[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 yesterday’s and today’s posts I’ve briefly highlighted those posts and the awesome presenters who made them go:
1) Teaching Native American Lit: One of my main goals during my time as Area Director was to expand and diversify our conference conversations, and Native American lit & studies was one of the disciplines I most wanted to amplify. This truly wonderful conversation illustrated just how much we all have to learn when it comes to teaching and studying that discipline, featuring great presentations from Lisbeth Fuisz on rhetorical sovereignty in the classroom, Farhana Islam on using visual images to teach earlier lit, Catherine Umolac on residential school memoirs and archives, and Ron Welburn (one of the scholars and teachers from whom I’ve learned the most in my own career) on adding Eastern and Southern voices and tribes into our conversations.
2) Racism and Antiracism in American Culture: This panel’s topic was so big, and so timely, that it featured six presenters, each adding a key lens into our crucial conversations about how we read, study, analyze, teach, and talk about these vital 2021 questions. Those six were: Curtis Browne on Afropessimism and Native Son; Alex Davis on The Flintstones and white fantasies of temporality; Sydney Delaney on four artistic re-visions of race and female objectivity; Mitchell Gauvin on Olaudah Equiano’s identities and transformations; John Hadlock on New Negro Romantic poetry; and Kenneth Sammond on teaching the long Civil Rights Movement with visual images. While I was deeply inspired by every panel I got to chair (and attend), this and the teaching Native American lit roundtable were two of the three that most inspired my own continued teaching and public scholarship.
3) Speculative Art in Dark Times: And this was the third such inspiring panel. I proposed this session in March 2020, when my Intro to Sci Fi and Fantasy class suffered the same abrupt shifts and disruptions of the rest of the world in that month. As we tried to navigate the rest of that chaotic semester, I thought a lot about what fantastic lit and culture can offer us in such moments. I’m still thinking about that a year later, and so too were these four wonderful presenters and talks: Brent Young on realism and fantasy in Eyes Wide Shut; Jason Bartles on the ambiguous utopias of Ursula Le Guin and Angélica Gorodischer; Jess Flarity on 1930s fantastic fascisms in Sinclair Lewis and Karel Ĉapek; and Michael Torregrossa on appropriations of Arthuriana in times of national crisis. Whatever our future holds here in 2021, I believe that both fantastic culture and scholarly voices like these can help us move into more thoughtfully and successfully.
Last recap tomorrow,
PS. If you took part in NeMLA 2021, reflections you’d share?