This post was written by Margaret Fuller Society First Vice President and contributing author Charlene Avallone.
Conference director Stéphanie Durrans and her coworkers welcomed us this July to the Université Bordeaux Montaigne for the first international conference organized by the Society for the Study of American Women Writers, a gathering characterized by the hospitality and intellectual stimulation traditionally associated with the host nation. Not surprisingly, Margaret Fuller was much in evidence–for among American writers, Fuller stands out as paradigmatic of the conference theme: Border Crossings.
Notorious in her own time for transgressing and confounding boundaries in her life and work, Fuller remains recognized for transcending confines. She evaded restrictions on education and library access, preparing herself for an exceptional career that amalgamated roles as educator, public intellectual, translator, journalist, frontier and transnational travel writer, and theorist of (trans)gender. Born into New England elite, she represented causes of immigrants and the poor and championed claims of human rights against state and social constraints. A female pioneer in transnational cultural and political journalism, Fuller explored the possibilities of literary and political connections in her European travels. Her writings, now issued in several nations and languages, often blur conventional boundaries between oral/literary discourse, male/female spheres, or popular/high genres of literature and philosophy.
Panelists on the roundtable sponsored by the Fuller Society highlighted this liminal figure, examining: Fuller’s literal and political translations of European writers (Kathleen Lawrence); her redefinition in her pedagogy and literary canon of the boundaries between women’s conversational culture/Socratic dialogue and imitative/original learning and writing (Christa Vogelius); her participation in multilingual epistolary networks that cross national, ideological, private/public, and genre boundaries (Sonia Di Loreto); her transformation of nationalist travelogue through her transatlantic reading and travel, deviation from normative masculine perspectives, and translation (Brigitte Bailey); and transnational reception history of her life and work (Marina Kizima).
On another panel, speakers analyzed Fuller’s self-conscious rhetorical strategies of revisioning as she confronted changing national borderlines and internal divisions, including over slavery (Mollie Barnes), and directed attention from Fuller’s connection to socialism to consideration of her thinking about property and its relation to revolution (Abigail Fagan). Together, they conveyed a nuanced sense of Fuller’s journalistic negotiations with radical political positions.
“I remembered how, a little child, I had stopped myself one day on the stairs, and asked, how came I here? How is it that I seem to be this Margaret Fuller? What does it mean? What shall I do about it?” — Margaret Fuller
In celebration of the society’s 25th Anniversary, society members gathered at the Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House on Saturday, May 27. Margaret Fuller Society President Phyllis Cole began our meeting up the stairs in the Margaret Fuller House reading attendees this quotation from Fuller’s reflections on her childhood. Members who gathered in Boston for the American Literature Association 2017 annual conference traveled by bus to Fuller’s birth home, now a community center, on 71 Cherry Street in Cambridge, MA. We climbed the those same stairs that Fuller herself had stopped on many years ago, and celebrated the life and work of Margaret Fuller as well as the tremendous community support the Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House provides today.
The Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House (MFNH) offers emergency food services to 16,000 unique individuals each year. Serving approximately 300 people a day, the work of 25 volunteers each morning is invaluable to the local Port community. The House also provides nurturing and educational child and teen programs in partnership with local schools to foster the social and emotional development of youth in need. It was delightful to hear the voices of children playing outside and in the house throughout the afternoon we spent with Christina Alexis, the Executive Director on the left in the photo above.
The MFNH has a community advancement program that works to build community and provide education, resources, and information to help lift individuals out of poverty and become successful and self-sustaining. Using their Margaret Fuller Method, a holistic model made up of four interconnected pillars, their mission is to strengthen and empower individuals of all ages and to address the economic, social, and political inequities that shape the lives and futures of Port residents. Make a donation.
In the March/April 2017 issue of the Daughters of the American Revolution’s AmericanSpirit, Margaret Fuller’s historic writing of Woman in the Nineteenth Century is featured in an article about the new historical marker commemorating her visit to Fishkill Landing, now Beacon, NY. The article, “Margaret Fuller: A Beacon for Women” was written by Margaret Fuller Society member Michael Barnett, who spearheaded the event. You can read more from American Spirit here.
Michael Barnett earned his master’s in divinity at Moravian Theological Seminary in Bethelehem, PA and his master’s in education at Gwynedd Mercy University, where he wrote his history seminar paper, “Margaret Fuller Shapes the Consciousness of America through the New York Tribune.”