See below for Prof. Glenda Norquay’s accounts of her trips to the MLA Convention in New York and the Institute of English Studies at the University of Warsaw. Watch out for details of Erasmus exchange places available in Warsaw next academic year!
‘This year began for me with two international expeditions that were ‘wild’ in a number of senses.
The first was to the Modern Language Association Convention in New York City. This is the biggest international gathering of the English subject area and a great opportunity to find out what’s new in the discipline, engage with scholars in a particular specialism or hear academic celebrities. I had co-organised a panel of international scholars – from France, the Netherlands, Scotland – to talk on ‘Mapping Literary and Political Landscapes in Postdevolutionary Scottish Writing: Restating Insecurities’. This was related to the main, or Presidential, theme of the Convention, ‘States of Insecurity’. Our session was Panel 720 – which gives an idea of the size of the Convention – and timetabled for 8.30 on a Sunday morning but we still managed to have a lively discussion on the topic, which became even livelier over much-needed coffee afterwards. It was a particular pleasure to have a colleague from our partner institution, Southern Connecticut State University, at the paper.
The biggest challenge of the Convention however was the weather. A ‘snow bomb’ hit New York on the evening before the conference started – and then the temperature dropped. So getting around in an icy wind and -12 degrees was something of a challenge. I felt lucky to be there at all –and to get out afterwards. My co-organiser, flying in from Paris, ended up spending two days in Chicago! Many people just didn’t make it at all, which was a real pity. But: I went to some fascinating sessions – on nineteenth-century women’s writing; on the anthropocene; on the non-human; on Raymond Williams’ “Keywords’ revisited – and I got to hear Judith Butler talk. An hour in the New York Public Library was a small treat on the final day.
Less than a week later I was on my way to Warsaw. LJMU English have established an Erasmus link with the Institute of English Studies there and my visit was to explore connections between staff research interests, to talk to students, and to give a lecture. Warsaw is a fascinating city, its complicated history evident in the mixture of Soviet realist architecture, reconstructed ‘Old Town’ and modern buildings to replace those destroyed by Hitler’s troops in the last days of World War II. The Institute of English Studies, part of the University of Warsaw, is currently located in what was the Physics department – which makes for some interesting juxtapositions. The University Library on the new university campus is an amazing building, modern, experimental, leaf-covered: An inspiring place to study – and rather less controversial than the Palace of Culture and Science which dominates the city’s skyline.
It was perhaps predictable that Warsaw in January would also mean snow – although not necessarily being so snowbound that the delayed journey back involved an enforced night in Frankfurt. Normally I love snow – and secretly hope for it – but the more mundane winter weather in Liverpool now seems quite welcome.
Erasmus exchange places will be available in Warsaw next academic year. All the courses are taught in English and they have a great range of modules available.’