Hilton PortlandI got back from the meeting of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies in Portland, OR, on Sunday. This is a picture of the hotel from the ASECS website. I arrived on Thursday afternoon and starving for something to eat. It was a great conference. I enjoyed all of the panels I attended, and the little sightseeing that I did while there was also a lot of fun.

Let’s start with the important part: the panel I organized on “Representations of Jews in the Eighteenth Century.” I had received a large number of proposals for the session but could only accommodate four papers. Ultimately, I chose to include scholars from four different fields: one from an English department, one from history, one from religious studies, and one from a modern languages department. All four papers were excellent, and I was really proud to have brought them all together.

The only problem with the session was that it was scheduled for the final time on Saturday evening, 5:30 to 7 pm. Since this was the last session of the conference and since people were either leaving to go home or going out to dinner, etc., we had a relatively small number of people in our audience: only about 8. Despite the low turnout, it was a really good session, and I hope we can put another one together for next year.

Maria EdgeworthMost of the other panels I attended ended up being about late eighteenth-century women novelists. On Friday morning, I went to the 8 am session on “Locating Maria Edgeworth.” I’m extremely pleased with myself for going to an 8 a.m. panel! The session was really good. I especially liked Emily Hodgson Anderson’s paper, “Maria Edgeworth’s Helen and the Limits of the Eighteenth-Century Novel.” (I think she might have changed the title of her paper, but I forgot to write down the new title if she did. This is the title in the program.) Her paper was a brilliant neo-formalist reading of Edgeworth’s last novel. Really smart stuff. (The picture to the right is a portrait of Edgeworth from Wikipedia)

On the flight out to Portland, I started reading Marilyn Butler’s biography of Maria Edgeworth. It’s been a fascinating read. (I haven’t finished it yet, though I also read it on the flight home.) Reading the biography made the panel even more interesting. I’m also working on an article on Edgeworth right now, so it was really stimulating to hear such good work on this novelist. I feel inspired to get my article done so I can join the ranks of Edgeworth scholars!

At 9:45, I went to a panel sponsored by The Burney Society entitled “Frances Burney and the Law.” My friend and colleague Nicole gave the best paper on this panel, one entitled “Frances Burney’s Suicides.” It was a really good new historicist reading of Burney’s use of suicide — threatened, achieved, and accidentally achieved — as a plot device in her novels. It was a fascinating essay and a real crowd pleaser!

I then played hookie for the rest of the day. In the afternoon, Nicole, my  friend James, and I went to the Portland Art Museum, where we ate lunch and saw the exhibits. I’ll write more about the museum sometime this week. We also went to Powell’s Bookstore, which is a huge used bookstore in Portland. For perhaps the first time ever, I didn’t buy any books at a bookstore! I was looking for some specific novels and couldn’t find them so I decided not to buy anything.

Frances BurneyMy Saturday conference attendance started with the 9:45 session and another panel sponsored by The Burney Society. This is a portrait of Burney from Wikipedia on the left.

This second panel was entitled “Agony Aunts and Confidantes in Burney and Her Circle.” Another one of my colleagues was on this panel; she read a paper on skepticism about advice in Jane Austen’s novels. Again, hers was also the best paper on the panel (and I’m not just sucking up to my colleagues!). The other papers were good, but they didn’t seem as far reaching as Linda’s paper was.

That session was followed by the annual Clifford Lecture, which was given by Howard Weinbrot this year. He delivered an interesting lecture on the Thirtieth of January sermons, which were legislatively instituted after the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 to commemorate and mourn and the execution of Charles I, which had taken place on January 30, 1649. I was particularly interested in hearing about sermons preached or written by such famous eighteenth-century writers as Jonathan Swift, Samuel Johnson, and Laurence Sterne, but, while he discussed each of these men, he actually spent very little time on Johnson or Sterne.

I skipped the 2 to 3:30 session in order to pack, since my flight out of Portland was at 6:40 the next morning. I then split the 3:45 to 5:15 sessions, first going to hear a paper by one of my department’s former graduate students and then going to the rest of a session sponsored by the Lesbian & Gay Caucus on “Critical Conundrums in Queer Eighteenth-Century Studies.” One of the queer projects, on three English trials of women for crimes other than lesbianism since lesbianism wasn’t covered under English sodomy laws, was especially interesting.

My session was then at 5:30.

In addition to the conference, the museum, and the bookstore, I ate really well while I was there. I intend to blog about the museum and my dining experiences in the next couple of days.

In sum, the conference was really good. I mentioned before I left that I’m trying to figure out whether I want to go to ASECS next year. It’s in Richmond, which should be in driving distance, so maybe PJ will come with me. I would like to put another panel on Jewish Studies together. This one went so well; it would be great if we could initiate a larger presence of Jewish Studies work at ASECS. I’m also considering proposing a paper for the next meeting of The Burney Society later this year. And finally, I might propose something for the meeting of the Association of Jewish Studies in D.C. in December. I guess going to the conference has really inspired me to get some work done!