[A couple weeks back, NeMLA held our 52nd annual—and first entirely virtual—convention. So this week I’ll highlight a handful of the convention’s stand-out remote events, leading up to some broader reflections on virtual conferences.]
As part of my final NeMLA as the American Literature and Transnational Studies Area Director, I had the chance to chair six wonderful sessions. So for the next two posts I’ll briefly highlight those posts and the awesome presenters who made them go:
1) Literary Philly: NeMLA 2021 would have been in Philadelphia if it were in-person, so I had proposed a session on Philadelphia authors and texts. Even though we went virtual, it was still great to hear these takes on more than two centuries of Philly-adjacent literature, from Brian Shields on Charles Brockden Brown and Andrew Rimby on Walt Whitman to Jennifer McClinton-Temple on Joe Queenan and AmericanStudies Guest Blogger Robin Field on Susan Muaddi Darraj (I also added a brief shout-out to David Bradley). Made me miss my former city, but also made me appreciate all that Philadelphia has contributed to the evolving literatures, cultures, stories, and histories of the U.S.
2) 1776, 1619, and 2021: Defining American Identity: This was another session I initially proposed with Philly in mind, but of course over the last year 1776 has come to be much more broadly associated with particular, often conservative narratives of American origin points, in direct contrast to the 1619 Project. So these five awesome presentations were very salient to our 2021 conversations, as well as our foundational debates over American identity; they featured Lea Borenstein on Black cowboys past and present, Ben Crace on Hillbilly Elegy, Gary Grieve-Carlson on the Puritans and foundational divisions, Tamara Hammond on racism and resistance across our histories, and Ariana Potichnyj on Ben Franklin and Revolutionary traumas.
3) Sexualities in US Latinx and Latin American Culture: Two of my chaired sessions were ones that I didn’t myself propose but had the chance to chair, and from which I learned a great deal about their compelling topics. This session, the first I’ve attended that featured presentations in Spanish as well as English, featured three great papers on boundary-busting performances of sexuality across cultural works and genres: Alexandra Algaze Gonzalez on Bad Bunny; Lizet Gonzalez on Gloria Anzaldúa; and Mariana Ruiz Gonzalez on the Mexican rap battle tradition of the albur. I really hope that this NeMLA Area can truly live up to the Transnational Studies part of its name as we move forward, and this session was a great model of that ongoing work.
Next recap tomorrow,
PS. If you took part in NeMLA 2021, reflections you’d share?