Millersville Professors and graduate students traveled to Washington D.C. for the annual Northeast Modern Language Association Conference. Maria Rovito, in collaboration with the other Millersville students and professors, wrote a summary of the event and presentation topics.
The 50th anniversary conference of the Northeast Modern Language Association was held at the National Harbor in Washington, D.C., at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, from Thursday, March 21, 2019, to Sunday, March 24, 2019. The theme of the conference focused on transnational humanities, particularly intersections of nations and identity within language and literature. A variety of panels, roundtables, and workshops were held that focused on various kinds of aspects of English studies, particularly literature, rhetoric and composition, creative writing and publishing, critical theory, interdisciplinary humanities, and pedagogy and teaching. Several keynote speakers were included in this year’s conference; most notably featured was the postcolonial critic Homi K. Bhabha, who spoke about the politics of migration and human rights in his keynote address.
Members and presenters came from all over the world, including a few of our own students and faculty here at Millersville University. Graduate students and English faculty presented their research at the convention, including Drs. Emily Baldys and Katarzyna Jakubiak, as well as graduate students Maria Rovito and Andie Petrillo. Each of their presentations focused on different aspects of literary studies.
Dr. Emily Baldy’s presentation was titled “The Sisterhood of Disability Care in Gaskell’s Industrial Narratives,” and focused on disability care as surrogate sisterhood in Gaskell’s first published short story, “The Three Eras of Libbie Marsh.” In her work, Dr. Baldys argued that “Gaskell’s narratives self-consciously resist industrial capitalism’s devaluation of difference and dependence.” Particularly, through Gaskell’s depictions of sisterly relations and disability care, “Gaskell’s texts mount a ‘dependency critique’ similar to that proposed by modern disability theorists, modeling a respect for difference that Gaskell saw as necessary for rehabilitation of industrial system.”
Dr. Katarzyna Jakubiak presented on the politics of translation in her presentation, particularly translating African American Literature in Poland during the Cold War. Titled “We Make Our Own Negroes: James Baldwin’s Reception in Poland During the Cold War and Now,” Dr. Jakubiak’s work focused on the role of James Baldwin’s work in Poland in the 1960-70s in relation to current Polish reactions to Raoul Peck’s documentary I Am Not Your Negro. She argued that the “past and present Polish responses to Baldwin attest to the power of his voice to impact the discourse of interracial and interethnic relations globally.” Dr. Jakubiak’s presentation also focused on the impact of Baldwin’s work on Polish political discourse: “As Poland’s current populist government manipulates the public fear of ethnic or racial ‘other’ to garner support, Baldwin’s work has again provided a platform for intellectuals and cultural activists aiming to undermine the government’s xenophobic discourse.”
Maria Rovito presented twice during the conference, in a roundtable on African American literature and trauma studies as well as on a panel on ability and identity. Her first presentation, titled “Race and Disability in Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Wilson’s Fences,” focused on the intersections of race and disability within African American literature. Particularly, her presentation researched how race, disability, and trauma impacts disabled characters within The Bluest Eye and Fences. Her second presentation, “‘I Did This to Myself’: Disability and Non-Normative Bodies in the Manga and Anime Series One Piece,” researched representations of disabled bodies within manga and animé. Her research particularly focused on Eiichiro Oda’s series One Piece, and how disabled characters within the series disrupt Western notions and expectations of disabled bodies.
Andie Petrillo presented a poster titled, “Packing a Punch: Satirizing the ‘New Woman’ In Victorian England.” She researched visual representations of the New Woman of Victorian England, and how these images stereotyped early feminists within the later Victorian period. These representations “show a shifting attitude towards a woman’s place in the later Victorian era and are figureheads for first-wave feminism.”
This year’s conference showcased the research and skill of Millersville students and faculty, and presented an opportunity for students and faculty to learn new ideas about literature, provided networking and mentoring opportunities, and gave students and faculty an opportunity to have fun with English studies. Next year’s conference will be held in Boston, MA.