President’s Letter, December 2017

President’s Letter, December 2017

Like many teachers and students, I’m trapped measuring time in units of academic terms. As this semester ends, I can’t help acknowledging that it has passed more quickly than I expected it to do. The summer seems so recent! But considering a semester by its extremes is like considering a library by its bookends, and I overlook much of what’s come in between, forgetting the important parts. From sharing a homemade pinhole projector with students during the eclipse (yes, that was just a few months ago) to taking notes on classroom discussions, staying up late to reach research milestones, and meeting with students to sculpt essays out of ideas, this semester has been full for me, and I appreciate it for all that’s happened in these moments between start and finish.

When it comes to the society’s On Miracle Ground conferences, it feels correct to measure time by these endpoints: the important parts are the moments that happen once every two years, while the in-between times are for waiting or planning. And now we’re running out of the in-between! For months now, Grace Austin and Bill Dring have been planning and working in Chicago to make ready an exciting conference for July. We’ve secured a meeting venue in Chicago’s glittering downtown, at the Water Tower campus of Loyola University of Chicago, just off Michigan Avenue. Nestled amid skyscrapers, with affordable accommodation available on site, a night of poetry scheduled at the nearby Poetry Foundation, and more on the agenda, conference attendees will have a chance to talk about and hear about Durrell in the city he called “a woman in a steel bra.” It’s certain to be an exciting conference, and I truly cannot wait for July.

Come! The call for papers is available on the Durrell Society website (here), and an online form makes it easy to submit your proposal by January 22nd. The conference theme is Exile, Dissidence, and Survival. The conference committee welcomes submissions on this topic or on any aspect of Durrell or his work, and we’ve already begun to receive submissions. As the twentieth On Miracle Ground conference, this is a big one for the society, and we would like your help to extend the invitation as far as possible. If you know of someone whom you think might be interested in joining us in Chicago, please let them know about it. Chicago presents a good opportunity for newcomers to join us, just as it will be a great place to reconnect with old friends.

When you visit the website to submit your proposal, you might notice things looking a little different there (here, actually, since this letter is now published online, too). Long a place where we’ve posted information on upcoming conferences, announced winners of the White Mice poetry contest, and collected other resources including society bylaws and links to special collections, the website has always had the potential to be where members engage with one another. In preparation for the upcoming conference, we wanted to revisit the website’s utility and better organize its offerings. At the same time, we’ll soon be sharing a new series of posts with regular updates written by society members. Loosely offered under a common theme, these posts offer members a chance to get to know each other in the times between conferences. If you’d like to offer your own post, please let me know.

Finally, some society members are planning to attend and present at the Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture since 1900, held from February 22nd to the 24th. We’ve proposed a panel on “Refuge” with participants speaking on a range of topics related to themes common in Durrell’s work: Pamela Francis, the society’s vice president, will be speaking on “The Poetics of Personal Landscape: A Topopoetical Reading of British Poetry in North Africa, 1939-1945”; Sean Weidman, a PhD student at Pennsylvania State University, will be presenting “Ford Madox Ford, English Sociability, and the Ends of Hospitality”; and Jason Parks, an assistant professor at Anderson University, is presenting “The Periodical as Psychological Refuge: Eugene Jolas, Shell Shock, and transition.” These three papers offer a look at three different media Durrell wrote in during his lifetime, and they take up the idea of personal and literary refuge in a way that should allow for broad discussion of modernist and mid-twentieth century literature. I’m looking forward to hearing these papers, and I’m eager to see some Durrellians in attendance. The executive board will be meeting during the conference to have our last in-person meeting before Chicago. Additionally, there will be some kind of reception and dinner outings in Louisville planned throughout the conference weekend. Please let me (or Pamela!) know if you’d like to join in.

As we near the year’s end, I hope 2017 has been good to you, full of good moments in between. We have a lot in store in 2018, and I very much look forward to seeing many of you in Chicago this July.