- Introduction:The Conference that Couldn't Happen: Accute 2020
To say that 2020 has been an exceptional year would be, by the time at which we are completing this Readers' Forum, a rather preposterous example of litotes. We are in the midst of global events that both draw us together and keep us apart as never before: while the global covid-19 pandemic rages, the U.S. west coast burns (in the wake of massive fires in Australia early in the year), and the Black Lives Matter movement draws crucial attention to injustice, we find ourselves writing this introduction, cut off from our usual interactions, from homes on either side of the state currently known as Canada.
As spring began, it became clear that "business as usual" would not be able to proceed in the academic sphere—as in every sphere. The conference of the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English, which had been organized to take place at Western University, would not be able to go ahead as planned. Alongside the other conferences taking place as part of the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences' annual Congress, in-person plans for the accute conference were of necessity shelved as the pandemic grew. As this circumstance became clear, a quick scramble ensued in order to figure out alternative means for connecting scholars from across accute's membership. [End Page 1] Two keynotes went ahead in online venues—Emma Donoghue and Anthony Stewart addressed a keen body of remote viewers—and the vital business of the organization was conducted at an agm hosted on Zoom. Accepted research papers for 2020 were deferred until Congress 2021, scheduled to take place at the University of Alberta.
As these shifts occurred, we made a quick decision. As the Chair of accute's Committee for Professional Concerns (Kit) and as the Editor of English Studies in Canada (Allan), we discussed and very speedily settled on creating this Readers' Forum. At the accute conference, as many will know, the Committee for Professional Concerns has typically organized and hosted two panels on matters of contemporary concern to the profession. The speakers on these panels are drawn from participants who are presenting on other, peer-reviewed panels during which scholars share their research. We quickly realized that it would not make sense to carry this year's professional concerns panels forward to next year's Congress, given the considerable uncertainty, given the likelihood for participants' plans to shift in the next year, and given the ways in which the profession's concerns change and develop. As a result, we began to transform those planned panels into this Forum.
The original Professional Concerns panels were to have been focused on two themes: one on the politics of citation in the academy; the other on the impact of campus cultures on scholarly careers. Individual participants were already planning the particular approaches that they would take on these issues by the time the conference was canceled. When we transitioned to this Forum, we opted to broaden the scope: we offered to the panel participants the opportunity to consider those original issues but also to add to these considerations their reflections on what the pandemic has meant to their practices, as well as to the profession more broadly. This Readers' Forum, as a result, is intended in part to serve in lieu of those two panels that could not take place as a result of the pandemic.
To these considerations, we also invited contributions from accute members who had been involved in organizing and planning for accute 2020 at Western. The contributions from now Past-President Jennifer Andrews and current President Gregory Betts are the result of these invitations. They both provide valuable insights on the work of organizing, thinking, and writing at this time. Jennifer Andrews reflects on what it means to have been in the difficult position of serving as president in 2020 by looking back at the history of the organization. Meanwhile, Gregory Betts's contribution imagines, via fragmentation, loss, and eros/Eros in [End Page 2] the work of Sappho and Anne Carson, the disjunctures of...