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Oct. 27-28 conference celebrates
Cary Nelson, U. of I. literary scholar
Lynn, Humanities Editor
photo to enlarge
of Illinois Photo
Nelson will be honored Oct. 27-28.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Scholars
from across the country, including former students of the guest of honor,
will gather at the end of the month to fete one of the University of
Illinois’ most distinguished
literary scholars who also is one of the nation’s most public
critics of higher education.
Cary Nelson, a professor of English at the U. of I., the founding director
of the university’s Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory,
the recipient of one of the campus’s highest distinctions and
the new president of the American Association of University Professors,
is being celebrated with a conference in his name and in his honor.
The Oct. 27-28 event, which includes a Friday night dinner and “roast” of
Nelson, is titled, “Poetry, Politics & the Profession: A
Tribute to Cary Nelson.” The conference, which is organized by the Unit for Criticism and the English department, will be held at the Levis
Faculty Center, 919 W. Illinois Ave., Urbana. More information is at http://criticism.english.uiuc.edu/.
All of the talks are free and open to the public. Topics include the
political role of professors; new directions in cultural studies; the
future of the academic profession; expanding the canon of American
poetry; and Cary Nelson as a teacher and mentor.
Two scholars from the department of social and cultural analysis at
New York University will give keynote addresses: Lisa Duggan, a former
U. of I. postdoctoral fellow and one of the leading public intellectuals
writing on gender and sexuality, discussing “Are Radicals Like
Roaches? Surviving the Class and Culture Wars”; and Andrew Ross,
the author of nine books and a regular contributor to The Nation and
the Village Voice, discussing “The Rise of the Global University.”
Nelson is a Jubilee Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Illinois
and has been the president of the AAUP since June.
A prolific writer, Nelson has written six books, co-written two others,
edited another 16 and written more than 100 essays. His interest has
been modern American poetry, with a focus on preserving the cultural
heritage of the American political left.
According to Michael Rothberg, the director of the Unit for Criticism, Nelson’s “radically innovative ‘Anthology of Modern
American Poetry’ (published by Oxford University Press in 2000)
has dramatically expanded the canon.”
Recognized as an especially involved and effective mentor, Nelson has
directed more than 24 doctoral students and their dissertations.
Nelson is considered “not only one of UIUC’s most distinguished
and productive humanities scholars,” Rothberg said, “but
he’s also one of the nation’s most important radical commentators
on higher education.”
“In holding this conference now, we’ve chosen to honor Cary at
the height of his career – at a moment when he’s serving as president
of the AAUP and publishing important new research on modern poetry,” said
Rothberg, co-organizer of the event with colleague Peter Garrett, also a professor
of English and of criticism.
The organizers said they invited Nelson’s “most active
colleagues and students in order to highlight the many fields to which
he’s made significant contributions: the study of modern American
poetry, the interdisciplinary movement of cultural studies and the
critical evaluation of education and the working conditions of graduate
students and adjunct professors.”
the Office of the Provost, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ State-of-the-Art
Conference Fund and AAUP, many campus units, and Richard Powers, a
U. of I. English professor and celebrated novelist.
Nelson has taught at Illinois since 1970. He grew up in Pennsylvania.
His family was active in the anti-nuclear movement, and he was active
in the anti-war movement in the 1960s and served as a draft counselor
during the Vietnam War. He earned degrees at Antioch College in Ohio
and at the University of Rochester in New York.