Fifth International Conference on Literary Juvenilia, Florence, Alabama

As the cold water gushed forth, filling the mug, I spelled "w-a-t-e-r" in Helen's free hand…. She dropped the mug and stood as one transfixed. A new light came into her face.

On April 5, 1887, in Tuscumbia, Alabama, Anne Sullivan wrote these words to describe the moment at which her pupil, Helen Keller, “learned,” as she put it, “that everything has a name”: the moment when Helen discovered a universe of knowledge contained in a small stream of water. Helen’s drop of water was a microcosm and the inspiration for the Fifth International Conference on Literary Juvenilia held at the University of North Alabama (UNA) on 15-17 June 2017.

This year’s conference was organized by Dr. Lesley Peterson (UNA Department of English) and Dr. Jeffrey Bibbee (UNA Department of History) under the auspices of the UNA Centre for British Studies with support from the Office of the Provost and the UNA College of Arts and Sciences. Scholars from five countries on three continents converged for the first time in North America for a juvenilia conference with a variety of papers and events.

The conference’s first session was a brilliant exploration of the work of Branwell Brontë by Christine Alexander (University of New South Wales); on the following day, the Keynote Speaker, Lorna Clark (Carleton University), provided a stimulating examination of the juvenilia of the Burney Family. Presentations on visual juvenilia by Beverly Taylor (University of North Carolina) and Laurie Langbauer (University of North Carolina) expanded the discussion of juvenilia to the visual and creative arts. Judith Pike (Salisbury University) and Catherine James (University of Alabama) brought marginalized populations into the conversation with presentations on disability and Native American writers. Each panel inspired lively debate, and the scholarly discussions continued during both the Opening Reception at Historic Rogers Hall on UNA’s campus and the conference dinner hosted by the Tennessee Valley Arts Association Museum in downtown Tuscumbia, Alabama. Conference attendees were enchanted by a production of “The Miracle Worker” at Ivy Green, Helen Keller’s birthplace, where the story of Helen and her microcosmic world, from which the conference took its first inspiration, was fully realized.

Conference organizers, Dr. Jeffrey Bibbee and Dr. Lesley Peterson, along with co-editor Leigh Thompson Stanfield and student editors, Emily Cater, Catherine James, and Melissa Thornton launched the Juvenilia Press’s latest edition, O Ye Jigs and Juleps by Virginia Cary Hudson. Over fifty conference attendees and UNA community members enjoyed a video message from Virginia’s granddaughter and biographer on the fascinating adult life and publication of her work in the 1960s as well as recitations of selected passages read eloquently by the student editors.

The final session was the formal inauguration of the International Society for Literary Juvenilia with Rob Breton (Nipissing University) and David Owen (Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona) elected as Chair and Vice-Chair of the new society. The new society officially endorsed the next gatherings for Durham in 2018 and Sydney in 2020, and voted to start a new scholarly journal, The Journal of Juvenilia, with Lesley Peterson (UNA) as Editor.


Fourth International Conference on Literary Juvenilia, Barcelona, Spain

The Fourth International Conference on Literary Juvenilia was held in the Faculty of Philosophy & Arts at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), Spain, in June 2015. The conference was organized by Dr David Owen, who lectures at this university, under the auspices of the UAB’s Department of English and German Studies and with the assistance and support of the Juvenilia Press.

This was the first time that the conference had been held outside the English-speaking world, and as such represented a great opportunity to move into new territory and to publicise both the Press and—more generally—literary juvenilia studies to distinct ambits.

The main theme of the conference was The Child Writer and Poetry; to this end, the conference was privileged to count on two plenary sessions focussing on this topic. The first was given by Professor Laurie Langbauer (University of North Carolina), with a lecture titled “The Juvenile Tradition”; the second was by Dr Rob Breton, (Nipissing University) whose lecture was “Needless Alarms: Performance in John Ruskin’s Early Poetry”.

An intense, engaging and highly motivating two days’ programme provided a broad range of discussion on issues of literary juvenilia. The conference also provided a presentation of the Juvenilia Press edition of Hannah More’s A Search After Happiness, with a dramatic reading of the text provided fundamentally by a contingent of speakers from the University of North Alabama under the expert and enthusiastic guidance of Professor Lesley Peterson, and the presentation by Professor Christine Alexander of her latest publication, Jane Austen’s Love and Freindship and Other Youthful Writings (Penguin Classics). In addition to these presentations and readings, there was a video showing of Maria Edgeworth’s The Double Disguise (for further related information, see here.

In addition to these aspects, and perhaps of still greater significance, a general meeting held at the end of the conference saw the agreement to establish a Literary Juvenilia Studies Association (the formal name is still pending a final decision), with founder members Professor Lesley Peterson and Dr Jeffrey Bibbee of the University of North Alabama; Professor Christine Alexander (UNSW and the Juvenilia Press); Professor Juliet McMaster (University of Alberta and the Juvenilia Press); DR Gillian Boughton-Wilmore (University of Durham) and Dr David Owen (UAB). This association will foster and support research and publication initiatives within literary juvenilia studies, and hopes to represent a consolidated and permanent body through which to channel future conferences and related projects.

As with Durham in 2013, the Barcelona conference attested very fully to the vigorous state of literary juvenilia studies, to its very solid uptake by a number of young researchers, and to the many and varied developments that this area is now beginning to see.

(Report by Dr David Owen, Department of English and German Studies, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)


Third International Conference on Literary Juvenilia, Durham, UK

Literary Juvenilia - Call for Papers

The third international conference on Literary Juvenilia was held in St Mary’s College, University of Durham, in September 2013, organised by Dr Gillian Boughton-Wilmore. In her keynote speech at the conference, Professor Christine Alexander reviewed the state of recent and contemporary literary juvenilia studies and effectively set down a series of possible pathways for future ambits of enquiry. Several of these areas were raised and debated in the papers presented during the conference itself, and attest to the robust state of current academic interest in the field. In light of the success of the Durham conference, we are now exploring the possibility of publishing a version of the conference papers in a scholarly volume to be edited by David Owen and Lesley Peterson, provisionally titled Literary Juvenilia in the Twenty-First Century.

(Report by Dr David Owen, Department of English and German Studies, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)

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