Koala Korner: Melissa Heidari

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Melissa Heidari, professor of English and coordinator of the Literary Studies Track, traveled to Université de Lorraine in Metz, France to deliver the keynote address at the International Conference of the European Association of American Studies’s European Study Group of 19th-century American Literature, I.D.E.A. (EA 2338), Oct. 9-11 2014. For the past eight years, a group of scholars from various European universities have gathered in a different host city to discuss the work of an American author. This year’s conference focused on Grace Elizabeth King, a Louisiana novelist and historian prolific in several genres.


Why were you chosen to give a keynote address?

All papers at the conference, “Grace King of New Orleans: Beyond Local Color,” focused on some aspect of the work of nineteenth-century author Grace King, whose journals I edited, translated, and annotated in my 2004 book “To Find My Own Peace”: Grace King in Her Journals 1886-1910. I was asked to speak for about an hour at the beginning of the conference in order to provide participants with my perspective on King’s writing processes, her view of herself as a writer in relation to other writers, and her self-awareness of being a woman writer.


Why are you interested in Grace King?

I became interested in King when I first studied her work in graduate school. She wrote in a variety of genres, including histories, biographies, novels, short stories, and literary criticism. She was one of the few Southern women who was able to earn a living as a writer in the late nineteenth century, and much of her work explores the complex world of postbellum New Orleans. Editing her journals gave me insight into issues of race, gender, class and region, and I have never tired of exploring those topics.

What was your favorite part of your trip?

My favorite part of the trip was meeting and becoming friends with a group of accomplished, generous, fun-loving scholars who were all so welcoming to me. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with them, and now we have several publication projects planned as a result of our meeting and collaborating.

Metz is an amazing town with some parts dating to medieval times. I enjoyed touring the Saint Etienne cathedral — twice! It is an awesome and awe-inspiring Gothic cathedral in the center of town. I also enjoyed visiting the Pompidou Art Centre, seeing the 13th century Chappelle des Templiers, and eating delicious meals at five-star French restaurants! Intelligent, fun colleagues, great food, a Gothic cathedral — it was pretty much a perfect trip!

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