Lisa Berglund, Buffalo State professor of English, fell in love with the eighteenth century as an adolescent after reading works by such writers as Jane Austen and Richard Brinsley Sheridan.
“Once I discovered this time period, I never looked back,” said Berglund, who majored in English and history as an undergraduate and studied the British writer Samuel Johnson while pursuing her doctorate at the University of Virginia.
Berglund is newly immersed in the eighteenth century as the recently appointed executive director of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ASECS). Established in 1969, ASECS is an interdisciplinary group of more than 1,500 members dedicated to the advancement of scholarship in all aspects of the period—from English literature to French music to Chinese philosophy. ASECS publishes two referred journals, holds an annual conference, and funds fellowships and publication awards.
“I’ve had previous experience running a learned society as executive director of the Dictionary Society of North America, which I found enjoyable and ASECS found valuable,” she said.
With her appointment comes the relocation of the ASECS headquarters to Buffalo State from its previous home at Wake Forest University where it resided for the past 20 years. The two offices it occupies within Ketchum Hall include a host of prize-winning books by ASECS members as well as academic journals.
Berglund, the former chair of the English Department, will continue teaching but with a reduced course load in order to accommodate her new duties that will extend for at least the next three years.
Far from a newcomer to the group, Berglund has been involved with ASECS since the early 1990s. She’s been published in Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture and won an ASECS teaching competition. She also served as president of NEASECS, the group’s northeast regional affiliate.
“The eighteenth century is important because our country was built on eighteenth-century concepts. Benjamin Franklin and John Adams wrote some remarkable works,” Berglund said.
However, students typically arrive at college with little knowledge of this time period.
“They usually have little introduction to it in high school,” Berglund said. “We want to show them that it’s more diverse than they might expect. There are eighteenth-century women and people of color who were writers, musicians, and scholars.”
The society provided a three-year $150,000 renewable grant to Buffalo State to cover an assistant for the ASECS office. Aimee Levesque, an English Department alumna and SUNY Chancellor’s Award winner, was hired as Berglund’s assistant.
“Aimee is perfect for the job. She has a great understanding of what ASECS members are writing papers on and what they’ll be doing at conferences.”
Having the ASECS on campus is a boon to all students, not just English majors.
“People work in careers related to the eighteenth century—museum curators, costume designers, teachers—and this office is open to anyone who would like to learn more about this time period,” she said. “Hopefully, students will realize the whole area of humanistic study does not exist in a vacuum. This provides a dialogue as we try to keep alive the ideas of the eighteenth century.”
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