ESSE Conference 2016 in Galway, Ireland

This week’s blog post comes from Anna Savoie, an (almost) second-year PhD who’s looking into cognitive narratology and in-groups v. out-groups in young adult literature. 

This was my first big conference where I was presenting, and saying I was nervous was a bit of an understatement. (The night before I left, I *may* have turned to my boyfriend and asked if he thought that if I somehow accidentally broke my leg, maybe I wouldn’t have to present after all. I’m nothing if not an expert in dramatic over-reactions.)

However, my nerves were unfounded. While the conference itself was huge, our panel (Young Adult Literature and Theory of Mind) was nice and small, with 8 presenters and Maria acting as a respondent. And while some guests from other panels came to watch our sessions, the audience was not as large as I feared. Also – trade secret here – children’s literature scholars are friendly and wonderful. At one point I turned to Maria and remarked that I don’t know why I keep getting nervous about meeting these big-name academics because, without exception, every single one I have met has been fun and welcoming and not scary at all. Maria’s response was a knowing smile accompanied by “Well, children’s literature scholars are special that way.”

Our panel had two sessions on Monday and Tuesday.  The first session dealt with “The Body and Mind Reading YA Fiction,” while the second dealt with “Empathy and YA Fiction.” After the papers each day we were able to have a nice long open discussion about key issues that had come up (I always think that’s the best part), covering some key points like methodology in cognitive literary studies and terminology surrounding “theory of mind.” I don’t want to spoil the content of the papers at our panel, however, since there is a chance that they may be published!

Of course, going to a conference is hard work and everybody deserves a little vacation afterwards, especially when the conference venue just happens to conveniently be in a very cool location. On Tuesday night in Galway, Mike Cadden, Karen Coats, Maria and myself went out to the Tigh Fox pub to see some Irish music performed by two very impressive people from the local area and to get some good Irish beer.

And on Wednesday, Maria and I headed out on the ferry to Inis Mór, one of the Aran Islands off the coast of Galway.  We apparently hit one of the only days with beautiful weather this summer, and took full advantage with a gorgeous long hike up and down the island.

We even braved the cliffs at Dún Aonghasa, the ruins of a fort right on the edge of a straight drop down into the sea.  There were absolutely no fences or barriers on the cliffs (it certainly did NOT meet health and safety standards), and it was an incredible and stomach-churning feeling to sit out near the edge and try to look over the side.  Maria and I may have covered our eyes and yelped when some other tourists got too close – but we were brave enough to get these pictures!

A thoroughly satisfying end to a thoroughly interesting conference!

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