Regional Seminars


American Antiquarian Society Regional Seminars in association with the history departments of Brown University, Clark University and the University of Connecticut


  • Thursday, November 10, 2016, 5:00 p.m.

    Desiderata: Fantasies of Print Culture and Early American Poetry

    by Meredith Neuman
    Associate Professor of English
    Clark University

    In the nineteenth century, the term desiderata came to stand for a list of books desired, effectively linking the desire for book objects to the desire for literary history. Often tied up with a bibliographic inclination to identify notable "firsts" in print history, the pursuit of desiderata turns from an initial material concern ("where are the books?") to generic questions ("what are these books?") and even aesthetic inquiry ("are they any good?"). The Latinate expression of desire, on the one hand, can be associated with prescribed, scientific inquiry and, on the other hand, to the varied motivations of readers, writers, collectors, and printers. Applied to the study of early American poetry, desiderata provoke monumental works of bibliographic scholarship (such as Stoddard and Whitesell's recent Bibliographical Description of Books and Pamphlets of American Verse Printed from 1610 through 1820) while highlighting inevitable lacunae-lost and irrecoverable works as well as unknowable contexts and contingencies. These gaps in bibliographic certainty provide opportunity for literary scholars to address the role of desire (and its thwarting) in early print poetry-from Anne Bradstreet's desire for manuscript circulation to Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson's desire for print publication, from the desire of Deerfield neighbors to preserve Lucy Terry's verse via oral tradition to Edward Taylor's negative desire that his poems never be published. (This talk is drawn from the book project, "What's the Matter with Early American Poetry?")

    There will be refreshments provided before the paper. If you plan to attend, please notify Nan Wolverton at AAS ( no later than Tuesday, November 8.


Previous Seminars

  • Monday, November 2, 2015, 5:00 p.m.
    Elmarion Room, Goddard Daniels House
    American Antiquarian Society
    Worcester, MA

    David Walker's Good News
    Tara Bynum
    Postdoctoral Fellow in African-American Literature, Department of English, Rutgers University

    Dr. Bynum has provided the following précis of her paper:
    This essay contends that David Walker, in his 1830 Appeal, proffers a literacy that invites readers to listen into those feelings that will open them to his particular truth. Walker privileges a kind of affective reading that calls readers into an interiority where language and representation reconcile and where feelings feel or speak for what cannot be said. When his readers can feel rightly-namely, angry at their wretched condition-they can know his good news. That is to say, they can experience a worthy citizenship in his U.S. that promises to make real the truths of an individual and collective humanity.

    There will be refreshments provided before the paper. If you plan to attend, please notify Paul Erickson at AAS ( no later than Friday, October 30.

  • Thursday, December 3, 2015, 4:00 p.m.
    Rare Book Room, Goddard Library
    Clark University
    Worcester, MA

    The Introduction of Vampire Belief to New England
    Brian Carroll
    Assistant Professor of History and American Indian Studies, Central Washington University
    American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Fellow, AAS

    Dr. Carroll has provided the following précis of his paper:
    Between 1782 and 1820, New Englanders suspected severe outbreaks of tuberculosis were caused by the spirits of the dead siphoning life from their relatives. In order to stop the spread of the disease, they exhumed the corpses they thought responsible, burned their hearts, and made a medicine from the ashes. Originally a European belief, the practice was brought to the region during the American Revolution by Germany military physicians serving in Hessian regiments. Many became itinerant doctors in the aftermath of the war and taught Americans to believe in the undead. But vampire belief in America was medicalized—turned from a folk belief into a cutting edge medical procedure. The exhumations were conducted like autopsies and doctors used 'science' to identify and destroy supposed vampires. American doctors quickly caught on and began using it as a cure for the deadly wasting disease.

    There will be refreshments provided before the paper. If you plan to attend, please notify Paul Erickson at AAS ( no later than Monday, November 30.


  • Friday, February 12, 2016, 2:00 p.m.
    Peter Green House
    Brown University
    Providence, RI

    From Real Estate to Sacred Space: Historic Preservation as Land Market Reform in Jacksonian America
    Whitney Martinko
    AAS Hench Post-Dissertation Fellow and
    Assistant Professor of History at Villanova University

    If you plan to attend the seminar and would like a copy of the paper, please contact Paul Erickson at The paper will be available a week in advance of the seminar.


  • Wednesday, April 6, 2016, 5:30 p.m.
    History Department Lounge, Wood Hall (basement level)
    University of Connecticut
    Storrs, CT

    Captives of Liberty: Prisoners of War and the Violence of America's Revolution
    T. Cole Jones
    Assistant Professor of History at Purdue University
    and NEH Fellow at the New-York Historical Society, 2015-2016

    Historians of the American Revolution have long noted the horrific conditions American prisoners endured in British captivity. Treated as rebels and traitors, more Americans perished in British prisons and prison ships than on all of the battlefields of the war combined. Yet few scholars have questioned how the revolutionaries responded to such provocation. This talk explores how revolutionary Americans addressed the problems of capturing, confining, administering, and eventually releasing the over 17,000 enemy prisoners captured during the conflict. Answering these questions reveals the factors that coalesced to transform a war for independence into a revolutionary war, escalating its violence precipitously.

    There will be refreshments before the talk, starting at 5:00 p.m.; the seminar will be followed by a dutch-treat dinner in Storrs. If you plan to attend the dinner, please notify Cornelia Dayton at the University of Connecticut ( no later than Monday, April 4.


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