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Minutes of the 2022 International Spenser Society Annual General Meeting

Zoom, 4 May 2022, 12pm EDT

 

The International Spenser Society held its annual meeting on May 4, 2022, via Zoom. 

 

President’s welcome and report. The AGM opened with a welcome and report from ISS President Ayesha Ramachandran, who took stock of where the ISS has been in the last year and in the last couple years.

The ISS has been seeking, throughout the Covid era, to find ways to build and maintain an open and accessible online community to supplement our in-person gatherings and programming in this period in which our lives have been so suddenly reconfigured. The ISS has worked on several such initiatives, including: (1) our Inclusive Pedagogy Initiative, which continues into the future. Planned events in 2021 had hybrid and in-person components, and needed to be rescheduled as a result of the pandemic, but the ISS invites anyone interested in partnering with the ISS to host IPI events at their own institutions to connect with any of the officers. (2) Spenser@Random has been on-going nearly every month with a dedicated and shifting cast of characters. We have seen wonderful iterations on the theme, including most recently a pairing with the Marvell Society, and a special session in the fall featuring the sonnets of the Amoretti, especially geared toward engaging undergraduates. If you have ideas for future sessions of this regular, robust, virtual way for us to be together, get in touch with any officer! (3) So much of the ISS’s work now is virtual, and we are exploring ways to undertake the much-needed overhaul of our website and digital footprint, especially appreciating the challenges the creaky clunky present site poses for those wishing to pay dues and more. Stay tuned for the reboot soon!

This year also saw the happy return of the ISS to in-person conferences, at SCSC in fall 2021, at MLA and RSA in spring 2022. We already have panels lined up for SCSC and MLA next academic year, and RSA cfps are coming up. We are also hoping to work with SAA to partner for seminars in 2023 and beyond. If you are running or want to run a Spenserian-friendly session, let us know!

Finally, an exhortation: please reach out to get involved in the ISS if you would like to be, in any small or big way. We try to create opportunities to be part of our programming without it being a heavy lift, so don’t hesitate to connect with an officer if you have any ideas or interests. Also, Jane Grogan and Andrew Hadfield will be stepping down in a few months from editorship of The Spenser Review, and we are thinking about future editors. If you are interested in this, reach out to any officers.

 

Report of ISS Treasurer Sarah Van der Laan. ISS Treasurer Sarah Van der Laan reported on the Society’s financial health. The ISS has now returned to a dues year that aligns with the calendar year and the ISS fiscal year. Income and membership began a recovery from the extreme disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Donations increased substantially from 2019 levels, and the ISS is extremely grateful to the generous donors who fund its efforts to promote the study and teaching of Spenser’s works, as well as a vibrant and welcoming community of Spenserians. However, membership levels, and consequently income from dues, have not returned to pre-pandemic levels. In 2021, the ISS numbered 87 dues-paying members.

The ISS’s principal expenditure in 2021 was the Isabel MacCaffrey Prize. Expenses in 2022 will include the MacCaffrey and Anne Lake Prescott Prizes. We also hope to launch a new series of bursaries to subsidize conference attendance for graduate students presenting papers on ISS-sponsored panels.

In 2022 we will continue to explore ways of expanding the membership base and securing external funding for further Inclusive Pedagogy Initiative events, future international conferences, and collaborations with other societies and organizations.

Ayesha Ramachandran noted that just because the Society is financially healthy right now, it doesn’t mean we should stop paying dues. Dues and donations from those able to pay them support the most precarious among us. You can join the ISS at any time or make a donation (no donation too small!) via Spenser Online or via our new PayPal link.

 

Officer and Executive Committee Elections. Ayesha Ramachandran’s term as ISS President concluded at this meeting, and VP Joe Moshenska took over as President, thanking Ayesha for her years of service and leadership. Hannah Crawforth (King’s College London) was elected unanimously by attending dues-paying members to the position of Vice President, and Chris Barrett (Louisiana State University) was re-elected unanimously as Secretary. President Joe Moshenska thanked the out-going members of the Executive Committee, whose terms concluded at this meeting: Brent Dawson, Debapriya Sarkar, and Rebecca Totaro. He then introduced the new slate of candidates for service in a three-year term on the Executive Committee: Claire Eager (College of Wooster), Hillary Eklund (Loyola University New Orleans), Joe Ortiz (University of Texas El Paso), and Abigail Shinn (Goldsmiths University of London). The slate was unanimously elected by the dues-paying members at the meeting.

 

Presentation of Awards. President Joe Moshenska announced the recipients of this year’s three prizes. The Isabel MacCaffrey Book Prize went to Catherine Nicholson (Yale University) for Reading and Not Reading the Faerie Queene (Princeton UP, 2020). The Prescott Prize for Conference Paper Delivered by a Graduate Student was awarded to two recipients: Victoria Pipas (Harvard) for “Translatio materiae: Spenser’s Poetics of Matter” and Tanya Schmidt (NYU) for “‘Our English Virgil’: Spenser’s 17th Century Natural Philosophical Readers.” At the end of the meeting, following the Maclean Panel, the 2022 Colin Clout Medal was awarded to Susanne Wofford (NYU) for her years of research, teaching, mentorship, professional service, and leadership in building a vibrant and diverse community of Spenserians.

 

Maclean Panel: “Spenser and Performance.”  Joe Moshenska introduced the panel by noting that, after last year’s Maclean panel, which expanded the lecture to several contributing voices, the ISS was interested in looking forward to more such conversations, and also in looking backward at things the Spenser community had thought about previously, and how those discussions have changed over time. The 2017 Shakespeare’s Globe event on “Spenser and Performance” came to mind, and so the ISS asked Will West (Northwestern University), who had been key to that event, to think about revisiting that conversation in this year’s Maclean Panel.

Will West described that Research in Action workshop, in which actors, musicians, and scholars explored the performance possibilities in Spenser passages selected by speakers at the day’s earlier programming. The results were revelations, revealing the theatrical, dynamic qualities of reading Spenser’s poetry in that setting. The Maclean Panel event was a little different, Will West noted. Performing on a stage at Shakespeare’s Globe certainly looks like a performance, but in our new Zoom world, we are called upon to ask what other forms performance might take: de-formance, re-formation, trans-formation, in-formation. Our goal here was to embody the words, but to put more weight on the bodies of the words themselves. Setting the tone with a selection from Robyn Schiff’s “Information Desk: An Epic,” Will West introduced the panelists, who then took the digital stage in sequence. David Lee Miller (University of South Carolina) kicked things off with an impassioned and accented delivery of a Spenserian stanza.  Adam Smyth (Balliol College Oxford) pondered what happens when you cut out words from Shakespeare’s verse to paste together the individual words and lines of Spenser’s sonnet 74. Leah Veronese (Balliol College, Oxford) performed sonnet 20 from Amoretti with nuance and power. Jeff Dolven (Princeton University) and Leah Whittington (Harvard University) then invited the attendees to take a couple minutes to diagram Faerie Queene stanza 3.6.46 in whatever homomorphous or homologous form that schematic might involve, and meditated on the charts, graphs, maps, plans, pictograms, and more generated by attendees. David Landreth (Berkeley) then performed a dramatic excerpt from Faerie Queene 3.4, almost as “transfixing” as the “wicked steel” of the passage. Kat Addis (NYU) concluded the program with a sublime multimedia performance of poetry at the intersection of Tasso, Spenser, Florio, gardens, and (re)translation.

 

The AGM and Maclean Panel ended at 2pm Eastern. Those wishing to be kept up to date on the latest goings-on of the Spenser Society should write to Secretary Chris Barrett (cbarrett@lsu.edu) to be added to the ISS mailing list, and follow the Society on Twitter @SpenserSociety.

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Cite as:

"Minutes of the 2022 International Spenser Society Annual General Meeting," Spenser Review (Spring-Summer 2022). Accessed December 6th, 2022.
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