I'm not sure if I should be posting every week or simply a blurb every day... maybe I'll start doing both, just to keep my self-accountable!
I've been in Philadelphia for a whirlwind trip inspired by the MACBS (Mid-Atlantic Conference of British Studies). My sweet husband picked me up at the airport and there were a vase of lilies waiting for me at his small apartment. My pudgy cat lovingly offered me his belly every chance he got, and even though I foolishly didn't bring along a jacket (it was 80 in St. Louis when I left!) even the cold Philadelphia air was welcome simply because it was familiar.
To be honest, I was rather nervous about this conference, even though I've done this at least a dozen times. It was predominantly historians and I wasn't familiar with the practice of sending in your paper two weeks in advance--I'm more of the edit it until the hour you present kind of girl! Also, it's extremely difficult to whittle 70+ pages into 11 refined (and impressive) ones. So I sent off my draft a week late but my panel leader was very kind and didn't comment on how many changes appeared in the draft I read. At every panel, the chair would offer commentary and feedback on each presenter: she recommended I incorporate more information on how Thackeray's fictions were received (reviews and such) and consider how that inevitably shaped his writings on Englishness. Also, two professors from Temple (who were kind enough to let me join there British Studies group when I adjuncted there) sat in and offered their support. And... I now have an outside reader! Woohooo! Plus, my wonderful friend Val had me over for a lovely brunch and introduced me to one of her colleagues from another Philadelphia University: "M" is also a Victorian and offered her support, to read pages, offer links, conferences to take part in, etc. During my last foray into academia I felt critiqued and unsupported, but this week has been incredible and I'm grateful for the intelligent and welcoming British scholars I've been lucky enough to meet!
What I learned from the conference: after feedback from my panel chair, the various panels I observed, and an interesting round-table on interdisciplinary learning is I need to approach my historical critiques methodically, carefully. I'm not simply doing literary criticism here, which is as I prefer it, but it makes it more complicated. I still have a lot to learn about Anglo-India, and want to locate more contemporary reviews of Thackeray's fictions, particularly concerning his portrayals of other groups.
But I'm back in St. Louis, Blue greeted me with immense excitement and won't let me out of his sight. Craig arrives in mid-April to help me drive back to Pennsylvania. Next step: move into the cottage at the lake. I'll finish CH 2 this month and hopefully CH 3 in May, CH 4 June, CH 5 July, and defend in early fall. I can do this!
My blog-co-writer Liana has the sharp idea that we start exchanging pages, I think it's a good one! More soon...