Keynote Speaker & Address

We are thrilled to announce this year’s keynote speaker: 

Dr. Eden Wales Freedman


Dr. Eden Wales Freedman is Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty at Clarke University. Previously she was Vice Provost for Faculties and Academic Affairs at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and Associate Professor of English; Director of Diversity Studies; and Chair of Communication, Literature, and Arts at Mount Mercy University, where she also served as Dr. Thomas R. Feld Chair for Teaching Excellence and Deputy Title IX Coordinator. She is an affiliate Associate Professor of Women’s Studies at the University of New Hampshire. Dr. Wales Freedman specializes in American literature and race, gender, trauma, and reception theories. Her book, Reading Testimony, Witnessing Trauma: Confronting Race, Gender, and Violence in American Literature won the 2020 Eudora Welty Prize for its new approach to literature.


“Reading Testimony, Witnessing Trauma: Confronting Violence in Literature and Life”


Theorists emphasize the necessity of writing about—or witnessing—trauma to overcome it. To this critical conversation, this keynote address articulates a theory of responding to trauma (or “dual-witnessing”) that explores how narrators and readers and speakers and listeners can witness trauma together. Drawing from her award-winning book, Reading Testimony, Witnessing Trauma: Confronting Race, Gender, and Violence in American Literature, Dr. Wales Freedman shares how she generated her theories of traumatic engagement and how reader-respondents can apply her methods to both literature and life. By becoming aware of the potentially damaging ways we are personally inclined to respond to others in crisis, Wales Freedman argues, we can learn to position ourselves against such problematic tendencies in order to combat—versus exacerbate—imparted catastrophes. In doing so, we can use our own self-awareness, coupled with​critically-empathic reading and listening skills, to help others heal.