Fall Conference 2018

The Ebb and Flow of Optimism through American History

November 16-17, University of Vermont

Conference Schedule

Friday, November 16

3:30 p.m.

Registration Desk opens

4:00 to 5:15 p.m.

Friday Afternoon Breakout Sessions

See list of breakout sessions.

5:15 to 6:15 p.m.


6:15 to 7:30 p.m.

Buffet dinner, optional, reservations required

7:30 to 9:00 p.m.

Racist Ideas in America: From Slavery to Black Lives Matter

Ibram X. Kendi, author of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning, will trace the history of racist ideas through American history, including the “dueling dualities” of racial progress and simultaneous progress of racism that run through that history. He will consider the relation between those ideas and racial discrimination, and offer reasons for hope for the future. Details.

Saturday, November 17

7:15 to 8:30 a.m

Registration Desk open and continental breakfast

8:30 to 9:10 a.m.

Welcome and presentation of 2018 Victor R. Swenson Humanities Educator Award.

9:10 to 10:25 a.m.

Composite Nation: Can America Find a Unifying Historical Narrative Rooted in Progress?

Americans’ sense of hope or faith that tomorrow will be better than today has always depended upon not only when one lives, but also who one is. Yale professor David Blight considers the ebb and flow of optimism throughout American history in light of this fact, and what this history means for the present and for the future. Details.

10:25 to 10:40 a.m.


10:40 a.m. to 11:55 a.m.

Saturday Morning Breakout Sessions

See list of breakout sessions.

11:55 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Buffet lunch

1:00 to 2:15 p.m.

The American Pendulum and the Renewal of American Democracy

Boston College Professor of History Heather Cox Richardson explores how the economic and political crises of the 1850s, 1890s, and 1920s each created a backlash that inspired Americans to reclaim government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Details.

2:15 to 2:30 p.m.


2:30 to 3:45 p.m.

Saturday Afternoon Breakout Sessions

See list of breakout sessions.

3:45 to 4:00 p.m.


4:00 to 5:15 p.m.

Emerson and the Literary Landscape of Optimism

Emerson’s optimism is as legendary as it remains revolutionary. Mary Lou Kete discusses the intersection of Emerson’s faith in the future of America and his faith in the power of poetry. Details.