I arrived home from Chicago late Sunday night. My flight had been canceled and I had to fly standby in order to get a flight. I really don’t deal well with travel disruptions, so it was a very stressful and tiring day. I still feel fairly exhausted!

I was in Chicago for the conference of the Group for Early Modern Cultural Studies. One of the good things about GEMCS has always been its friendliness to beginning scholars and to scholarship on a wide range of issues — it’s a conference at which graduate students can rub elbows with major scholars and at which papers on gender and queer issues are relatively common. But it also has some inherent weaknesses, the primary one being that papers are short — no more than 15 minutes long. Once you’re an established scholar and want to give a 20- to 30-minute paper on your topic, 15 minutes is extremely difficult to pull off.

The conference went well. I actually attended about 5 sessions — which I think might be a record for me. Usually, I end up being a tourist, hanging out with friends, and spending as much time as possible drunk. So, this past weekend was definitely an improvement in that regard.

I can’t say that I heard very many papers that really excited me (in the sense of wanting to rush out and find out more about the topic). The most interesting paper I heard was from a friend and mentor of mine, Misty. She read a paper on the Methodist evangelist George Whitefield. Her paper was part of a panel on “Queer Cultural Encodings,” and she talked mostly about a confessional autobiography Whitefield wrote. This autobiography certainly made him sound rather queer. After hearing it, I do want to read more about Whitefield and this confessional text.

I also really enjoyed attending my friend Nicole’s panel, a round table discussion on “Literary History, Cultural Studies, and Multidisciplinarity.” The five panelists were interested in discussing questions of interdisciplinary work, New historicism and its alternatives, and the task of doing literary history. They all raised very interesting questions and issues. Later that evening, my friend James and I went to dinner with Nicole and three of the other panelists from her session. I really like them! We had a great time eating, drinking, and chatting. I hope I get the chance to hang out with them again.

My panel had the unfortunate situation of being scheduled on Sunday morning. Not surprisingly, we had only three audience members (two of which were my friends). Nevertheless, I was glad to give my paper. I really think I’m on to something with it — even though the process of writing the paper convinced me that I had previously been reading the play incorrectly. I’m hoping to keep working on it and maybe turn it into an article. I also thought the three papers in my session worked well together thematically.

And finally, while attending a session I looked over and saw one of my former students in the audience. I was surprised to say the least. Sara had been one of our honors students here at OU when I first got here. She’s definitely one of the smartest students I’ve ever taught. I was glad to see her and get a chance to chat a bit. She’s now a Renaissance PhD student at the University of Illinois.

Sometime in the next couple of days, I’ll write more about my visit to Chicago and the socializing I did there. On the whole, I’d say the conference went well. I was disappointed in when my paper was scheduled. But I had fun and just writing the paper was helpful for my larger project. So, on the whole, a good (but not great) conference.

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