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The North American Victorian Studies Association held its annual conference in the Valley of the Sun on November 2-5, 2016, hosted by a number of ASU units including the Department Department of English. More than four hundred scholars from four continents converged on downtown Phoenix to discuss the Victorian period.
The conference was three days long with panels on Victorian death rituals, Sherlock Holmes, George Eliot, newspapers, and a host of other topics related to the period. I have attended NAVSA conferences before, but this one was the largest by far. The upside is that NAVSA is a very friendly conference: even as I was standing in the registration line on the opening morning, people were chatting warmly with each other while sipping their coffee or tea. The volunteers, all English department graduate students, were working quickly to hand out all of the schedule and packets.
The highlight of the first day was Gowan Dawson’s plenary on “Science, Sociability, and Social Fiction” where Dawson talked about Charles Dickens, Richard Owens, and the relationship between literary studies and paleontology. The second night included a raucous performance of a Jane Eyre stage play by NAVSA’s theatre caucus.
The last speaker was Caroline Levine who spoke on “Forms of Sociability: Novels, Numbers, and Other Collectives.” Levine is not only notable for her research, but her advocacy for higher education in Wisconsin. She ended her talk by having the audience recite the last few lines of the William Morris poem “The Voice of Toil” which received enthusiastic applause. Overall, the conference was engaging, posing as many questions as it answered, suggesting new pathways for the humanities and Victorian Studies.
The Symposium on Second Language Writing that took place on ASU’s Tempe campus October 20-22, 2016, was my first TESOL conference! I was very excited to be able to attend this event not only because it was packed full of interesting and informative presentations of second-language writing research, but it also travels every year to different locations including multiple countries.
Paul Kei Matsuda, the Founding Chair of SSLW, explained the symposium's creation: “Tony Silva and I started the Symposium on Second Language Writing in 1998 in order to facilitate the development of the field of second language writing. When I came to ASU in 2007, I decided to bring the Symposium, and with it, the world of second language writing to ASU helping to put ASU on the map. This is the third time we hosted the Symposium, and we had about 420 participants from around the world attend.”
Beyond the actual panels I attended, I enjoyed being surrounded by so many “like-minded” professors, PhD students, and others from around the world all interested in this field of second-language teaching. I had the opportunity to network and meet new people I may not have had a chance to meet otherwise. I also liked the fun and open atmosphere of the symposium. Everyone made me feel welcomed, even though I am a beginner in this field of study, and actually listened to what I had to say without judging me as a “newbie”.
Tonya Eick, one of the Associate Chairs for SSLW, stated, “SSLW is the sort of event where emerging scholars are able to see how their own work and interests are positioned in the field at large. The first time I attended, I was unsure about where to take my own research. It helped me see what I did through the eyes of experienced scholars with more focus. Because it is specific to second-language writing, SSLW also helps create a tight-knit community that supports its individual members, regardless of their level of expertise.”
Overall, the SSLW was an extremely informative, well laid out event that helped me learn more about the world of TESOL and Second Language Writing. Being able to see what other professors/lecturers from around the world were working on was a real treat in of itself.
Image 1: A large crowd at a 2016 NAVSA panel. / Photo by Devoney Looser
Image 2: 2016 SSLW Conference team members. / Photo courtesy Paul Kei Matsuda