I’ve attended the Victorian Studies Association of Western Canada’s annual conference countless times since I was a Masters student at the University of Victoria fifteen years ago (that number is disgusting to look at, but it’s true). Something about the smaller size of the conference and its intellectually generous and supportive participants always brings me back. Now, the CFP is available for VSAWC’s 2015 conference on the topic of “Victorian Bodies,” and I think anyone who reads this should seriously consider submitting a proposal and attending the conference. Here’s why:
I love going to the larger Victorian studies conferences. I’ve been to NAVSA and BAVS regularly in the last five years or so. They offer the best and the smartest of current research in our field. This year’s NAVSA conference in London ON, Canada is going to be fantastic, and I’m excited to present some of my newest work. Such conferences, though, are also massive in size and incredibly competitive. My panel at NAVSA’s conference last year in Pasadena, for example, had only two people in the audience, not including the moderator and the other two panelists. While my introverted nature is never completely disappointed by such a small group of listeners, I can’t help thinking that there’s something wrong with a conference model that allows this to happen. With size comes a slow movement of bodies that results in a kind of intellectual inertia premised on big names and big ideas who draw participants to them by their bulky promises. There’s a payoff in such bulk, but not a feeling of collaboration and exchange.
This simply doesn’t happen at VSAWC, or at least I’ve never seen it happen. With only two panels running concurrently, VSAWC always allows for a vibrant exchange of ideas amongst an eager and sizeable group of participants. The conference is especially supportive of graduate students, as evidenced by its workshops for students and junior scholars on academic publishing. As a student, I never felt out of place or discouraged to present papers at VSAWC, ask questions during panels, or share conversations with established scholars. Those of you who know me probably have wondered why I’m often off by myself during coffee breaks between panels. Chalk this up to an introverted soul overwhelmed by the rush of enthusiasm and conversation rather than an awkward body in a room. Imagine how I feel at the larger conferences. VSAWC is just right, especially for the introverts among us.
There’s also something to be said about seeing the same faces in attendance year in and year out. Sure, this has the potential to become stale (it never does become stale), but I genuinely appreciate the chance to see my colleagues in Western Canada and elsewhere grow and change with their scholarship from year to year. VSAWC always offers a provocative mix of regular attendees and new faces from the States, Britain, Australia, and even various parts of Asia from time to time. Regular attendees always seem so genuinely excited to host participants who have traveled extensive distances to be with VSAWC for a weekend.
Finally, the VSAWC conference each year is amazing because of its venues, which are always in some of the most beautiful cities or regions in North America. In recent years, VSAWC has been in Vancouver BC, yearly ranked as one of the world’s most beautiful (albeit unaffordable) cities; Victoria BC, a smaller and incredibly charming seaside city full of tourists; and Banff AB, a world-class ski resort with some of the most sublime mountains in the world. For 2015, VSAWC arrives in Kelowna, in the stunning winery region of BC’s Okanagan Valley.
Okay, yes, I’m totally biased here because I’m from Western Canada and have spent significant time as a child and adult in all of these venues. Just trust me on this one: you will not regret submitting a proposal for VSAWC’s conference. If you do decide to attend, I guarantee that you will meet some very smart and sophisticated participants who will listen to your presentation with genuine enthusiasm. If you’re introverted like me, at the very least you’ll have a chance to take a few tours of some of Canada’s best wineries, and you’ll probably meet some of your colleagues – new or old – on those tours.