April 1, 2022
Thanks to Alissa Simon, HMU Tutor, for today’s post.
Academics often feel pressure to publish. A young academic must be out presenting papers, publishing in peer-reviewed journals, and working towards a first chapter or full-length book project. This process is daunting. After attending various conferences over the years, I find that I prefer conferences that welcome young students. More than simply making me happy, fresh faces bring new ideas. These students and scholars introduce me to new names, events, tech platforms, etc. However, I also enjoy discussion groups in the style of a book group. In addition to the literature focus, discussion groups often connect with local art, theater, music, etc. In other words, it becomes a cultural experience worthy of ten conferences. In the hopes that more in-person conferences will soon be possible again, this post briefly introduces two types of conferences.
The Popular Culture Association Conferences offer a welcoming introduction to the academic circle. First of all, these conferences are regional, which makes travel easier. Secondly, presentations are generally small in numbers, which allows for an intimate, and perhaps slightly less intimidating, environment. In addition to individual presentations, plenty of breakout sessions exist. Also, you can propose a roundtable which includes experts from a broad umbrella and opens the door to real connections with other faculty. Finally, because of the focus on popular culture, pretty much any topic is fair game. I like to bridge the classics and contemporary life. For example, I have presented papers such as a comparison of Chaucer and contemporary stand-up comedians; gluten-free baking as a form of translation; and critical readings of contemporary poets. Better yet, I have attended discussions of contemporary films; Native American rights; university cafeteria lifestyles; steampunk; military barbies; and much more. Though the topics cover a wide range, a number of dedicated groups exist, such as: Breaking Bad, Grateful Dead, Esotericism and much more. In addition to presenting a critical paper, you can also read or workshop in creative writing circles.
Conferences like this are a wonderful way to add notes to your resume, while also creating a community. While these conferences help young students understand their role in academia, they can also be a fun place to learn and explore. Make sure to exchange business cards, LinkedIn accounts, or email and Twitter accounts with others as you wander from forum to forum. That enables you to cultivate a community, but also check in on others from time to time. Ask about interests, recent presentations, class loads, etc. These events are intended to create a community of scholars, such as people with similar research interests. They also open doors to new types of research or collaborations.
One final note on academic conferences: attend a publishing workshop. Even if you do not have a book ready for publication, even if you are only slightly considering publication, publishers have wonderful advice. These forums present quick, direct access. It is far easier to ask a question at an in-person conference than it is over email or phone.
In addition to academic conferences, Harrison Middleton University also encourages attendance of discussion groups. Groups such as Classical Pursuits open the door to travel, experience, and book discussion. These discussions are not meant to be scholarly per se, though they often are, but rather, they open doors and minds. They ask us to read unfamiliar literature and discuss it with others who may be new to the material as well. I have attended conferences on Caravaggio; Muslim women writers; opera; and Shakespeare, just to name a few. Meant to entertain and to educate, these conferences are always fun. Moreover, they often inspire my own writing, and I am most happy when I can read, write, and discuss.
I wanted to write a blog about conferences, in part, I think, because some of these are becoming in-person events again. For example, I just attended the Southwest/American Popular Culture Association Conference in-person, and presented a paper on Layli Long Soldier and Julian Baggini. It was wonderful and revitalizing to see old friends and new! Though we have all transitioned to the online world (as did these organizations), there is simply no substitute for in-person group discussions. Most importantly, though, is the need to keep our ideas fresh and relevant. Therefore, no matter where you are in your degree, and whether it is online or in-person, there has never been a better time to cultivate a community!
Feel free to contact me with question about these conferences or others – and, in the meantime, I hope you find an event that suits your needs.
(In the past, I have written about the Southwest Popular/ American Culture Association Conference before, which can be found at https://www.hmu.edu/hmu-blog/2017/2/24/southwest-popular-culture-conference.)
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