Happy summer to all! Society members gathered last weekend in Simms’s hometown of Charleston to celebrate the man, do the Society’s business, and fellowship with each other. The inaugural Wigwam was held in the historic Francis Marion Hotel. The Wigwam featured both our business meeting–including the election of officers–an excellent meal, a superb keynote by Adam L. Tate of Clayton State University, old friends reunited and new friendships forged.
For the benefit of all who were unable to attend, below are the results of our business meeting, various Society updates that were shared at the Wigwam, and a video of Dr. Tate’s keynote.
Keynote by Adam L. Tate:
Business Meeting and New Officers:
Dr. Sean Busick opened the business meeting by finishing his presidential term, passing the torch to Dr. Jeff Rogers, who now serves as the Society president.
Dr. Rogers presided over nominations and elections for president-elect, secretary-treasurer, and two at-large members.
President-Elect: Mr. Kevin Kerr of Aiken, SC
Secretary-Treasurer: Dr. Matthew Simmons continues in this role. As Dr. Simmons is the only Society member on the University of South Carolina campus, and as the Society is constituted at USC, members thought it sensible to keep him in that role.
Members-at-Large: Dr. John Miller and Dr. Sam Lackey continue in this role. Both put together a solid conference line up at the American Literature Association this spring. Their main charge for the upcoming year will be to organize another set of panels for next year’s ALA.
American Literature Association Debriefing
Drs. John Miller and Sam Lackey put on a pair of panels on Simms for the American Literature Association’s annual meeting this past May, in Boston. They provide the following report on the event:
We posted the calls for papers to the usual listservs and organizations (H-NET, Society for the Study of Southern Literature, &c) and sent it to people we knew at R-1s whose advisees tend to have an interest in the early south/19th c. literature. We also combed the programs of past MLA, ALA, and SSSL conferences to identify scholars who presented on Simms or topics germane to Simms. Between the last method and recommendations from you, we secured six initial proposals that demonstrated some promise. One was a Society member, one was an undergraduate student, one was a postdoc, two were junior faculty, and one was a full professor.
Submitting the panels to and working with the ALA folks was very easy. They had some well-defined deadlines and submission guidelines.
After our panels were accepted, we had three accepted participants drop out. The student had some other expensive and pressing life issues, one scholar discovered themselves over-extended in terms of work obligations, and a third had to have emergency surgery the week of the conference. We were able to find a replacement for one of them, so both panels ended up having two presenters each.
As it turns out, this was not unusual at the conference. Many panels had scheduled presenters unable to attend, so I don’t think our being shorthanded was particularly noticeable.
The panels were scheduled by ALA at pretty desirable times—mid-day on the first and last days of the conference. That said, attendance at both panels was low. We had two people in the audience for the first panel and five people in the audience for the second.
There could have been a few reasons for the limited attendance. First, there were a lot of panels scheduled concurrently, up to ten per time slot. Second, low attendance seemed customary for authors on the periphery of the canon. The John Dos Passos Society panel, for instance, likewise had but a few attendees.
Regardless, the quality of the talks was mostly excellent. There were some innovative takes on familiar texts, and some engaging takes on less studied ones. In particular, there was interest on Simms’s post-bellum texts and their relationship to genre and to memory and reconciliation.
In sum, this was largely a positive experience. We believe it laid the groundwork for the presence of the Simms Society and for a mechanism for Simms and Simms-related studies. We share the recommendations below as potential ways to build upon the experience.
At the Wigwam, we discussed strategies for broadening our reach for future American Literature Association meetings so as to bring more people into the fold. Prominent amongst those ideas was using Society moneys to offer financial rewards and other forms of financial assistance–such as covering ALA registration costs–for winners of student essay contests, so as to get more students reading, thinking, and writing about Simms.
Drs. Lackey and Miller will be putting some of these strategies into play to put together two more panels at next year’s ALA meeting in Chicago.
Financial and Membership Update
Secretary-Treasurer Dr. Matthew Simmons noted that we have approximately $17k in the bank. This previous winter, he moved the majority of our money into a high-yield money market account which is on pace to earn us a few hundred dollars in interest this year.
Simmons reported positive membership news, with multiple new members having joined in the past few months, including international members. Further, several longstanding members have expressed interest in re-activating their memberships in the Society. Thus, while we remain small, positive growth is happening!
Next Year’s Wigwam
Next summer’s meeting will likely occur somewhere in Georgia. We hope to make decisions and announce the location earlier next year than this year, to help members make travel plans. Look for an announcement in this space next spring.
The Simms Review
Editor Todd Hagstette notes that the Review will be publishing the papers presented at this year’s American Literature Association meeting. This will be the pattern for the Review moving forward. While the Society regrets the infrequency of the Review in recent years, we have simply lacked the content to make producing, publishing, and shipping out a print journal feasible. To this end, we want to encourage members to submit Simms-related and Simms-adjacent content to the Review, and to encourage non-members who may be producing such content to consider passing it along as well–essays on Simms and his world, poetry, photography, and all forms of Simmsiana are encouraged! See the Review‘s page for submission guidelines.
Call for Email Addresses!
Finally, to help facilitate more efficient and cost-effective communication with Society membership, we encourage all members to provide an email address to Secretary-Treasurer Matthew Simmons. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Video Volans! See everyone in 2024!