Professional engagement

Catesby killdeer fullProfessor Kilcup has been a professional leader for many years, organizing conferences, serving as president of organizations and assuming various editorial responsibilities.  Past president of the American Humor Studies Association and editor of its professional journal, Studies in American Humor, Kilcup was also elected president of the Society for the Study of American Women Writers, serving two three-year terms. Her editorial board service includes Blackwell Publishers’ Anthologies series and the Robert Frost Series of Harvard University Press, as well as the boards of such journals as Comparative American Studies; European Journal of American Culture; Journal of Gender StudiesLegacy: A Journal of American Women Writers; The Robert Frost Review; Studies in American Humor; and Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature. She has reviewed manuscripts for such journals as MELUS, New England Quarterly, ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance, and PMLA, and for over twenty-five publishers, including Cambridge, Edinburgh, Johns Hopkins, and Oxford University Presses. Her professional memberships include the Modern Language Association, SSAWW (Society for the Study of American Women Writers), ASLE (The Association for the Study of Literature and Environment), American Studies Association, C19 (The Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists), The Robert Frost Society, and AAUP (The American Association of University Professors).

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Why contribute to the profession, and so diversely? Because unless we are all willing to participate actively, the profession grinds to a halt. If I want to attend challenging conferences, I have to be willing to help organize them; if I expect colleagues to review my books, I need to write reviews; if I want to join effective and rewarding professional organizations, I have to accept positions of responsibility; if I require innovative journals and critical collections, I must be prepared to advance them.

These principles have meant, for example, that I inaugurated the UK Nineteenth-Century American Women Writers Research Group, a group of scholars that meets twice annually, holds conferences, and contributes to publication projects such as my collection Soft Canons: American Women Writers and Masculine Tradition, in which I foregrounded the excellent work of European scholars.  As the Dorothy M. Healy Visiting Professor of American Studies, I organized the Sarah Orne Jewett Centennial Conference to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of The Country of the Pointed Firs, collected expanded and revised essays published as Questioning Jewett: Centennial Essays, and co-edited Jewett and Her Contemporaries: Reshaping the Canon. Editing has been at the heart of my endeavor; I am proud to have brought into print the work of over 100 colleagues. I continue this work, having recently become the editor of ESQ: A Journal of Nineteenth-Century American Literature and Culture. The oldest professional publication devoted to the field, ESQ remains an important scholarly outlet.

Such leadership necessarily assumes additional roles. As president of the Society for the Study of American Women Writers I helped organize two international conferences, established regional research groups, expanded and diversified the membership and the group’s Advisory Board, organized Society panels for other conferences, recruited new affiliated societies, and ensured a sound financial future for the organization.

All of these activities, including my extensive editorial work, require a substantial time commitment. Although such participation has often meant postponing my personal scholarship, these contributions have helped advance the discipline and the profession.  Given that currently 75% of university faculty are graduate students, contingent, or part-time, engaging in professional service is particularly important.

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