Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Notes on the Society for Textual Scholarship Conference

My return was quiet. No grand entrance. No pomp and circumstance. Seriously, I gave no presentations. I was just there to listen.

May 31 - June 3, I attended the Society for Textual Scholarship (STS) Conference, in New York City at the New School. The last time I attended the conference was April 2001, when I was still a graduate student at Pennsylvania State University.  One of my professors, Robin Schulze, made me aware of STS and encouraged me to present my work on the covers of Richard Wright's Black Boy

Somehow, moving along in my career, I lost touch with STS conferences. Last year though, I heard from members of the organization who asked that I serve on the planning committee. I accepted and learned quite a bit as the lead magicians professor-organizers, Stephanie Browner and Gabrielle Dean, along with Barbara Bair, John Young, and Jeffrey Drouin, transformed [poof!] bits and pieces of half-formed ideas into a conference theme, a call for papers, and thoughtfully executed conference. 

The program kicked off with a presentation by Elizabeth McHenry and Kinohi Nishikawa. Suffice it to say, these two leading scholars in African American literary studies gave us much to consider.  (More on their presentation here). Next up were two concurrent sessions. That was the format used throughout the conference, just two sessions, which meant each panel had a good attendance throughout the conference. 

The conference theme was Design & Text. There were panels on Charles Chesnutt, Design "Interventions in the Black Diaspora," Reading Revisions," "Reaching Machines," "From Artis Books to Reprints," and more. Full program here

I attended a session on Ralph Ellison with presentations by Barbara Bair, from the Library of Congress, Michal Raz-Russo, from the Gordon Parks Foundation, and John F. Callahan, Ellison's literary executor.  Callahan and Raz-Russo are among the collaborators for  Ralph Ellison: Photographer. For some time, I had this sense that Ellison was somewhat into photography. I was wrong. The presentation clarified for me that Ellison was deep into photography.  

The conference also included tours to the New York Public Library and the Morgan Library & Museum.  

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