April 02, 2013

Internationally Attended Conference Examines Print Culture

By: Margaret Cude On Friday and Saturday, March 15-16, 2013, researchers from around the world met at the E.B. and Bertha C. Ball Center for the “Print Culture Histories Beyond the Metropolis Conference,” hosted by the Center for Middletown Studies. “The animating idea of the conference is to explore the ways that printed material was produced, consumed, circulated, and encountered in smaller cities, provincial districts, rural settings, colonial outposts, and comparable contexts,” said Dr. James Connolly, Director for the Center for Middletown Studies and Professor of History.

The conference included presentations from Ronald and Mary Zboray (University of Pittsburgh), Joan Shelley Rubin (University of Rochester), Christine Pawley (University of Wisconsin), Julieanne Lamond (Australia National University), Lydia Wevers (Victoria University of Wellington, N.Z.), and Brad Evans (Rutgers University) among others, dealing in various ways which material has circulated in rural and small-town settings. “The opening session, with papers by James Raven (Essex University, U.K.) and Kyle Roberts (Loyola University-Chicago) and a very stimulating comment by Stephen Morillo (Wabash College), was especially helpful because it situated the issues and topics we were all addressing,” said Connolly. “We intend to publish a volume of essays out of the conference, andI expect it to be very well received.”
Internationally representative, the conference also highlighted the scholarship of Ball State personnel. “I think the scholars were favorably impressed by Ball State,” said Connolly, “including the scholarly work done by those of our faculty who contributed to the conference program: Frank Felsenstein, Ken Hall, Rob Hall, Pat Collier, and Scott Stephan. Each of them made terrific presentations.”
The program was designed slightly differently than a typical conference. There was no keynote speaker nor were there moderators for the various sessions. “We didn’t want to highlight one person as the ‘big deal,’ even though we had several prominent people attending,” said Connolly. “We decided that rather than singling one person out, we would place them all on the same plane.” Instead, there were commenters or “intellectual facilitators,” as Connolly calls them, who helped to promote discussion among the presenters and those attending the sessions, creating an atmosphere of mutual exchange. 
Funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the conference was considered a smashing success. Overall, the conference was very well attended, actually running out of room for early session on Friday, but more than that, it allowed for the presenters to make connections. “I think everyone involved took a lot out of it,” said Connolly. “Either the participants were exceptionally polite, or they all found it a productive, useful gathering.  By the end, we were talking about reuniting at another conference sometime in the future.”
A complete conference program is available online.

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