Last Saturday was a major milestone of my first term as a DPhil: the New Work in Modernist Studies conference, run by the British Association for Modernist Studies (BAMS). It was my first ever conference, and I was fairly (read extremely) nervous, but I’d heard good things. A relaxed atmosphere, helpful feedback, great people.
The conference was held in Cardiff this year, which was exciting since I’d never been to Wales. Unwilling to pass up the opportunity to poke around a bit beforehand, I booked a hostel for the previous night.
I’m going to be absolutely frank: I wasn’t keen on Cardiff. The highlight was seeing Boots shopfronts in both Welsh and English. Cardiff Bay was…OK, and the castle was very castle-like. But I’m reliably informed that other parts of Wales are wonderful.
Nor was I keen on the hostel. Tip: if you go to Cardiff, don’t stay at Nomad Backpackers. Especially if it’s December and you’re presenting at a conference the following day. The room was arctic. I barely slept.
So I turned up to Cardiff Met the next morning, hopped up on sour instant coffee and anxious to my ears.
But straightaway I felt better. The lecture theatre wasn’t too crowded, and everyone was smiling. I started to relax, and was able to enjoy some fantastic papers and conversations. Highlights included:
* a brilliant paper on worms in Samuel Beckett. Absolutely ingenious – I can’t wait to read the thesis from which it originates;
* talking to another delegate about Olive Moore’s aphoristic autobiography. I’d never even heard of Moore! Her writing sounds very exciting, and relevant to my own research;
* mozzarella sticks at lunch. Well, we can’t be academic all the time.
Giving my paper, I could hear my own voice quivering with nerves. But everyone was so kind. They even laughed in the right places. I talked afterwards with the wonderful Jane Goldman, who was lovely enough to say that she’d enjoyed my paper. She gave me a reading list and a chunk of shortbread. My cup runneth over.
NWiMS was great. If your research takes you anywhere near the field of modernism, definitely consider putting in an abstract. I don’t think I could have wished for a better first conference.