You are here: Home / Events / Past Events / 2020-21 Events

2020-21 Events

CALS began the 2020-21 school year with its Ninth Annual Spring Symposium, "Disability's Environments." The symposium, which was postponed from its original March scheduling, took place via Zoom in September. Attention turned next to the CALS co-sponsored Marathon Read, “Voices of Power in Women’s Activism.” The 2020 theme complemented the College of the Liberal Arts’ theme of the year, “Moments of Change: A Century of Women’s Activism.” Taking our cue from the "unprecedented" phenomena of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects, CALS launched a webinar series titled "Unprecedented" in lieu of the annual Spring Symposium. Consisting of five 1-hour webinars, the webinar series featured presentations and discussion focused on developments in American literature and culture that might be described as "unprecedented." This year's Centre County Reads celebrated Deirdre Mask's The Address Book: What Street Addresses Reveal About Identity, Race, Wealth, and Power. Inspired by Mask's book, CALS planned a roundtable that examined "Addressing Inequality." CALS also sponsored a writing contest that asked entrants to consider the ranges of styles, occasions, and categories that "Forms of Address" encompass. CALS will conclude the year with the Ninth Annual First Book Institute.



The Ninth Annual CALS Spring Symposium

**September 14, 2020 (Rescheduled)

Focused on how environments—social, material, ecological, and speculative—influence scholarly and popular conceptions of disability, this year’s spring symposium will showcase nationally prominent scholars alongside Penn State faculty who will examine the symposium topic from various vantage points. This forum will explore stories of disability in narrative, text, and literature.

Roundtable One: Disability’s Structured Environments

  • Kathleen Collins, Associate Professor of Education, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Greg Eghigian, Professor of History, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Anita Mannur, Associate Professor of English and Asian/Asian American Studies, Miami University
  • Janet Lyon, Associate Professor of English and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Susan Squier, Brill Professor Emeritus of English and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Benjamin Reiss, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of English, Emory University

Roundtable Two: Disability’s Natural Environments

  • Christian Haines, Assistant Professor of English, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Matthew Cella, Assistant Professor of English, Shippensburg University
  • Michael Bérubé, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Literature, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Maren Linett, Professor of English, Purdue University
  • Kim Hall, Professor of Philosophy, Appalachian State University

Marathon Read, "Voices of Power in Women’s Activism"

October 22, 2020

This year's Marathon Read celebrated the work of female writers and activists such as Kate Chopin, Joy Harjo, Rebecca Solnit, Audre Lorde, Julie Otsuka, Sojourner Truth, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and others.

Antie Sewing Squad

Unprecedented #1, Sewing the Seeds of Activism in an Age of COVID: the "Auntie Sewing Squad"

December 11, 2020

This webinar featured several members of the Auntie Sewing Squad who remarked upon the group's genesis, its place in the history of activism by, and on behalf of, communities of color, and their contributions to We Go Down Sewing, a volume focused on the activities and significance of the Auntie Sewing Squad to be published by the University of California Press in 2021.


  • Kristina Wong, Performance Artist, Comedian, and Founding Member of the Auntie Sewing Squad
  • Mai-Linh Hong, Assistant Professor of Literature, University of California, Merced
  • Grace Yoo, Professor of Asian American Studies, San Francisco State University


  • Tina Chen, Associate Professor of English and Asian American Studies, Penn State

Unprecedented #2, Expecting the Unprecedented: Speculative Fiction and the Climate Events of the Future

January 22, 2021

Speculative fiction has recently marked a turn in American literature to imagine not just the past of "unprecedented" climate crises, but also their future. It has been well-established that speculative fiction can assist societies in imagining the future of climate crises. However, it remains to be discussed what the limits of these imaginative possibilities are. Further, what is gained and lost by referring to major climate events as "unprecedented"? Mindful of the limits of speculative fiction's potential to imagine the futures of climate change, this webinar focused on how speculative fiction might nonetheless help make the "unprecedented" feel apprehensible for readers.


  • Heather Houser, Associate Professor of English, University of Texas at Austin
  • Stephanie LeMenager, Moore Endowed Professor of English, University of Oregon
  • Claire Colebrook, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of English, Philosophy, and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Penn State


  • Jessica Klimoff, Graduate Student, Department of English, Penn State
Question and Answer Session at _Expecting the Unprecedented: Speculative Fiction and the Climate Events of the Future:_ Top Row (L-R): Moderator Jessica Klimoff, Heather Houser (UT Austin); Bottom Row (L-R): Claire Colebrook (Penn State), Stephanie LeMenager (U of Oregon).
Politics, Performance, and Pseudoscience Zoom Screenshot of People attending

Unprecedented #3, Politics, Performance, and Psuedoscience

February 19, 2021

For the first time in its publication history, The New England Journal of Medicine endorsed a candidate during the recent U.S. presidential election. While the journal's editorial was heralded as an unprecedented move, the politicization of science has always been a concerted point of inquiry in American health and medicine, not least of all during the nineteenth century. Drawing on the (bio)politics of science in our contemporary moment, this webinar took a historical approach to explore how the politicization of science is intertwined with performance, plasticity, and pseudoism. Crucially, this webinar invited us to ask: What are the afterlives of these methods in current theories of health? Who are the usual "patients" of such techniques? And most importantly, how might literary analysis help us imagine different possibilities for the politics of science?


  • Sari Altschuler, Associate Professor of English, Northeastern University
  • Christine (Xine) Yao, Lecturer, University College London
  • Christopher Willoughby, Visiting Fellow, Center for Humanities and Information, Penn State


  • Eunice Toh, Graduate Student, Departments of English and African American Studies, Penn State

"Addressing Inequity" Roundtable

March 15, 2021

In this roundtable discussion, three invited panelists used The Address Book as a launch point for a broader discussion about how addresses and other place markers provide, or withhold, access to power and mobility. Treating specific case studies (Black travel guidebooks;; and the U. S. postal service), panelists will suggest strategies that have been, and might yet be, employed to navigate or otherwise redress inequities that place markers of various kinds demarcate.

Featured Panelists:

  • Christy Pottroff, Assistant Professor of English, Boston College
  • Eunice Toh, Graduate Student in English and African American and Diaspora Studies, Penn State
  • Ashley Marie Cashion, Strategic Partnerships Director, USA, what3words


  • Robbin Degeratu, Administrative Director, Centre County Library & Historical Museum
AI roundtable


Unprecedented #4, American Women Poets and the Autobiographical Lyric

March 19, 2021

When it was announced that Jewish-American poet Louise Gluck had been awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize for Literature, Gluck became the first woman poet from the United States to win the prestigious honor. Using this “unprecedented” announcement as a launch point, this webinar featured three women poets whose work, like Gluck’s own, has alternately been described as “confessional” and “personal.”

Panelists include:

  • Natalie Diaz
  • Diana Khoi Nguyen
  • Shara McCallum


  • Tyler Mills

An Evening with Deirdre Mask

March 23, 2021

The culminating event of Centre County Reads was moderated by Lorraine Dowler, Associate Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Professor of Geography and Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Penn State. Deirdre Mask connected with the audience via Zoom to discuss her work.

"Forms of Address" Writing Contest

Winners announced March 2021

"Forms of address” denote guidelines for how to address properly government officials and professional persons, and religious dignitaries and royal figures, among others, in spoken greetings and written documents. We invited contest entries that were inspired by the range of styles, occasions, and categories “forms of address” encompass.

2021 CALS Graduate Awards Symposium

April 8, 2021

CALS celebrated the work of Yi-Ting Chang, winner of the 2020 CALS Summer Graduate Fellowship, and Aaren Pastor, winner of the 2020 CALS Dissertation Fellowship.

Unprecedented #5, American Literary Studies Beyond the Brink

April 16, 2021

This webinar approached the "demise" of the profession by considering again what it means to continue in this work now, as well as the whys and hows of studying American literature and culture at this moment. What shape might American literary and cultural studies take in order to contest developments that have left the discipline on the brink of collapse?


  • Priscilla Wald, R. Florence Brinkley Distinguished Professor of English, Duke University
  • Danica Savonick, Assistant Professor of English, State University of New York, Cortland

  • Jeffrey T. Nealon, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of English and Philosophy, Penn State


  • Dillon Rockrohr, Graduate Student, Department of English, Penn State