dream Team.

Many left Denver remarking on the inspiration, energy, and inclusion that characterize the SSAWW Triennial and already looking forward to the next conference in Philadelphia in 2021.

Heidelberg Conference Recap

This post was written by Margaret Fuller Society member, Website Editor, and contributing author, Christina Katopodis.

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Photo taken in Heidelberg, Germany at sunset by Christina Katopodis

Fullerites gathered with Emersonians and Thoreauvians in Heidelberg, Germany on July 26-29, 2018 for the “Transcendentalist Intersections: Literature, Philosophy, Religion” Conference hosted by the University of Heidelberg and sponsored by the Ralph Waldo Emerson Society, the Margaret Fuller Society, and the Anglistisches Seminar and Center for American Studies at the University of Heidelberg.

Dan Malachuk, President of the Emerson Society, writes: “In late July, more than seventy scholars from around the world gathered at the University of Heidelberg for four balmy days of intense cross-disciplinary dialogue about some of the most pressing issues in Transcendentalist studies.  Perhaps the largest conference ever held on this subject, “Transcendentalist Intersections: Literature, Philosophy, Religion” was the vibrant conclusion to a four-year collaboration of the University’s Anglistisches Seminar and Center for American Studies, the Margaret Fuller Society, and the Emerson Society.  Reflecting at a closing session, participants recalled especially fruitful conversations about the continued indispensability of archival research, recovering “minor” figures, assessing intra-movement conflicts as well as confluences, whether to de- or re-transcendentalize the movement, interrogating as always its nationalist character, and remembering the periodicals, including the Dial, whose subtitle was also the conference’s and—let us hope—a continuing prompt for more such intersections.”

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Photo by Todd Richardson

Laura Dassow Walls, in her keynote address, called to mind Fuller telling Thoreau that nature is no more his until he is more hers. This sentiment of embrace, exchange, and openness characterized many of the papers, dialogues, and exchanges throughout the conference. Walls crafted a beautiful and inspiring argument for what she calls the “parahuman” (as opposed to “nonhuman” or “posthuman”), reminding us that there really is no “not-me,” that we are all connected, and that we are the very criminals we are searching for in our present climate crisis. Responding to a question about how to reconcile ourselves with Emerson’s use of the word “Nature” given recent ecocritical scholarship that has problematized that term (I am thinking of Timothy Morton especially), Walls pointed to the specificity of each instance, moment, and context of Emerson’s use of the word “nature” and called for us all to remember to be very specific when we use it ourselves.

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Photo by Christina Katopodis

On the next day, Fullerites and Emersonians gathered for panels on Alcott, Fuller, Emerson, and Thoreau. Russell Sbriglia’s paper on Fuller, Hegel, and concrete universality discussed Fuller’s work to harmonize the particular with the universal. Sbriglia used the “+” in LGBTQ+ to demonstrate the relevancy of Fuller’s argument that there is no humanity unless we are all a part of it; we are not free until all of us are free. Sbriglia suggested that Fuller’s assertion that Man cannot be realized without Woman is not an addition but a transformative process that affects the whole. You can read a full abstract of Sbriglia’s talk here.

There were so many beautiful papers to feed the mind at the conference. To touch on some of those about Margaret Fuller, I will do my best to quickly introduce them. For more details, you can read the full abstracts in the embedded links below.

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“Transcendental Feminisms” Panel, photo courtesy of Marina P. Kizima

There was a diverse range of subjects covered. One vibrant thread of discussion could be traced between Phyllis Cole‘s paper on Fuller and Socialism in Paris and David Robinson‘s paper on Fuller, Channing, and Fourierism. Mollie Barnes called our attention to the importance of sculpture as it captures historical movement and inspiration into action. Leslie Eckel presented her work on utopias focusing on failure. Christina Katopodis presented her sound studies work on “Pulse and Polarity” in Fuller and Emerson. Marina P. Kizima focused on the religious aspects of Fuller’s work and Denise Kohn focused on Fuller and women’s suffrage. In addition to covering Fuller’s Woman in the Nineteenth Century, there were papers on Summer on the Lakes such as Monika Elbert‘s and on Fuller’s letters such as Mario Bannoni‘s presentation on three letters of Fuller’s recently found in Italy.

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“Transcendental Forms” Panel, photo courtesy of Marina P. Kizima

Some papers focused on translation, such as Fuller’s translation of Conversations with Goethe, and Adrienne Perry asked us to think about the ethics of Transcendental translation. Other papers focused on periodicals, such as Brigitte Bailey‘s paper on The Dial and print culture; Sonia Di Loreto presented a paper on Fuller’s “A Daughter of Italy” (1848) and transnational intersections in the People’s Journal. In her paper on Emerson and George Sand, MFS President Charlene Avallone urged us all to read more of George Sand’s work. Sarah Wider read a beautiful paper on Caroline Sturgis, who drew for Ellen Tucker Emerson when she was a little girl. David Greenham presented a paper on Emerson’s cognitive topology, looking at his metaphors not as literary devices but as working out ways of thinking. His diagram of light refraction on the eye was very impressive. There really was too much wonderful work than could be captured in a single event recap and do it justice.

At the conference, the Margaret Fuller Society was able to conduct a meeting to discuss current business and spend time getting to know new members and share scholarship. 

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Margaret Fuller Society Business Meeting, photo courtesy of Marina P. Kizima