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Alternative/Mainstream: A U.S. Studies Conference

12-14 October, 2018, St. Mary’s University, Calgary


Political commentary may only be the most habitual context in which the merging of fringe and mainstream—a new prevalence of the “Alternative”—has been characterized as a defining, symptomatic feature of the cultural moment in the United States. Yale Historian Timothy Snyder has suggested, however, that “post-truth” anxieties triggered by widespread “scorn for everyday facts” and a proportionately prolific “construction of alternate realities” may not be as “new or postmodern” as we tend to imagine (On Tyranny, 2017). And while a diverse array of contemporary usages and connotations may have made tensions between alternative and mainstream more ubiquitous than ever before, the long and complex history of such tensions in American culture can hardly be denied. What alternatives? Alternatives to what? What mainstream “realities” do champions of the alternative dispute? Do disputed facts necessarily differentiate alternative and mainstream perspectives?

Le commentaire politique n’est peut-être que le contexte le plus commun dans lequel la fusion du courant marginal et du courant dit dominant – une nouvelle prévalence de l’«Alternative» – a été identifiée comme une caractéristique déterminante et symptomatique de la conjoncture culturelle actuelle aux États-Unis. Timothy Snyder, historien à Yale, a suggéré que les angoisses «post-vérité» déclenchées par un «mépris des faits quotidiens» généralisé et une «construction de réalités alternatives» comparativement plus prolifique peuvent ne pas être aussi «nouvelles ou postmodernes» que nous avons tendance à imaginer (On Tyranny, 2017). Et bien qu’une gamme diversifiée d’usages modernes et de connotations contemporaines ait pu rendre plus omniprésentes que jamais les tensions entre l’alternative et le courant dominant, l’histoire interminable et complexe de telles tensions dans la culture américaine ne peut pas être facilement niée. Quelles alternatives? Alternatives à quoi? Quelles «réalités» dominantes favorisent-elles le conflit provoqué par les choix alternatifs? Les faits contestés se distinguent-ils nécessairement des perspectives alternatives et traditionnelles?



St. Mary’s University and the Canadian Association of American Studies acknowledge gratefully the original inhabitants and custodians of the land on which we will meet: the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot) and the people of the Treaty 7 region—the Tsuu T’ina, the Siksika, the Piikani, the Kainai and the Iyarhe Nakoda. Calgary is home to the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3.


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Registration:

As always, please note that CAAS does require conferencers to be actively subscribed members of the Association; the membership is synonymous with a year’s subscription to our journal, the Canadian Review of American Studies. For this reason, we ask that you purchase both the registration and the CAAS membership on the Eventbrite site. (See below for URL; those who are already, and will be for the dates of the conference, current members of CAAS, please confirm for our records). Note that we do have a reduced registration rate for graduate students, sessional lecturers, and independent scholars.

 

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/alternativemainstream-a-us-studies-conference-tickets-46422650397

 

Travel and Accommodation:

The designated conference hotel is the Wingate Calgary South (400 Midpark Way SE), which offers walkable proximity (2 km to our campus on residential streets), as well as complimentary breakfast and a morning shuttle. Participants may reserve at the conference rate of CAN $129 + tax for single king or double queen rooms. Conference rates are extendable for as many nights as anyone may be interested in booking; there is also an Avis car rental office in the hotel. To reserve, call 403-514-0099 and identify yourself as a “group booking” participant in the CAAS-Alternative/Mainstream Conference.

 

From the Calgary International Airport, the hotel is roughly 30 minutes by car; airport taxi or Uber would normally be the best alternative. For travel to and from downtown, Calgary Transit’s Southern LRT line is a convenient option, with stops readily walkable for both St. Mary’s (Fish Creek/Lacombe) and the Wingate (Shawnessy). Various attractive restaurant/entertainment possibilities are accessible from that LRT line (esp. from the Chinook, Erlton, and City Hall stops).

 

The St. Mary’s campus occupies a historic 25-acre site bordering on Fish Creek Provincial Park, one of Canada’s largest urban parks. Weather permitting, as one may hope it will (based on season average temperatures), this is a pleasant setting for long or short walks, bike rides, roller blading, etc. This said, all participants are strongly urged to monitor forecasts prior to travelling, as weather conditions in mid-Autumn can vary considerably and change rapidly.

 

Campus Map: https://stmu.ca/campus-map/ Small place, hard to get lost; our events will be in building H (Heritage Centre) with the exception of the CAAS exec meeting in A (Admin) 212.

Hotel Map: http://www.wingatebywyndhamcalgary.com/location.html Those who opt to walk to campus from the Wingate will be able to trace the following route on the map above:

  1. Head north from parking lot on Midpark way, SE;
  2. turn right (east) on Midpark Gate SE;
  3. turn immediately left (north again) on Midpark Blvd, SE and follow it around past a small mall;
  4. cross Midlake Blvd, SE, and the road will become Midridge Dr., SE, still heading north;
  5. turn left (west) on 153rd Ave. SE;
  6. turn right on 1st St. SE, and follow it directly into the southern entry to St. Mary’s campus.
    (Allow about 30 minutes.)

 

A word from IT: to avoid any unintended disabling of our PC-equipped media podium, please transfer any ppt, slides or other media onto data sticks please, rather than planning to hook up your laptops directly.

Friday’s plenary and reception: If you are arriving too late to make the 2 Friday afternoon sessions, I hope very much that you’ll still consider attending what promises to be a great plenary, and one on which we’ve built a special roundtable session for Saturday. Minimally, if need be, feel free to parachute in for the reception and meet some people before Saturday.

Registration: we’ll have a desk open in the Heritage Centre Friday from 11:30-5 and 9-5 Saturday; in addition to collecting your program package, we’ll be asking for your preferred mailing addresses to process your CRAS subscription. For the one or two of you coming in specially on Sunday, I’ll just help you in person.

 

Film Screening Thursday October 11: (Free for any conference registrants who will be in town that evening.) The screening will feature the Documentary Spettacolo by Jeff Malmberg and Chris Shellen, whose Marwencol will be featured in our Friday evening plenary. If you determine that you wish to attend, please let me know by Oct. 5 to ensure that your seat is reserved. (Trailer at https://vimeo.com/230383008 )

 

Please direct all questions to luke.bresky@stmu.ca. Stand by for further updates, including last-minute modifications to the schedule. By all means invite anyone who might be interested simply in attending the conference to consider registering.

(All events to take place in Heritage Centre 100 and the adjacent foyer) FRIDAY, Oct. 12


11:30 AM-1:00 PM REGISTRATION, LUNCH (FOYER)
1:00-2:30 PM SESSION 1: Antebellum Antagonisms
2:30-2:45 COFFEE, SNACKS (FOYER)
2:45-4:15 PM SESSION 2: Criminal Places, Criminal Minds
4:15-4:30 PM COFFEE, SNACKS (FOYER)
4:30-7:00 PM VIRGINIA ROCK PLENARY


Chris Shellen: Making Marwencol (Big)

 

This plenary will frame a screening of Marwencol (2010), the award-winning documentary that Shellen produced in collaboration with director Jeff Malmberg, with an introduction and question period addressing the conference theme. Describing the making and marketing of the documentary, she will also assess its appeal and adaptability for the purposes of the Hollywood feature, The Women of Marwen (directed and produced by Robert Zemeckis, starring Steve Carell as Mark Hogancamp), to be released in November 2018, a few weeks after the conference. (See trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Px2YFpy6rCo) On Saturday, Shellen will also participate in a roundtable discussion with academic specialists in film studies and art history.

(All events to take place in Heritage Centre 100 and the adjacent foyer) SATURDAY, October 13

9:00-10:30 AM SESSION 3: Politics and Populism
10:30-10:45 AM COFFEE, SNACKS
10:45-12:15 AM SESSION 4: On Marwencol (Frames and Positions)
12:15-1:30 PM LUNCH; CAAS EXECUTIVE MEETING
1:30-3:00 PM SESSION 5: Contemporary Fiction
3:00-3:15 PM COFFEE, SNACKS
3:15-4:45 PM SESSION 6: Film’s Possibilities, Real and Imagined
4:45-5:15 PM CAAS AGM
5:15-6:00 PM RECEPTION
6:00-7:30 PM ROBERT WHITE PLENARY


Elizabeth Jameson: American Borderlands: Rethinking Margins and Mainstreams


Dr. Jameson is Professor Emerita of History at the University of Calgary; she retired as Imperial Oil – Lincoln McKay Chair in American Studies in 2017. Her talk will reflect, from the vantage of varied professional experiences, the re-conceiving and rethinking of American history and culture from a series of margins—notably the margins designated by race, class, and gender, but also the margins of the profession, and the useful margins of social, regional and national borderlands. Dr. Jameson will problematize critical questions as to whose experience, whose documents, etc., qualify as mainstream, and whose remain alternative.

SUNDAY, October 14

9:00-10:30 AM SESSION 7: Moving Through Spaces
10:30-10:45 AM COFFEE, SNACKS
10:45-12:15 AM SESSION 8: Moderns, Alternatives
ALTERNATIVE/MAINSTREAM: CONFERENCE PARTICIPANTS
 
Lindsey Banco

Associate Professor of English at the University of Saskatchewan, Lindsey Banco specializes in postmodern and contemporary U.S. literature and culture; he is author of Travel and Drugs in Twentieth-Century Literature (Routledge, 2009) and The Meanings of J. Robert Oppenheimer.

(U of Iowa P, 2016).

 

Rita Bode

Professor of English Literature at Trent University’s Durham campus, Rita Bode has authored numerous articles and book chapters on women’s writing—notably on Willa Cather, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Edith Wharton. She is co-editor, with Jean Mitchell, of L. M. Montgomery and the Matter of Nature(s) (McGill-Queen’s UP, 2018), and (with Lesley D. Clement) L. M. Montgomery’s Rainbow Valleys: The Ontario Years, 1911-42 (McGill-Queen’s UP, 2015).

 

Luke Bresky

Associate Professor of English at St. Mary’s University, Luke Bresky is editor (with Michael Colacurcio) of Hawthorne’s The Blithedale Romance (Broadview, 2015). His research on antebellum literature appears in ESQ, The Nathaniel Hawthorne Review, and Stories of Nation: Fictions, Politics, and the American Experience (U of Tennessee P, 2017).

 

Peter Brown

Associate Professor of English at Mount Allison University, Peter Brown teaches film, and popular culture, as well as 20th and 21st-century literature; his most recent research focuses on Los Angeles in literature and culture, and on theories of punk and post-punk.

Trent Davis

Associate Professor in Education at St. Mary’s University, Trent Davis is editor (with Cory Wright-Maley) of Teaching for Democracy in an Age of Economic Disparity (Routledge, 2016). The working title of his current research project is New Public Management in a Neoliberal Age: Hannah Arendt and the Revitalization of Higher Education.

 

Dawn Dietrich

Associate Professor of English at Western Washington University, Dawn Dietrich specializes in film studies and postmodern literature. Her research has appeared in Arena Journal, Interfaces: Image/Texte/Langage, and Film Quarterly. Her latest article is entitled “Beyond Behavioral Geography: New Materialism in Locke and Mad Max: Fury Road.

Faye Halpern

Associate Professor of English at the University of Calgary, Faye Halpern is author of Sentimental Readers: The Rise, Fall, and Revival of a Disparaged Rhetoric (U of Iowa P, 2013). Her most recent research on 19th century American literature appears in Narrative, The Henry James Review, College English, and Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers.

 

Jennifer Harris

Associate Professor of English at the University of Waterloo, Jennifer Harris specializes in nineteenth-century American and African American literary history; she is editor (with Hillary Iris Lowe) of From Page to Place: American Literary Tourism and the Afterlives of Authors (U of Massachusetts P, 2017) and (with Bryan Waterman) of Foster’s The Coquette and The Boarding School (Norton, 2012). Her most recent research appears in Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers, African American Review, Acadiensis, the Journal of Canadian Studies, and Rethinking Canada: The Promise of Women’s History (Oxford UP).

Susan Ingram

Associate Professor of Humanities at York University, Susan Ingram is editor of World Film Locations Berlin (Intellect Books, 2012) and (with Markus Reisenleitner) of Wiener Chic: A Locational History of Vienna Fashion (Intellect Books, 2013); she has also edited a special issue on peripherality and place images for Imaginations: Journal of Cross-Cultural Image Studies. Her recent research appears in (among other journals) TranscUlturAl, Space and Culture, and Descant.

 

Elizabeth Jameson

Professor Emerita of History at the University of Calgary, Elizabeth Jameson retired as Imperial Oil – Lincoln McKay Chair in American Studies in 2017. She is author of All That Glitters: Class, Conflict and Community at Cripple Creek, and Building Colorado: The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America in the Centennial State; and she has co-edited several other volumes, including One Step over the Line: Toward a History of Women in the North American Wests, and Writing the Range: Race, Class and Culture in the Women’s West. Beyond her work on Labour, the North American West, and Women’s history, her countless articles reflect the even broader range of her interests, among (many) other things, in sites of memory, regionalism, multiculturalism, immigration, and migration.

Dimitrios Latsis

Assistant Professor of Film Studies at Ryerson University, Dimitrios Latsis has published numerous articles, reviews, and peer-reviewed translations in such journals as Film History, The Moving Image, Amerikastudien, and the Journal of Art Historiography.

 

Susan Lonac

Susan Lonac teaches English and Film Studies at Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Washington. A regular reviewer for Seattle Screen Scene, she has also served on panels at several Washington film festivals; her most recent article on queer literacies appears in Pacific View.

Michael Macleod

Former director of international studies at George Fox University in Oregon, Michael Macleod is Chair of Social Sciences at St. Mary’s. His new book is The Power of the Responsible Investor: Shareholder Activist Networks in the Global Political Economy (forthcoming: Zed Books/University of Chicago Press). Recent articles include “Religion and Corporate Social Responsibility” in J. Smith and S. Dreher (editors) Religious Activism in the Global Economy (Rowman and Littlefield, 2016), and “Financial Activism and Global Climate Change: The Rise of Investor-Driven Governance Networks,” in Global Environmental Politics.

Daniel McKay

Associate Professor of American Studies at Doshisha University, Japan, Daniel McKay has published articles in (among others) Common Knowledge, Comparative American Studies, Comparative Literature Studies, Journal of American Studies, Journal of Commonwealth Literature, MELUS, Wasafiri, and Safundi: The Journal of South African & American Studies.

David Mitterauer

A graduate student in English at Memorial University, David Mitterauer’s research concerns antebellum Southern culture and its contemporary legacies; in recent conference papers, his topics have ranged from contemporary film to gaming, to classical antiquarianism.

 

Michael O’Driscoll

Professor of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta, Michael O’Driscoll has co-edited ESC: English Studies in Canada, as well several volumes ranging from Jackson Mac Low’s The Complete Light Poems (2015) to First Impressions: The Fledgling Years of the Black Sparrow Press, 1966-1970 (2004), and After Poststructuralism: Writing the Intellectual History of Theory (2002). Most recently (with Mark Simpson and Brent Bellamy), he co-edited a special issue of Postmodern Culture on the subject of “Resource Aesthetics.”

Shama Rangwala

Shama Rangwala is a PhD candidate and instructor at the University of Alberta whose work focuses on interrogating American mythologies through adaptations. Her work has appeared in Scope, Rabble, Public, Jacobin, and English Studies in Canada. She is the founding editor of Pyriscence, substantive editor of Imaginations, and a panelist on CTV Alberta Primetime.

 

Mackenzie Read

A graduate student and teaching fellow at the University of Saskatchewan, Mackenzie Read also works as a secondary teacher in the Saskatoon Public School Division.

Art Redding

Professor of English at York University, Art Redding is author of Radical Legacies: Twentieth Century Public

Intellectuals in the United States. (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015); “Haints”: American Ghosts, Millennial

Passions, and Contemporary Gothic Fiction. Tuscaloosa (U of Alabama P, 2011; Turncoats, Traitors, and

Fellow Travelers: Culture and Politics of the Early Cold War. (UP of Mississippi, 2008); Raids on Human

Consciousness: Writing, Anarchism, and Violence (U of South Carolina P, 1998).

Markus Reisenleitner

Professor of Humanities at York University, Markus Reisenleitner is Professor of Humanities, affiliated with the Canadian Centre for German and European Studies as well as the graduate programs in History, and Communication and Culture. He has taught at the University of Vienna, the Vienna campus of the University of Oregon’s International Program, the University of Alberta, and Lingnan University in Hong Kong, where he was Head of the Department of Cultural Studies from 2004-2006. He is editor-in-chief of Imaginations: Revue d’études interculturelles de l’image / Journal of Cross-Cultural Image Studies and past President of the Canadian Comparative Literature Association.

Eric Sandeen

Professor and Director of American Studies at the University of Wyoming. Eric Sandeen is author of Picturing an Exhibition: The Family of Man and 1950s America (U of New Mexico Press, 2010). Like his book, several of his recent articles focus on photographic images in American culture. He also studies American cultural landscapes, some of them urban and some in the broader expanses of the West; and he works on public sector American Studies projects, the most recent of which is a survey of the contemporary landscape surrounding the Heart Mountain, Wyoming site where Japanese and Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II.

Sheheryar Sheikh

PhD Candidate at the University of Saskatchewan, Sheheryar Sheikh is author of two new books from Harper Collins: The Still Point of the Turning World (2017), and Call Me AL: The Hero’s Ha-Ha Journey (forthcoming 2019). His first academic article (on Virginia Woolf) will appear in the Journal of Modern Literature; his fiction and non-fiction writing appears in Prism International, Black Warrior Review, The New Orphic Review, The Potomac: Poetry, Politics (and More), and the Cricket Online Review

Trevor Shelley

Postdoctoral Associate at Arizona State University’s School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, Trevor Shelley is a recent PhD from Lousisiana State University. His first monograph, Globalization and Liberalism: An Essay on Montesquieu, Tocqueville, and Manent, is forthcoming this year from St. Augustine Press.

Chris Shellen

A former film executive at Paramount Pictures, Chris Shellen works as a writer, producer and marketing strategist based in California. Her marketing expertises include the development of transmedia storytelling and the evolving habits of consumers. Her career in film production also continues to evolve: with her partner, Jeff Malmberg, she founded Open Face, LLC., the production company that gave us Marwencol (the focus of her plenary); she also authored a companion art/storybook entitled Welcome to Marwencol, which was named one of Amazon.com’s Best Books of 2015. Most recently, she has produced a second remarkable documentary, Spettacolo, about Italy’s acclaimed Teatro Povero di Monticchiello.

Elena Siemens

Associate Professor of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies at the University of Alberta, Elena Siemens’ research and teaching address Visual Culture, Urban Spaces, Performance, and Critical Theory. Recent publications include Street Fashion Moscow (2017), Theatre in Passing 2: Searching for New Amsterdam (2015), and edited collections Subjective Fashion (2017) and Stirred Memories and Dreams (2016). Recent curated exhibits include Café Counterculture (2018), Revolution 100 (2017), and Fashion Lounge (2016).

Mark Simpson

Associate Professor of Literature and Film Studies, Mark Simpson is author of Trafficking Subjects: The Politics of Mobility in Nineteenth-Century America (U of Minnesota P, 2004), and editor, with Corinne Harol, of Literary/Liberal Entanglements (Toronto, 2017). His recent research appears in Postmodern Culture, Material Culture in Canada, and in Oxford’s U.S. Popular Print Culture, 1860-1920.

 

Craig Stensrud

PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia, Craig Stensrud is completing his dissertation on irony and hypocrisy in Antebellum American literature; his most recent conference papers have focused on the ironies of Henry David Thoreau.

Cory Wright-Maley

Associate Professor of Education at St. Mary’s University, Cory Wright-Maley is an expert on simulation-based learning and the role of education in social justice. He is editor of Teaching for Democracy in an Age of Economic Disparity (Co-edited by Trent Davis; Routledge, 2017), and More like life itself: Simulations as powerful and purposeful social studies (forthcoming from Information Age).

Alternative/Mainstream: A U.S. Studies Conference
Sponsored by the Canadian Association of American Studies and St. Mary’s University. 12-14 October, 2018, St. Mary’s University, Calgary

 

Political commentary may only be the most habitual context in which the merging of fringe and mainstream—a new prevalence of the “Alternative”—has been characterized as a defining, symptomatic feature of the cultural moment in the United States. Timothy Snyder has suggested, however, that “post-truth” anxieties triggered by widespread “scorn for everyday facts” and a proportionately prolific “construction of alternate realities” may not be as “new or postmodern” as we tend to imagine (On Tyranny, 2017). And while a diverse array of contemporary usages and connotations may have made tensions between alternative and mainstream more ubiquitous than ever before, the long and complex history of such tensions in American culture can hardly be denied.

With this broad theme in mind, we invite proposals for papers, panels, and other presentations (including creative media and performance); all relevant historical periods and (inter-) disciplinary approaches are welcome. What alternatives? Alternatives to what? What mainstream “realities” do champions of the alternative dispute? Do disputed facts necessarily differentiate alternative and mainstream perspectives? Potential topics of interest might include, but would not be limited to, the following:

 

Alternative/Mainstream…

  • Policy (oppositional, partisan, centrist, extremist)
  • Economies (micro- and macro-, regional, national, global)
  • Progress (utopian, pragmatic, immediatist, gradualist)
  • Change (catastrophic, planned, resisted, provoked)
  • History and Memory (official, revisionist, nostalgic)
  • Critique (Academic, Journalistic, Elite/Populist, “Wingnut”)
  • Aesthetics (music, art, film, literature, performance)
  • Alternatives (authentic/pseudo-, competing, radical, co-opted) Subcultures (underground, dominant/oppositional, residual/emergent) Media and Communications
  • Identities and Communities
  • Borders and Crossings
  • Protest and Resistance
  • Decolonization and Anti-Imperialism
  • Alliances and Collaborations
  • Medicine and Therapy
  • Places and Spaces
  • Consumerism and Marketing
  • Civility and Etiquette
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Food and Diet
  • Courtship and Partnership
  • Education and Parenting
  • Hope and Despair
  • Cooperation and Competition
  • Nationalisms
  • Social Networks
  • Incentive Programs
  • Business Models
  • Ecologies
  • Desires
  • Values
  • Publics
  • Rhetorics
  • Housing
  • Religion
  • Law Enforcement
  • Technology
  • Energy
  • Fashion
  • Internet
  • Publishing

To participate, please submit a 300-word proposal, a 120-word abstract (for grant application purposes), and a 1-page CV to luke.bresky@stmu.ca by April 13, 2018.

St. Mary’s University and the Canadian Association of American Studies acknowledge gratefully the original inhabitants and custodians of the land on which we will meet: the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot) and the people of the Treaty 7 region—the Tsuu T’ina, the Siksika, the Piikani, the Kainai and the Iyarhe Nakoda. Calgary is home to the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3.

Marwencol (2010)

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Film Screening & Talk

Luke Bresky

“Simultaneously hypnotic and unnerving, it asks some rather uncomfortable questions about the nature of art and the potential and limits of self-healing.”
— John Hartl, Seattle Times

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Spettacolo (2017) and Teatro Povero di Monticchiello

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Film Screening & Talk

Producer Christina Shellen


SPETTACOLO
Once upon a time, a tiny town in Tuscany turned its life into a play…

“So poignant and is so intelligently told that it feels wrong, almost insulting, to call ‘Spettacolo’ charming, even if the movie is often delightful.”
– MANOHLA DARGIS, NEW YORK TIMES

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