by Sid Watson, 2014 Convention Chair
Appropriately for a year when Sigma Tau Delta is celebrating its 90th birthday, the 2014 Convention is located on the Savannah, a river that's rich with the currents of history. Its name comes from a group of Shawnee who settled in the area, and its banks became home to English settlers led by James Oglethorpe in 1733. In the nineteenth century steamboats ran aground on its hidden shoals, and blockade runners slipped through the warm Southern nights, bringing badly needed supplies to a war-weary Confederacy.
One might wonder what Twain would do with such a river and then one's thoughts stray to other great rivers of literary tradition, to Eliot's Fisher-King listening for thunder along the banks of the Thames or the community of Modernist experimentation along the Left Bank of the Seine. And what, after all, would Langston Hughes speak of a river such as this--a river that also reminds one of the great burden of American history, a sad past of slavery and racial prejudice?
The 2014 Convention is a time for us to meditate on the currents of history that have carried Sigma Tau Delta from its birth to the present, as well as the changes in the field of English language and literature since 1924. Sigma Tau Delta was born in a period we often associate with the Jazz Age, a time of increased consumerism followed by economic depression, the advent of cars and other modern luxuries in everyday life, changing conceptions of appropriate dress and behavior for men and women, rising concern about immigration, and racial tensions. These changes transformed our language and our literatures.
How do these and other 1924 currents continue to impact language and literature today? What new currents make up life in 2014, and how are those changes transforming the written word? This year's theme of "River Current" is intended to open our thoughts to that continuum between past, present, and future and the many ways in which our own experiences with language and literature ride along these rich but sometimes dangerous currents of history.
It's time for balloons, streamers, and blowing out the candles on the cake. Sigma Tau Delta is 90 years young this year!
Founded in May 1924 as an "order designed to promote the mastery of written expression, encourage worthwhile reading, and foster a spirit of fellowship among those specializing in the English language and literature," Sigma Tau Delta's first national convention was held less than a year later in April 1925.
1924, then, is a tremendously important year in Sigma Tau Delta's history and will serve as a touchstone for our 90th anniversary celebration. To help us mark the importance of that year, the Convention Committee invites papers and roundtable submissions specifically linked to "1924." What was the literary landscape like in 1924 (or the 1920s in general)? What were famous and lesser-known authors working on? What themes were contemporary obsessions? How might you use 1924 (or the 1920s) as inspiration for a creative work?
Thanks to F. Scott Fitzgerald's coining of the phrase, we associate the 1920s with the Jazz Age, but what does that mean? And does it encompass everything happening in language and literature at the time? Who are the writers and thinkers that are obscured by the broad brush of our Jazz Age thinking?
1924 proved an enormously important year for Sigma Tau Delta, but how else did it change language and literature? What can you do through a paper or a roundtable submission to enlarge our understanding of the literary, cultural, and linguistic scene that gave birth to Sigma Tau Delta?