Conference Report: ESSE-10 Turin, August 24-28th 2010

By Victoria Nesfield,

The European Society for the Study of English held its tenth international conference in Turin, Italy in August. The biennial conference, now in its twentieth year selects a different European city for each conference; ESSE-10 was the first time Italy has hosted the conference. With 800 delegates in attendance of 44 nationalities, ESSE-10 was an exciting meeting ground for academics worldwide whose research interests lie in literature, linguistics and the study of the English language.

Three Plenary Lectures were delivered, by Timothy Webb, Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Bristol, who spoke on ‘Editing Leigh Hunt’s Autobiography’; Catherine Belsey, Research Professor in English at Swansea University who presented on ‘Gendered Revenants’; and Maurizio Gotti, Professor of English Language and Translation at Universita di Bergamo, who delivered a lecture on ‘Building and Breaking Discursive Conventions in Academic Writing.’ 12 lectures nominated by National Associations and 12 round table discussions took place, along with nine poster presentations. The most substantial section of the conference was a series of 75 seminars covering a range of topics from Shakespearean and Elizabethan era works, to 21st century literature, across themes as diverse as politics, historical testimony and science fiction, and covering a variety of modes of literary theory. Linguistic themes covered by the seminars, round tables and lectures included discussions on translation, teaching English, semantics, legal language and inter-cultural studies. Across a diverse and broad spectrum of literature and language themed discussions, several themes emerged as ‘conferences within conferences’, notably the array of Shakespeare discussions, legal language seminars, the relationship between Scotland and Italy in literary studies, and a significant theme of cultural studies.

The scale of the conference, along with the number of delegates made the orchestration and organisation a grand task, but the registration process was a well-run system. The maps, schedules and information packs, provided in blue satchels made delegates instantly recognisable all over Turin for the week of the conference, and gave the city an extra buzz of excitement and sense of participation for those involved. A conference of this size was bound to be accompanied by the obligatory technical hitches and delays, and it was. The seminars however, are designed to be informal events structured to generate debates and questions, and a few power-point issues did not hinder the discussions and the opportunities to network. The biggest logistical issue ESSE was forced to negotiate was the University layout, with the several campus buildings spread out across the city centre. It is unfortunate that the beautiful 18th century Rectorate building could not have been used to accommodate more events, with the publishers’ book shops being housed in a separate campus to the opening day registration and evening reception in the Rectorate, and the welcome address in a third building. The distance between the buildings may have inhibited higher attendance at various seminars, lectures and round tables, but with the necessary room numbers and the building constraints, the University of Turin did it’s best to accommodate, with a large number of student guides on hand and organised bus transport between campuses throughout the conference. With seminars and discussions on a huge array of themes and subjects across the study of English literature and language, ESSE caters for a large academic area, and ESSE-10 provided an excellent opportunity to meet peers and engage with a vast and exciting academic field.

ESSE-11 will be held on the 4th – 8th September 2012, hosted by Istanbul, Turkey. The European Journal of English Studies (EJES) is published by ESSE in cooperation with Routledge.

ESSE website: http://www.essenglish.org/

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