Heather Paulson on the American Comparative Literature Association Conference

Draper student Heather Paulson recently attended the American Comparative Literature Association Conference at Harvard University. She shares on the experience below:

This past March I attended and presented a paper at the annual conference of the American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA), held at Harvard University. I went to Harvard with feelings of great trepidation, as this was the first academic conference I had attended, not to mention the first academic paper that has seen the light of day outside a professor’s office or classroom.

The ACLA conference is unique in that it is organized around seminars, not panels, which allow for each presenter to share his or her work and then discuss it with the other participants and public attendees. My seminar, entitled “After Everything is Said,” revolved around ideas of translation, production, and the role of the author/producer in shaping experience with a text. Most surprising was the diversity of the other participants: a professor from Boston University, two others from University of South Carolina, doctoral students from the University of Minnesota and University of Iowa, and an independent scholar from the UK. I was the sole MA student, but felt completely welcomed and inspired by my colleagues, whose work was as diverse as their backgrounds. Along with the seminar I participated in, ACLA had over 200 other seminars that ran from 8:30 in the morning to 4:30 in the afternoon. Needless to say, choosing which seminars to attend was a daunting task, but I managed to see several NYU professors present their work, including Mark Sanders (Comparative Literature) and Emily Apter (French), ran into Professor Shireen Patell (Trauma and Violence) in another seminar, and attended over six different seminars with topics such as, “Worlding of Worlds,” and “South Africa in Translation.”

Although I was uncertain what to expect from the conference, I came away with a greater confidence in my own writing and scholarship. I am also inspired and overwhelmed by the infinite possibilities for study—with every paper that was read, I realized how little I would ever truly be able to know about anything. If any Draper student is considering submitting an abstract or attending a conference, I would highly recommend ACLA; the diversity of seminars makes space for almost any field of study, and the attendees are welcoming and open-minded.

Heather Paulson is a currently pursuing a dual-degree MA/MLS with NYU’s Draper Program and Long Island University’s Palmer School of Library and Information Science. Her interests include the literatures of Sub-Saharan Africa, political writing, memory and memoir, and academic librarianship. She also works at the New York Society Library and assists Professor Shireen Patell with the Trauma and Violence Transdisciplinary Program.

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