June 19-21 marked the 8th annual Ocean State Summer Writing Conference. Annually, the University of Rhode Island’s Department of English brings together writers from across the spectrum of place and profession for three electric days of learning, networking and practice. From Harvard to UPenn, from RIC to Brown, from California to Florida, from Providence to Bristol, writers of all walks of life enjoy workshops, craft sessions and readings.
Besides the tremendously popular keynotes at this year’s gathering, from Alison Bechdel, Charles Bernstein and Percival Everett, certain events stood out as participant favorites.
Pulitzer Prize winner Ayad Akhtar returned to the conference (after being a keynote speaker at the 2013 conference) and was met with great enthusiasm. One of his events was a conversation with Guggenheim Fellow and Professor Mary Cappello, where they addressed the “turning points” of their careers, their drive and their practice–to a standing room-only group of attendees. Of his former professor from his time as an undergraduate at SUNY/Buffalo, Akhtar has said that Cappello played a key role in shaping him as a writer.
Elaine Sexton and Kristin Prevallet also made a tremendous impact on their attendees. A conversation between the two during the penultimate time slot of the conference addressed a subject on the mind of anyone who has attended a conference before: “What now?” Sexton and Prevallet conversed on subjects like community building, networking, getting published, being employed–important questions, especially to poets. Their insight impacted the group as they both have worked extensively in a variety of fields.
National Book Award nominee and Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, Jody Lisberger had one of the most well-attended events. Her craft session, “Writing or Wanting to Write a Novel or Book-Length Memoir–Strategies for Success” was held in the Agnes G. Doody Auditorium to a group of more than 70.
There were many talented and accomplished writers at the conference in June, and whether they were familiar with the conference from previous years or new to the University of Rhode Island, they contributed to a terrific experience for many of Rhode Island’s writers.
April 2-6, 2014, marked the 45th annual conference of the Northeast Modern Languages Association, held in Harrisburg, PA. Founded in 1967 and incorporated as part of the national MLA in 1969, NeMLA is a professional organization for English and Languages serving the northeast region of the US. The majority of NeMLA members are professors and graduate students from this region. This year, sixteen URI English department professors, alumni and graduate students participated in the conference as presenters, session organizers and session chairs.
Veteran NeMLA participant and current URI Ph.D. candidate Sara Murphy remarks, “As someone who [has] worked as a NeMLA fellow and has now presented at her third consecutive NeMLA conference, I can’t overemphasize what an important role this organization and conference has [had] in my academic life. Interacting with our current and former colleagues made the experience both professionally beneficial and personally pleasurable!” Murphy went on to highlight the level of involvement URI has had with the conference: “Not only is it a pleasure to present my scholarly research in a rigorous professional forum, but also, it’s a pleasure to have a space to reconnect with so many URI alumni and current graduate students.” Participating in events held by organizations like NeMLA provides graduate students the opportunity to showcase their own research and to network with scholars in their field from other institutions.
We are thrilled to announce that our 8th annual Graduate Student Conference, Opening Spaces: Enabling Engagement with Complex Conversations, was a huge success! The event took place Saturday, March 29th and, despite the questionable weather, boasted upwards of 150 attendees and participants. It was hosted in URI’s pharmacy building as a reminder of the conference’s push toward “opening spaces” through interdisciplinary discussion. After signing in, guests were further reminded of this theme as they walked into the beautiful foyer and were greeted by the surprising window display of life-like human dummies lying in mock hospital beds. This sparked unusual conversation among the guests, thus perfectly setting the tone for what proved to be a highly-engaging, challenging, and fruitful day of presentations and discussion.
With just two weeks to go, preparations for the 8th Annual Graduate Student Conference are well underway. This year’s conference is themed “Opening Spaces: Enabling Engagement with Complex Conversations,” inviting interdisciplinary dialogue from various departments at URI and beyond. Led by Jenna Morton-Aiken, second year Ph.D. student in Writing and Rhetoric at URI, the conference committee has vetted abstracts and proposals, and arranged panels with far-reaching topics. From discussions on mental health in literature to the impact of media on stand-up comedy, from conversations about the utility of video games in academia to exploring environmental practices in hotels, this year’s panels offer something for everyone in this smorgasbord of intellectual conversation.
In addition to the impressive student panels, the accomplished Reverend Dr. L. Weldon Palmer will deliver the keynote address. Reverend Palmer’s own scholarly and professional work spans difficult conversations; with a concentration in religious ethics and American religious traditions in his doctoral work, Reverend Palmer has also co-authored interdisciplinary studies in neonatology, geriatrics and gerontology, and biomedical experimentation.
As plenary speakers, this year’s conference will feature two of URI’s own esteemed professors: Dr. Jose Amador from the Department of Natural Resources Science and Dr. Libby Miles from the Department of Writing and Rhetoric. Professors Amador and Miles recently co-taught an honors-level course on communicating science to the public.
Registration is currently open for the Graduate Conference! Please visit the Graduate Conference website for further details. The conference takes place on Saturday, March 29, 2014.
The weekend of Nov. 1-2 was hectic yet exhilarating for Beth Anish, a PhD student in English at URI and an Assistant Professor at CCRI. Beth hosted the 2013 New England Regional Meeting of the American Conference for Irish Studies, which drew scholars from the entire eastern seaboard to the CCRI venue in Warwick, RI. As the conference theme Beth chose “the hybridity of Irish culture in Ireland or in diaspora.”