CHADRON – English Assistant Professor Dr. Mary Clai Jones represented Chadron State College May 30-31 at a British Association of Victorian Studies conference in Italy. She presented a paper about the late English essayist Vernon Lee’s environmental activism. Vernon Lee was the pseudonym of Violet Paget, who died in 1935.
The conference, “Vernon Lee 2019: An Anniversary Conference” was at Lee’s former residence, Villa Il Palmerino, in Florence.
Jones was invited to speak by Dr. Patricia Pulham, one of the conference organizers. They met in 2017 at a North American Victorian Studies conference in Florence where Jones presented a paper about Lee and served on a panel. They discussed their mutual interest in studying Lee, a growing academic field, and kept in touch. Jones applied to present at the 2019 conference and was accepted in February.
“Studying Lee makes me realize that literature is not composed or consumed in a vacuum. Literature is a product of contexts converging, and I hope to share its interconnectedness with my students,” Jones said. “One of the greatest benefits from attending a smaller, single-author conference is the amount of one-on-one time I got to spend with each attendee. I met scholars from England, Scotland, Italy, France, and the U.S. Not only did I gain new perspectives and ideas about new directions to take my own work on Lee, but I gained invaluable contacts from all over the world.”
Jones’ paper, “To See the Forest for the Trees: Vernon Lee’s Environmental Activism,” examines Lee’s growing political engagement and environmental stewardship in the first decade of the 20th century.
Jones said the unique slant of her paper was well-received.
“No one else at the conference approached Lee's work from quite the same ecocritical stance, and I'm glad because this paper takes a new direction for me into a theoretical approach. The other attendees were interested, curious and asked me great questions afterward,” Jones said.
Jones, who teaches a wide range of English courses at CSC, said she was able to glean a variety of interdisciplinary approaches to literature from the conference that she plans to share with her students.
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