an open thread: what were your favorite talks at ASECS this year?

I’ve got some thoughts of my own, but I’d like to hear from some folks about their favorite presentations, papers, roundtables, or panels this year at ASECS?  What’s going to stick with you as you think about your own research or teaching?



15 responses to “an open thread: what were your favorite talks at ASECS this year?

  1. The Cultural Studies Caucus roundtable on “The Beginnings and Ends of Cultural Studies” was timely and necessary, though I came out feeling like the audience was divided along the same fault lines. Clearly the cultural studies question isn’t going to be resolved in an hour and a half, but I still wonder whether Warner and Siskin’s particular provocation (i.e. “ending” cultural studies) is reframing the conversation in a useful way. I’d be very interested to hear other thoughts on the roundtable. I know there were about a bazillion people in attendance, since I had to stand through it.

    An individual paper that stood out for me was Michael Yonan’s “‘The Uniqueness of English Humours’: Hogarth’s Prints and the German Critique of National Character.” I’m a fan of Yonan’s work for partially self-interested reasons—his work on Habsburg chinoiserie has influenced my own research on English chinoiserie as a cosmopolitan form, and his new work on humours is appearing just as my own research is inclining that way. But I also think Yonan’s work as an art historian is opening up interdisciplinary fields of thought about material culture, and his situation of Europe in a global context remaps eighteenth-century culture in really productive ways. I eagerly anticipate his book on Maria Theresa, coming out this year.

    • Laura Rosenthal

      To me the popularity of this panel showed I think a hunger for a place to discuss the “meta” issues. I think the issue of “stopping” proved so enigmatic because Cliff and Bill meant something different by it. For Bill, the alternative is the category of literature. For Cliff, the alternative is somehow the transcending of disciplinarity itself. I believe I actually heard them say this, although of course they also said that they didn’t have an alternative and, in fairness, I tried this explanation out on Bill after the panel and he didn’t agree with it. As I have argued elsewhere (in the Teagle Assessment collection, in which I engage their essay), I personally think that the most promising route for disciplinary reform is to think about what we want students to get out of it, which I think opens up into the larger questions of why there should be public funding for us to continue to study 18th-century texts.

      • That makes a lot of sense, even if Bill disagreed. I need to read your essay in the new collection (well, I need to read the collection). I actually addressed the very question of what we want students to get out of cultural studies at a faculty panel organized by Mac’s cultural studies undergrads last year, after that Bérubé article came out last year—and my answer involved a return to the category of literature. Maybe if I hadn’t assumed Cliff and Bill were making the same argument, I would have heard more in the “stopping.”

      • Dave Mazella

        Gena, Laura, I think I’m going to try to put some of my own thoughts together for a separate post about this panel. The audience it garnered indicated a desire for people to talk about the future of their discipline, or at least sub-discipline in the university that is evolving in front of our eyes.

        (for example, one of the things at stake in the emerging regime is the existence of subfields organized by period, as ours is)

        I do wonder whether the questions about raised the enlightenment, about literary study, and about their notions of cultural studies, have really been framed properly. This deserves some serious consideration, and I hope responses from the members of this group.

      • Laura Rosenthal

        The panel sounds really interesting. Maybe you could post your remarks here? Also, what is the Berube article you were discussing?

  2. Sharon Alker

    The panel on Diagrams just blew my mind. It made me think of space in all sorts of different ways (space on the page as well as space in the world). Since I study war and space (and diagrams are used all the time in war literature) I found it incredibly applicable to my work. I can’t wait to read the book.

  3. Laura Rosenthal

    I went to a lot of good sessions, but particularly enjoyed the papers on “The Image of the Harem,” even the one by the presenter who couldn’t come. I also liked the roundtable on Anglo-Ottoman relations. The graduate caucus panel organized by Kristina Straub was very successful and a terrific model for nurturing young talent.

    • I’m really sorry I missed the grad caucus panel—it looked brilliant.

      • Laura Rosenthal

        Maybe we should have another post on panels that you missed and are jealous that other people got to hear! My list would be long. And also, people you wish you had more of a chance to catch up with. But I guess that’s a sign of a good conference…

  4. Dave Mazella

    One of the things I’ve been thinking about as I move from teaching and learning conferences to more conventional academic conferences is the quality of feedback provided by certain formats. I really liked the format offered by the grad caucus (though I couldn’t make the panel itself), and thought that ASECS and other organizations really ought to encourage formats that allow for higher-level discussion, interaction, and feedback for presenters and audiences. How could we maximize the amount actually learned at such conferences? From my perspective, it would have to involve more intensive interactions with the material.

  5. Danny O'Quinn

    I thought this was a terrific ASECS in general. I’m very sorry to have missed the graduate caucus sessions because the format was so innovative. Lynn Festa’s paper on Smollet at 8:00 am on Thursday was astonishingly persuasive and opened a whole range of issues around bodily representation, causation and intentionality. I also really enjoyed Marcie Frank’s session on intersections between scholarship on the novel and on the theatre. All the presenters gave very thoughtful position papers and Erin Keating’s reading of The Rehearsal was tremendous. Later that day Stuart Sherman gave a truly compelling paper on The Spectator and the theatre–his nuanced readings of particular numbers summed up so much of what I believe about theatrical and periodical culture and really opened the way for a full scale re-evaluation of the dailiness of eighteenth-century life. At the risk of bad form, I also want to highlight the papers given on the session I organized entitled “Mediating Social Relations in the Theatre”. I simply threw the rubric out there and Jean Marsden, Misty Anderson and Laura Rosenthal demonstrated why everyone was buzzing about all things theatrical at this conference. And that was just the first day……

    • Dave Mazella

      Hi Danny, those panels sounded great. Unfortunately, I was in transit that day. It sounds like there were some great opportunities for discussing the theater and performance; I wonder if the non-novelistic genres like periodical essays, letters, plays and so forth received more attention than usual this year? It might have been my own interests, but it seemed like other genres were getting a lot of play.

  6. As an Americanist, I really enjoyed the roundtable on “Assessing the Transatlantic and Inter-American Eighteenth Century: Pedagogy and Politics.” What struck me as I sat in on that roundtable, though, was how badly I wanted those scholars (primarily Americanists) to engage in a conversation with the scholars (primarily British eighteenth-centuryists) participating in the “Beginnings and Ends of Cultural Studies” panel. I think we would have seen some very different takes on both questions (the state of cultural studies and the political/pedagogical consequences of transatlanticism) if we could foster more interaction between those working on either side of the Atlantic.

    • Dave Mazella

      FWIW, one of my favorites (from the perspective of my own research), was the Exchanging Ideas in Early America panel, chaired by Kristina Bross. This had some great presentations about using 18c newspapers as historical sources, with some really suggestive remarks from Joseph Chaves and Richard Bell about the forms of the newspaper at this time. It seems to that because American Studies has traditionally accepted certain kinds of “cultural” evidence, it doesn’t seem as torn between literary and cultural studies as British studies. I do wonder why this has to be seen as a strict either/or proposition, to do cultural studies or literature, but not both.

      I’d also mention the Evaluating Digital Work roundtable, chaired by Lisa Maruca, which featured some good talks by a number of Digital Humanities practitioners. There I’d single out Laura McGrane’s presentation on her fabulous undergraduate research courses at Haverford, which align the pedagogical and research potential of digital databases as well as I’ve ever seen. The student work she exhibited was very impressive.

  7. On another note, the Graduate Student Caucus is beginning to make plans for our seminar panel next year and we’re looking for a faculty member to help chair/organize that panel (what Kristina Straub did this past weekend) and others to serve as respondents to the graduate student papers. If you are interested or have any suggestions, please feel free to contact me (n.e.miller [at] wustl [dot] edu). Thanks!