Minutes of the 2019 International Spenser Society Executive Committee Meeting
Beatrix Restaurant, Chicago, 4 January 2019
The Executive Committee of the International Spenser Society (ISS) met January 4, 2019, in Chicago, IL. In attendance were committee members Tiffany Jo Werth (University of California, Davis; President), David Baker (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), Dennis Britton (University of New Hampshire), Kim Coles (University of Maryland), Rachel Hile (Purdue University Fort Wayne), Pat Palmer (National University of Ireland, Maynooth), Benedict Robinson (Stony Brook University), and Thomas Ward (U.S. Naval Academy)
- Minutes and matters arising. Tiffany Jo Werth conveyed to the committee the apologies of committee members who were not able to attend the meeting. The committee thanked David Baker and Patricia Palmer for organizing the Society-sponsored MLA panel “Spenser and Architecture.”
- Membership information. Doug Knox has provided the committee with data from Spenser Online about monthly visitors and the names that appear in Spenser Online’s membership database. Both numbers are deceptively high: the 10,000 visits to the ISS’s webpage in October 2018 included large numbers of bots and web crawlers and may have overcounted real people (e.g., if someone accessed the page on more than one device), and the membership figure of 763 derived from Spenser Online data is a great deal higher than the numbers of annual donors in recent years. One task for the ISS committee for 2019 is to develop a clearer understanding of these and other data related to membership and to develop a strategy for increasing membership as the Society returns to a dues-paying membership model.
- Treasurer’s Report. Tiffany Jo Werth read excerpts from the 2018 Treasurer’s report; she also read parts of the report at the January 5 Spenser Luncheon/AGM. For the details of the Society’s current financial holdings, please email the Treasurer directly. The Society spent a great deal of money, and Secretary-Treasurer Sarah Van der Laan and other officers a great deal of time, during 2018 working to have the Society reinstated as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. On December 6, 2018, the Internal Revenue Service reinstated the ISS as a 501(c)(3) organization, retroactive to May 15, 2017, the date on which that status had lapsed. Income for 2018 was limited, because the ISS stopped accepting donations upon learning of the loss of non-profit status. The continual decline in reserves since 2013, when the ISS moved to a donation rather than dues-based membership model, along with information gleaned during Secretary-Treasurer Van der Laan’s work to reinstate the Society’s non-profit status, provide clear and overwhelming evidence that the ISS needs to return to a dues-paying membership model, not only for the fiscal health of the organization, but also because doing so will help the Society to maintain its 501(c)(3) status.
- Guidelines for ISS sponsorship of scholarly activities. A request for ISS sponsorship of a conference in early 2018 was turned down because of the confusion regarding the Society’s finances and non-profit status, but a decision was made at the time to develop procedures and documents to provide guidance for future requests for ISS support for activities that further the mission of the Society. Rachel Hile and Thomas Ward shared with the committee a document proposing language for the Society’s webpage that would provide guidance to potential applicants for Society support on what to include in a proposal and a scoring rubric that a committee of three ISS executive committee members would score to determine the fit of a proposal with the mission of the Society. A revised version of the proposed wording will be added to the webpage after a revision suggested by Benedict Robinson is incorporated.
- Vote on return to split role for Secretary-Treasurer as per current bylaws. Historically, one person has always held both roles in the Society, but the bylaws do support having two people fill these roles. Tiffany Jo Werth reviewed the relevant provisions in the Society’s bylaws and constitution and provided the rationale for splitting the position: the work of the treasurer will continue to be burdensome as the Society returns to a dues-paying model, and the new secretary will be charged with sorting out the extensive and previously unreviewed membership data from Spenser Online and developing a plan for membership management. Moving the Society forward will require the energy of two people. The committee voted to approve the change to having two individuals fill these roles. Rachel Hile was elected by the committee to serve a three-year term as secretary.
- Vote on return to dues-paying membership model as per current bylaws. The bylaws read “Dues for the Spenser Society are currently US $28 per year; students, emeriti/ae faculty, and independent scholars pay a reduced rate of US $18 per year. Any member who shall not have paid his or her dues by December 31 shall be considered to have resigned his or her membership. But any member who has resigned or who has become delinquent in the payment of his dues shall be reinstated as a member immediately upon the payment of dues for the current year.” The committee voted to return to this model. Once the treasurer has opened a new bank account for the Society, the ISS will encourage past members and donors to renew their membership.
- Nomination and election of four new committee members. In total, four new nominations were required: three to replace David Baker, Dennis Britton, and Andrew Wadoski, whose three-year terms came to an end with this year’s MLA Convention, and one to replace Rachel Hile, who vacated her committee place to take on the office of secretary. The committee reviewed the names put forward last year and elected four: Brent Dawson (University of Oregon), Susanne Wofford (New York University), Debapriya Sarkar (University of Connecticut), and Rebecca Totaro (Florida Gulf Coast University). All four elected candidates have agreed to serve.
- Society subcommittees and yearly business.
- Judges for MacCaffrey Prize. There was discussion of the guidelines for the MacCaffrey book prize, which were clarified in 2017 such that only books with two-thirds of their content focusing on Edmund Spenser are to be considered for the prize. The current MacCaffrey Prize committee should provide feedback to the Committee on the implementation of the new guidelines.
- Anne Lake Prescott Graduate Paper Prize: Reminder to urge graduate students to submit excellent papers on Spenser (per the prize guidelines, available at: https://www.english.cam.ac.uk/spenseronline/iss/anne-lake-prescott-graduate-student-paper-conference-prize/) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Strategies for increasing the ISS reach in the scholarly community: Rachel Hile will join subcommittee chair Kim Coles to do this work.
- Subcommittee on best practices and code of conduct: Ayesha Ramachandran will chair this subcommittee.
- Subcommittee on venue change for AGM from MLA. The goal is to bring this to a vote at the Spenser Luncheon in 2020.
- It was discussed that one of our priorities in the upcoming years will be to revamp the Society website. Thanks were expressed to Doug Knox for his ongoing maintenance of the current site.
- Session topics and organizers. For the 2020 MLA Convention, Kim Coles will organize a panel on “Spenser and Race.” Tiffany Jo Werth encouraged committee members to consider proposing a Spenser-themed seminar for SAA 2020. The deadline for SAA proposals is February 15, 2019; contact Gina Bloom, chair of the 2020 program committee, at email@example.com. Committee members brainstormed possible panel topics, from which the RSA and SCSC liaisons (Thomas Ward and Sarah Van der Laan, respectively) may draw in planning their ISS-sponsored panels at those conferences. Topics included:
- Spenser and Disability
- Queer Spenser
- Spenser and Ecocriticism
- Spenser and Posthumanism
- Spenser and Vital Materialism
- Angry Spenser
- Spenserian Temporalities
- Workshop on teaching Spenser
- Update on Spenser Review. Tiffany Jo Werth read excerpts from the report by new Spenser Review editors Dr. Jane Grogan and Dr. Andrew Hadfield (see Appendix A for full report).
- Next International Spenser Society conference. Some potential hosts for the conference were suggested and discussed. The Society’s current financial difficulties will decrease the amount that the ISS can spend to support this conference, which means the conference may not be feasible to plan for 2020, which would be five years after the 2015 conference in Dublin.
Respectfully submitted, 7 January 2019
Rachel Hile, Secretary
The Spenser Review
Report for MLA 2019
Issue 48.1 was the first issue of new editors, Andrew Hadfield and Jane Grogan, who together with Richard Danson Brown (Book Reviews Editor) and Craig Berry (Digital Reviews Editor) took over the ship steered so impressively by David Lee Miller for five years. We have sought to maintain the high standards, enquiring approach and great goodwill generated by David, Richard, and the Review’s recent Book Reviews Editor, Julian Lethbridge), as well as to open out the Review to the new kinds of forms made possible by its digital format. It is difficult to see, for example, how Elisabeth Chaghafi’s fascinating essay (issue 48.3) on the visual features of the editions of The Shepheardes Calendar published during Spenser’s lifetimes, complete with almost 60 images, could have been published anywhere else. Similarly, a forum of responses (issue 48.1) to the innovative ‘Spenser, Poetry and Performance’ event, which took place at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in June 2017, provided links to curated podcasts of the event, now available on Spenser Online. Our great thanks to Doug Knox (Washington University) for his invaluable help with this, as with other matters.
The forthcoming issue (49.1) will have a special focus on Spenser in graduate studies, and will publish the inaugural Anne Lake Prescott Graduate Paper prizewinner, as well as reflections by senior Spenser scholars on the state of graduate work in Spenser studies over the past twenty years. We were particularly pleased with the response from readers to issue 48.3, featuring a set of responses to Ralegh and his legacy, to coincide with the 400th anniversary of his death.
We continue to solicit exciting new scholarship on Spenser from international scholars at all stages, and to explore the opportunities of its digital format. Among our plans for 2019 is a rethink and relaunch for the Readers’ Forum, as well as a special issue on Spenser and Music.