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Northeast Modern Language Association

Special Events

Credit: Jenna DeNoyelles

Credit: Jenna DeNoyelles

NeMLA offers Special Events throughout the convention weekend. These events include critically and creatively renowned speakers and are organized by the various areas of inquiry and caucuses represented by the organization, as well as our free Sunday Brunch and Membership Meeting that promotes next year's call for convention session proposals. All events are at the Omni William Penn unless otherwise indicated.

Area and Caucus Special Events

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

Christopher Pizzino. Credit: Christine M. Nicklin

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.

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

Photographer: Nicolas Guérin

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.

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

David Castillo

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.

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

Janet Lyon

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).

Receptions and Social Gatherings

Annual Creative Writers and Editors’ Reception, sponsored by Modern Language Studies

Have a drink, something to eat, and engage in discussion with editors and writers from universities across the region. Discuss what you have seen so far at this year’s conference, have a friendly chat, and think about editing and creative writing session ideas and readings for upcoming conventions. And of course, it is a great place to make connections and to share experiences as editing and creative writing professionals working in a rapidly-changing academy and publishing marketplace! The sponsor of this reception, Modern Language Studies, is the peer-reviewed journal representing the wide-ranging critical and creative interests of NeMLA members. Organized by the Creative Writing, Publishing, and Editing Area.

Diversity Mixer

Join us to discuss any and all diversity issues as related to academia in the current cultural and political climate. Bring your friends and colleagues. Beer and wine will be served. Sponsored by the Diversity Committee.

Graduate Student Caucus Baltimore Meet and Greet

Join our caucus members to socialize and network with fellow graduate students with drinks and snacks. Sponsored by the Graduate Student Caucus.

Women's and Gender Studies Mentorship Program

Now in its seventh year, the Women's and Gender Studies Mentorship Program welcomes new participants, mentors, and mentees. This interdisciplinary mentoring program pairs senior faculty mentors with junior faculty and doctoral students. The 2018 convention will feature a breakfast for current and prospective mentors and mentees and all Caucus members. For more information or to volunteer to serve as a mentor, please contact us at Organized by the Women's and Gender Studies Caucus.

Annual Meetings

CAITY Caucus Annual Meeting

Join NeMLA members who advocate for contingent, adjunct, or independent scholars and faculty at two-year institutions to discuss the business and goals of the CAITY Caucus. Topics include panels, speakers, and continuing to advocate for our members on topics including pedagogy, unionizing, and non-traditional career paths. 

Graduate Student Caucus Annual Business Meeting

The Graduate Student Caucus invites you to discuss how NeMLA can better serve its graduate student members. We welcome agenda additions via email ( but will certainly cover: panels/roundtables the GSC might propose, graduate student experience at the Convention, what we can do during the rest of the year to advocate and keep you informed, and opportunities for you to get involved.

Women's and Gender Studies Caucus Business Meeting

The Women's and Gender Studies Caucus welcomes current as well as prospective members. The agenda includes suggestions for future speakers and topics at NeMLA conferences, as well as nominations for Caucus officer positions. 

Sunday Membership Business Meeting and Brunch

Open to all members

In addition to the free continental breakfast for the second and third days of the convention, NeMLA will host its annual free Sunday late-morning Membership Brunch, which allows all members to converse and network. At the Membership Brunch, we will announce the winners of NeMLA Essay Awards, congratulate outgoing members of the Board and welcome new members of the Board, and announce the beginning Call for Sessions for our 50th annual convention in Washington, DC, due before Summer 2018.