Nearly four dozen undergraduates, graduate students, and part-time and full-time faculty from both two- and four-year colleges in Alabama convened for the University of North Alabama for ACETA’s 72nd annual Conference on the Sympathetic Imagination February 28-29. The conference began with a welcome from UNA Interim Dean Jeffrey Bibbee and award presentations for the William J. Calvert theoretical paper, James Woodall pedagogical paper, and Mary Evelyn McMillan Undergraduate analytical paper. The conference continued with seven varied panel sessions, including nineteen presentations to choose from, and three keynote speakers.
Friday evening’s dinner keynote speaker, Paula Greathouse, from Tennessee Technical University came to the conference through a speaking circuit with our parent organization NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English), and she discussed the ins and outs of inclusionary reading choices and the importance and advocacy of diversity in literary texts. Saturday’s panel keynote speaker was Chris Mettress from Samford University; Mettress was the 2019 Eugene Current-Garcia winner.
As originally conceived, the Eugene Current-Garcia award “recognizes and rewards Alabamians who have distinguished themselves as men or women of letters, specifically in scholarly reflection and writing on literary topics.” It also demonstrates “the respect of the scholar’s peers in the academic community and signals to the citizenry at large the lasting importance of the pursuit of knowledge and the contribution of literature to the culture.”
The award includes a $5,000 stipend and an original Frank Fleming bronze of the clock tower on the old Monroe County Courthouse. Mettress’ presentation titled “From Mockingbird to Watchman: Maycomb and the Sympathetic Imagination” was given to a room full of eager listeners. Jason McCall, instructor from UNA, rounded out the conference with a keynote presentation at lunch on Saturday titled “What Disneyfication Can Teach Us About Our Students.”
The business meeting following lunch was a great way to recap the year for ACETA and look forward to another year of partnerships and planning for the 2021 conference. Attendees voted on the upcoming year’s ACETA steering committee, and ACETA saw two additional people come on board in open positions. For a list of the current steering committee members, please click on the “ACETA Officers” tab on our web site.
In the coming month, ACETA will publish a special issue of the newsletter designed to highlight award papers and panel presentations from the conference. Be on the lookout in April for this publication. ACETA thanks all the members, presenters, and volunteers that make this conference successful, and we all look forward to the year ahead! For more photos, please visit ACETA’s Association of College Teachers of Alabama page on Facebook.