President’s Letter, June 2017

President’s Letter, June 2017

The summer has officially arrived for us all in the northern hemisphere. And while other seasons commonly signal busy schedules, whether with classes or other work, the summer is a good time to relax and think of our society friends we see only every couple of years. This summer is no different! Halfway between On Miracle Grounds nineteen and twenty, I’m torn between remembering the friendship found in warm breezes of last summer’s Cretan nights and looking forward to different winds next summer which will undoubtedly lead to more fond memories. With these winds in mind, I’m happy to share that next summer’s conference will be in Chicago! Please mark early July 2018 on your calendar, and join us for the twentieth On Miracle Ground. With an opening night welcome on Wednesday, July 4, presentations on July 5 and 6, a closing banquet Friday night, and additional optional events into the weekend, our Chicagoans Grace Austin and Bill Dring and the rest of the conference committee have great things in the works. Details are still being finalized, so keep an eye on the society website in the coming months for details, including a call for papers.

Even with unfavorable schedules, some of our society members have been fortunate enough to see each other this spring. In blustery February, we met to hear papers at the society’s two sponsored panels at the Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture since 1900. Organizing and chairing these panels on the themes of indebtedness and influence, Charles Sligh is to be lauded for bringing together a mix of perennial Durrellians along with some newcomers, leading to engaging and interesting discussions. It was a personal delight to participate in a panel with Dianne Vipond, and I was equally happy to hear John Murphy present. Dianne’s paper on The Revolt of Aphrodite considered Durrell’s critiquing of culture “From Spengler to Baudrillard,” John Murphy revealed the “Modernist Medievalism” in the pre-Raphaelite connections of Ford Madox Ford’s Ancient Lights and Parade’s End, and I investigated the predictability of Durrell’s literary prize wins and losses. All three of us are frequent participants in the society’s panels in Louisville, but the panels were also fortunate to feature a number of new presenters: Michelle Buchberger from Miami University spoke on the indebtedness and influence of D. H. Lawrence on John Fowles, David Wingrove from the University of Edinburgh outlined the commonalities of Durrell’s Justine and Paul Morand’s Hecate and Her Dogs, and Florian Gargaillo from Boston University presented on “Louise Glück’s Allusions to Modernism.” Louisville is always a good opportunity to see old friends and make new ones, and we hope to see Michelle, David, and Florian again soon (hopefully in Chicago!). If you’re interested in joining us in Louisville this coming February, keep an eye out on the website soon for an upcoming call for papers announcing the panel themes.

While in Kentucky, the executive board also had its annual meeting, giving us a chance to review the past year and plan for years upcoming. Keeping Crete in mind, we deliberated proposals for Austin and Chicago before voting to take the society to the Windy City; nevertheless, I’m not alone in looking forward to a Durrell society conference in Austin sometime in the future. Additionally, our agenda included the imminent arrival of the next issue of Deus Loci and we covered some upcoming changes for the society website for members and nonmembers alike. Moreover, the board discussed and reiterated our commitment to the White Mice poetry contest, run by David Radavich, and we agreed upon the importance of translations of international scholarship to share published works across cultural divides. Everyone in the executive board remains committed to keeping the society accessible to a broad base of members globally.

In addition to the above, we made plans to better serve Durrell’s readership by improving upon our existing strengths. The society’s bibliography has grown out of extensive work by James Gifford, bringing together and adding to ongoing work by many others, including Grove Koger, Susan MacNiven, Cecil L. Peaden, Susan Vander Closter, James Brigham, and Alan G. Thomas. Growing out of sheets of paper and into offline files on a computer, the most previous version of the bibliography was held online using a paid service dependent on the beneficence of a university host before it was moved a few years ago to an open database format hosted by Zotero. Despite the openness of this format, Zotero is not a widely-known technology. The bibliography can be a significant boon to anyone researching Durrell’s writing (or researching writing about his writing), so we’re planning two days of exploration and service to encourage members to familiarize themselves with the bibliography while helping to make it more robust and useful. This is a perfect time to learn together, as you join other Durrellians getting grips on the way things work, all the while aiding us in tidying up entries that may have become disheveled over the years. Check our society website for an informational page and sign-up form.

Wherever you may be, and however you may be spending your summer, I look forward to seeing you and hearing from you soon. Whether we meet virtually online, digging together through the bibliography, or we meet up in Louisville, in Chicago, or both, I hope that the summer winds blow favorably for you, allowing you a time to reflect upon old friendships and to anticipate the new.