Like you, probably, I'm not one to miss a nerdy, extracurricular academic talk. My first experience at QUEUC last year, however, was something quite different than what I was used to. As a literature student, I, of course, needed to find the precise language to describe my experience. As a literature conference, QUEUC was quick to provide that language.
I don't remember the name of the paper, the name of the speaker, or the name of the person whose biography she had studied. I do, though, remember chewing over the paper's main concept on the long drive home. It was a new definition of the word "utopia". The essayist had read into a series of encounters between her subject and countless strangers, and found that each of those encounters involved a spark of "utopia". Utopia, as I understand, is a space created by and between like-minded people when they meet and truly connect. It's that rare meeting that evokes instant empathy and stimulating conversation. It's a catalyst for social change created with one-on-one human connection. It's a hypothetical new world created between two people: a real, contemporary utopia defined by all the ideals and passions of the speakers.
This year, QUEUC has been defined again by our theme and our goal - making a connection. Every year, the student organizers set a theme so that we can put special emphasis on improving a certain aspect of the conference. "Making a connection"means communicating well with delegates, finding them places to stay, and getting them to our little corner of the world safely and comfortably. For me, though, it means utopia. It means coming together with someone you may have seen at a cafe and walked by without a second glance - and suddenly spending hours talking fervently with them about Thomas Pynchon or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and in connecting like that, somehow, starting to make a better world.
I'm a reclusive scholar, like many of you. I don't make connections easily, but when I do, they are strong. That utopian moment does not happen to me often, but at QUEUC, the air was supersaturated with those moments. Time and time again, during panels, meals, and trivia, I felt that connection and that hope. And, frankly, that's why you should come. That's why you should come, whether you are presenting a paper or not; come, because we want to meet you! I'm reading through a whole lot of your papers right now, and trust me, I most definitely want to meet you. Come!