MyAmericanFuture

MyAmericanFuture
MyAmericanFuture

Saturday, October 19, 2013

October 19-20, 2013: Northeast MLA Excitement!

This weekend, I’ll be in Harrisburg with my fellow NeMLA Executive Board members, planning next spring’s conference (as well as giving two book talks, on which more next week!). So for this weekend post, I wanted to highlight three things I’m looking forward to at that conference, and two more for my own 2016 conference in Hartford. If you want to get involved with NeMLA—for the 2014 conference, for the longer term, or in any other way—please let me know!
1)      My Panels: I’ve had the great opportunity to put together and chair three panels at the 2014 conference: one right in my scholarly wheelhouse, on literary and cultural images of the river in America; and two roundtables on vital 21st century topics about which I have as much to learn as anyone: the place of classical tradition in the digital writing classroom; and how an organization like NeMLA can better serve adjunct and contingent faculty members. I can’t wait for all three conversations!
2)      George Saunders: For many years, thanks to those two future AmericanStudiers pictured above, I’ve had to dart in and out of conferences, rarely able to stay for much beyond my own panels or events. But as the NeMLA 2nd VP, I’ll be staying for the whole of the 2014 conference, and that means I’ll get to attend the Thursday evening reading that opens the conference—a reading that happens to feature one of the contemporary writers whose work I’m most anxious to learn more about, George Saunders!
3)      Exploring the City: Like many Americans cities these days, Harrisburg has had its well-publicized recent struggles; but it’s also one of the most historic American spaces, and one for which, I’m quite sure, the narratives of decline don’t begin to tell the whole story. So for past and present reasons, and as am AmericanStudier who takes a great deal away from every place I visit, I can’t wait to spend some time getting to know Harrisburg.
4)      Hartford Community Connections: I’ve written before in this space about one of my central goals for my 2016 NeMLA conference—to find ways to connect the conference to the city, not just in terms of daytrips or the like but also through genuine and hopefully lasting efforts to contribute in at least small ways to the community hosting our gathering. Like Harrisburg, Hartford has had its share of struggles, and is working to rebuild and rebound—but I also worry that such efforts tend to focus more on the commercial and tourism and less on the area toward which I hope I can focus NeMLA’s efforts: the public school system. Any thoughts on particular ways we could focus those efforts would be much appreciated!
5)      Hartford and the CEM: I’m also very interested in Hartford’s past, and most especially in one particularly under-remembered part of that history: the decade or so during which Hartford hosted Yung Wing’s Chinese Educational Mission. One of my public scholarly dreams is to help create a historic site dedicated to the CEM, which was one of the most unique yet also exemplary spaces and ideas in American history. And what better time to think about such efforts than while I plan a conference to be held in the CEM’s host city? Again, any and all thoughts and suggestions on how to raise awareness for this kind of historic, cultural site in a community would be very welcome!
Next series starts Monday,
Ben
PS. NeMLA connections you’d share?  Other organizations or conferences you’d highlight?

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