10 February 2017


courtesy Lego Grad Student

Last week, I attended a meeting of the Nineteenth-Century Studies Association. It was my first time going to that conference, and my first time going to any conference in almost a year. Something that I want to change but haven't yet managed is that I almost never repeat conferences-- there are a lot of conferences I've just gone to one meeting of. Maybe someday, but logistics always seem to get in the way.

NCSA is sort of a mid-sized conference-- not the massiveness of the MLA or even one of its regional affiliates, but not the small intimacy of the Thomas Hardy Association or the Science Fiction Research Association. It's interdisciplinary and trans-regional as well-- unlike, say, the Victorians Institute, it attracts people doing nineteenth-century studies focusing on all kinds of countries (e.g., America, Britain, Italy, France) and across all kinds of disciplines (literary studies, history, art history, architecture).

That was probably both its strength and its weakness. When panels are arranged right, there's a kind of synergy: one of my colleagues from English was on a panel about performance and race with someone who studies theatre and someone who studies film-- there were neat correspondences and connections with their papers, and interesting questions from architecture-minded folks in the audience!

Though I enjoyed my co-panelists' presentations, things lined up a little less well there. You had my paper on three science fiction novels (The English Revolution, Marmaduke, Emperor of Europe, and When All Men Starve), a paper on a digital edition of Thomas Carlyle's Sartor Resartus, a paper on fan participation in a YouTube version of a Jane Austen novel, and a paper on a nineteenth-century pastel artist who used proto-photographic techniques. Supposedly these were united by being about technology, but the uses of technology were so varied as to render connections difficult or impossible. What do my future-set books have to do with insights gleaned into Sartor Resartus by thinking about it as hypertext?

People seemed to like my paper, though, and I found my co-presenters' interesting, too. Unfortunately, I went on the second-last session on the last day! So I wasn't able to parlay that into much of anything.

Maybe next year I'll actually go back? I liked it enough to make that worthwhile, I think.

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