Area Special Events

These events include critically and creatively renowned speakers and are organized by the various areas of inquiry and caucuses represented by the organization.

All events are at the Omni William Penn unless otherwise indicated.

American Literature and Cultural & Media Studies Special Event: Christopher Pizzino, "Touching the Comic Book"

Credit: Christine M. Nicklin

What is at stake in the tense, complex relationship between comics and literature? Approaching this familiar question from a fresh perspective, this talk will trace connections between the physical, kinetic aspects of comics reading—so different from the often disembodied, interiorized reading of modern print—and the “low,” culturally delinquent status of the medium.

Christopher Pizzino is Associate Professor of Contemporary US Literature in the Department of English at the University of Georgia, where he teaches comics, image theory, contemporary literature, film, and television, theory of the novel, and science fiction. His scholarship on comics has appeared in ImageTexT, in PMLA, and in other venues.  His book Arresting Development: Comics at the Boundaries of Literature appeared in 2016 from the University of Texas Press. He is currently at work on a book entitled The Body of the Comics Reader.

This event is organized by the American Literature and Cultural Studies and Media Studies Areas.

Anglophone Literature and Diversity Special Event: Helon Habila, "Art and Activism"

Literature and its writers have influenced and shaped public perception and policy all over Africa, from the fight against colonialism to pro-democracy movements. Artistic engagement is important in public debate and activism, not just in Africa but globally. Now more than ever, the writer's voice is needed to speak in support of the marginalized and disenfranchised. In his talk, Helon Habila will discuss the circumstances around the writing of his pro-environmental novel, Oil on Water (2010, situating it within the larger discourse of oil politics and corruption in the Niger Delta, and how individual artists and activists like Saro-Wiwa have contributed to such discourse. 

Helon Habila is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at George Mason University. He was born in Nigeria. In 2002, his first novel, Waiting for an Angel was published. The opening section of the novel won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2001, and the novel went on to win the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Novel (Africa Section) in 2003. His other novels include Measuring Time (2007) and Oil on Water (2010). He edited The Granta Book of The African Short Story (2010). His most recent book is The Chibok Girls (2016), a work of investigative nonfiction on the 276 school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram Islamists in northeastern Nigeria in 2014. Professor Habila won the Windham-Campbell Prize for Fiction in 2015. He lives in Virginia.

This event is organized by the Anglophone Literature Area and the Diversity Committee.

Comparative Literature and Pedagogy and Professionalism Special Event: David Castillo, "Truth, Reality in the Age of Inflationary Media: Why the Humanities are More Important than Ever"

How are we to understand the apparent growing disregard for reality, the ubiquitous presence in politics of an attitude or practice denoted so memorably by Stephen Colbert as truthiness, in Webster’s definition “the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true”? The reason truthiness has become such a convincing descriptor of 21st-century political life is not a widespread realization that one’s moral beliefs are culturally and historically determined, but a sharp increase in both the proportion of people who believe that their beliefs are direct expressions of reality, and the intensity with which they hold and defend those beliefs. Truthiness, in other words, is not an effect of the rise of relativism; it is an effect of the proliferation of fundamentalism. I argue that the Humanities and the Arts can offer a much needed corrective to the allure of fundamentalism; a way out of the empire of solitude that’s impoverishing our lives, dividing our communities, eroding our democracy, and threatening our planet.

David R. Castillo is the University at Buffalo Director of the Humanities Institute and Professor of Spanish in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, where he served as Chair between 2009 and 2015. He is the author of Awry Views: Anamorphosis, Cervantes, and the Early Picaresque (Purdue UP, 2001) and Baroque Horrors: Roots of the Fantastic in the Age of Curiosities (Michigan UP, 2010; paperback 2012) and co-author of Zombie Talk: Culture, History, Politics (Palgrave, 2016) and Medialogies: Reading Reality in the Age of Inflationary Media (Bloomsbury, 2017). Castillo has also co-edited Reason and Its Others: Italy, Spain, and the New World (Vanderbilt UP, 2006) and Spectacle and Topophilia: Reading Early and Postmodern Hispanic Cultures (Vanderbilt UP, 2012). He is currently coediting a volume tentatively titled Writing in the End Times. He is a habitual University at Buffalo "Scholar on the Road," and has made media appearances in the New York Times, Voice of America, NPR, and other outlets.

This event is organized by the Comparative Literature Area and Pedagogy and Professionalism Area.

Creative Writing, Publishing, and Editing Poetry Reading: Dawn Lundy Martin

Photographer: Max Freeman

Dawn Lundy Martin is a poet, essayist, and conceptual-video artist. She is the author of four books of poems: Good Stock Strange Blood (Coffee House, 2017); Life in a Box is a Pretty Life (Nightboat Books, 2015), which won the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Poetry; DISCIPLINE (Nightboat Books, 2011); A Gathering of Matter / A Matter of Gathering (University of Georgia Press, 2007); and three limited edition chapbooks. Her nonfiction can be found in The New Yorker, Harper's, and elsewhere. Martin is Professor of English in the writing program at the University of Pittsburgh and Co-director of the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics.

This event is organized by the Creative Writing, Publishing, and Editing Area, with support by Modern Language Studies, the peer-review journal of NeMLA.

French and Francophone Special Event: Julien Suaudeau, "Why Can't France Say 'We?' An X-ray of Contemporary French Fractures"

Credit: Nicolas Guérin

Unlike the United States, France doesn't know how to say "We, the People." Or maybe it just doesn't want to. When it does, the claim to a collective identity comes out wrong. What are the reasons for this malaise? How come the national symbols and the national narrative always prevail on grammar in our representation of the French identity? Why does it have to be "us" against "them"? Why is "I" stronger than "we"? This lecture will map out the fault lines of the French self, before examining the prospects for a post-republican sense of community.

Julien Suaudeau teaches at Bryn Mawr College, where he is the Coordinator of the Non-Intensive Language sequence in French.  He is the author of three novels: Dawa (2014), Le Français (2015), and Ni le feu ni la foudre (2016). His fiction work focuses on contemporary France seen through the lenses of colonial and postcolonial history, immigration, laïcité, terrorism, and socioeconomic inequalities. He is a regular contributor to the opinion pages of French dailies Le MondeLe FigaroLibération and weekly magazine L’Obs. In the United States, he lectures frequently as a guest speaker on the topic of connecting American students and teachers with the “real” France and the francophone world. He was the keynote speaker at the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF) 2016 National Convention. As a filmmaker, he has directed documentaries and short fiction films, and has published extensively on film history, film theory and French cinema in Positif.

This event is organized by the French and Francophone Language and Literature Area.

German Special Event: Carmen-Francesca Banciu, Reading from "Mother’s Day" and "Berlin is My Paris"

Carmen-Francesca Banciu was born in Lipova, Romania and studied Byzantine art and foreign trade in Bucharest. As a result of being awarded the International Short Story Award of the City of Arnsberg for the story “Das strahlende Ghetto” (“The Radiant Ghetto,” 1985), she was banned from publishing her work in Romania. In 1991 she accepted an invitation extended by the DAAD Berlin Artists-in-Residence program and came to Germany. Writer-in-Residence at Rutgers University from 2004-2005 and University of Bath in 2009, Banciu currently lives in Berlin and works as a freelance author and co-editor/deputy director of the transnational, interdisciplinary and multilingual e-magazine Levure Littéraire. Since moving to Berlin, Banciu has written almost exclusively in the German language. Her book-length works deal with the geographic, psychic, and linguistic migrations of the woman author in Europe under and following the fall of Communism.

"Mother’s Day: Song of a Sad Mother," originally published in German, depicts the complex and vexed relationship between mothers and daughters, the pain of accepting and rejecting the lessons that mothers pass onto their daughters and only understand—if ever—when they become mothers themselves.

"Berlin is My Paris" ("Berlin ist mein Paris") describes the journey and tribulations of a woman author growing up under communism in Romania and arriving in the promised freedom of Western Europe following the fall of communism. With its focus on space, place, imagination, writing, and language, "Berlin is My Paris" is particularly relevant for fostering conversations within the conference theme, "Global Spaces, Local Landscapes, and Imagined Worlds."

This event is organized by the German Language and Literature Area.

Italian Special Event: Graziella Parati, "Recuperative Narratives of Migration and Citizenship"

Rejecting strong theories of what and who migrants are, Italian writers have developed alternative strategies that affirm their right to intervene in the urban space they inhabit. Their goal is to recuperate spaces and places and turn them into malleable entities. These proximities become locations of affective citizenship. Told in a number of ways, reparative tales of citizenship redraw the political lines that define Italian cities -- Rome for Amara Lakhous and Igiaba Scego and Milan for Sergio Basso and Gabriella Kuruvilla.

Graziella Parati is the Paul D. Paganucci Professor of Italian Literature and Language at Dartmouth College, where she also teaches Comparative Literature and Women’s and Gender Studies. She has served as chair of departments and programs: French and Italian, Comparative Literature, and Studio Art. She has written and edited books: Public History, Private Stories: Italian Women’s Autobiography (1996), Mediterranean Crossroads: Migration Literature in Italy (1999), Migration Italy: The Art of Talking back in a Destination Culture (2006), New Perspectives in Italian Cultural Studies. Volume 1: Definitions, Theory, and Accented Practices (2012), New Perspectives in Italian Cultural Studies. Volume 2: The Arts and History (2012), Italy and the Cultural Politics of WWI (2016), and Migrant Writers and Urban Space in Italy: Proximities and Affect in Literature and Film (forthcoming). She has co-edited with Ben Lawton Italian Cultural Studies (2001), with Rebecca West Italian Feminist Theory and Practice: Equality and Sexual Difference (2002), and with Marie Orton Multicultural Literature in Contemporary Italy (2007). She has published articles that focus primarily on migration issues. She is currently writing a book: Un-Becoming Fascists: The Use of Political Autobiographies in Nation Building.

This event is organized by the Italian Language and Literature Area.

Spanish and Portuguese Special Event: John Ochoa, "Global Pressures, Local Needs, and the Future of Spanish Departments"

John Ochoa is Associate Professor in the Departments of Spanish and Comparative Literature Departments at Penn State. His main areas of research are Mexican intellectual and cultural history, and American hemispheric studies. His first book, The Uses of Failure in Mexican Literature and Identity, explored the thematic relationship between awareness of historical failure, and its impact on the formation of cultural identity by looking at several “monuments” of the Mexican canon who grappled with failure, including Bernal Díaz del Castillo, J.J. Fernández de Lizardi, José Vasconcelos, and Carlos Fuentes.

He is currently working on two books. The first, to be published in 2018, is titled Fellow Travelers: Dispatches Of Empire In The Literature And Film Of The Americas. It is an Inter-American project that compares pairs works from North and Latin America. Each of these works in turn feature pairs of men who travel together, and are often engaged in distracting interactions with each other: Carrió de la Vandera’s Lazarillo de ciegos caminantes and The Journals of Lewis and Clark; “Martín Fierro” and US Cowboy Westerns; Kerouac’s On the Road and Walter Salles’s Motorcycle Diaries. The other book, Bad Mexican Fathers, will be a study of cultural, literary, and historical “fathers of the country” who are actually damaged or absent.

He was the recipient of a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship and has held faculty positions at Vassar College and the University of California, Riverside. At Penn State he has served as Director of Latino Studies for several years, as well as Graduate Advisor in the Spanish Department.

This event is organized by the Spanish and Portuguese Language and Literature Area.

Women's and Gender Studies Special Event: Janet Lyon, "Love, Idiocy, and Modernism"

Modernism’s experiments with embodiment and mindedness often produce a remarkable entwinement of intellectual disability and latent disability critique. In this talk I will concentrate on the representational challenges posted to modernist textuality by “idiocy,” as it was called, in an era of ubiquitous eugenic thinking. Even in the wake of obsessional attempts in the nineteenth-century to quantify intelligence, idiocy is set apart as a deficit condition that can only be represented descriptively. Not even modernism’s penetrative free indirect discourse can accommodate it. Several modernist texts present an “idiot” not as a primary character but rather as a reflected, or co-created character, via the unlikely medium of love. Annette’s love for her son Pierre in Wide Sargasso Sea, Caddy’s love for her brother Benjy in The Sound and the Fury, Winnie’s love for her brother Stevie in The Secret Agent, Felix’s love for his son Guido in Nightwood—in these and other modernist textual kinship relations, the figure of the idiot generates assemblages in which love binds characters through a logic that is invisible or incomprehensible to other characters (and even, it seems, their authors). A sustained focus on Mina Loy’s poem “Idiot Child on a Fire Escape” traces this Bergsonian mode of generative intuition, and points to a broader platform within disability theory, according to which disabled people “bring something new into the world that may otherwise go unrecognized,” in David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder’s words. I argue that that “something new,” in this mode of modernism, is kinetic, deep love.

Janet Lyon is an associate professor of English and an affiliate of the Women and Gender Studies department. She is co-editor of the Journal of Modern Literature. Her scholarship focuses mainly on modernism, and especially its historical, sociological, and philosophical contexts in Ireland, Great Britain, and the global reaches of the British empire. Her first book, Manifestoes: Provocations of the Modern, offers a history and a theory of the manifesto form, beginning in 1640 and focusing on its use by modernist and avant-garde groups. She is completing a book titled The Perfect Hostess: Sociability and Modernism, which studies the salons, at-homes, wild parties, pub crawls, and tea-house poetry groups in the modernist moment. She also works in Disability Studies, focusing especially on the emergence of "disability" as a category in the modernist period, and is working on a book titled 'Idiot Child on a Fire Escape': Modernism's Disability. She teaches lots of Irish literature, both on campus and in the Ireland summer study abroad program. Her articles have appeared in Modernism/modernity, ELH, the Yale Journal of Criticism, and other journals in the field. She is on the faculty of Penn State's summer study abroad program in Ireland. She has won several college- and university-wide teaching awards including, most recently the Penn State Alumni and Student Teaching Award (2010) and the College of Liberal Arts Outstanding Faculty Advising Award (2013).

This event is organized by the Women's and Gender Studies Caucus.

Graduate Student Caucus Business Meeting and Meet and Greet

At each convention, the Graduate Student Caucus an informal Meet and Greet.

At the Meet and Greet, graduate students are invited to a local venue, where they will have the opportunity to network and socialize with other graduate student NeMLA members and enjoy complimentary food and beverages.

Location forthcoming. Please direct any suggestions to gsc@nemla.org.

This event is organized by the Graduate Student Caucus.

Sunday Membership Brunch

All NeMLA members are invited to a complimentary brunch, served Sunday, April 15, at noon. Pleae RVSP for the brunch when you register for the convention.