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

 

 

Fullerians at SSAWW in Bordeaux

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The Place de la Bourse at night

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.

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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.

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The panel, 19th-Century Women Crossing Borders between Literature, Science, Politics and Welfare Issues: Margaret Jay Jessee, Abigail Fagan, and Mollie Barnes
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Many thanks to Brigitte Bailey (left, next to Sonia Di Loreto) for providing photos from the event!

Mark Your Calendar for MLA – January 4-7, 2018

Margaret Fuller Society members will be at the MLA 2018 Convention in New York City on January 4-7. The society is sponsoring the panel “Margaret Fuller: New Critical Approaches,” organized and chaired by Executive Secretary Jeffrey Steele.

“Critique as Affect in Margaret Fuller’s Transcendentalist Writings”
by Mark Russell Gallagher

“The Trouble with Gender for Margaret Fuller”
by Christina Katopodis

“Haunting Affect in Fuller and Thoreau”
by Katie Simon

These papers take innovative approaches to Margaret Fuller and gender fluidity, queer theory, environmental criticism, affect and public feeling, transnational mobility, critical race studies, new feminist materialism, and new aesthetics.

The presidential theme this year is States of Insecurity. Sessions will be held in the New York Hilton Midtown, the Sheraton New York Times Square, and the New York Marriott Marquis. Click here for more information.

Featured photo courtesy of Christina Katopodis.