A Brief History of INCS
In 1985, Richard Stein, who felt that a Western MLA branch in 19thC studies was needed, invited 50 colleagues to meet and discuss ideas for collaboration. A November 1985 lunch produced a lot of shared interest, and led to the planning of a conference for the following April at Pomona. There were two distinguishing features of the new organization, founded with the help of scholars at UCLA, UCSC, Pomona, and San Jose State: first, the goal was to be interdisciplinary, with conference sessions designed to mix and match different kinds of perspectives (rather than focusing on shared single issues, for instance); second, all conference presentations would be limited to summaries, with the bulk of time at each session devoted to discussion. The format proved extremely successful, and INCS conferences are noted for stimulating conversation in and out of sessions themselves. The other feature of the group that was initiated in early years and continues now, is a junior-friendly attitude: graduate students and faculty sit on panels together, and many long-time members count their professional starts from appearances at INCS.
Originally, INCS was linked to a journal called Romanticism Past and Present, which itself evolved into Nineteenth-Century Contexts. The group has met in many cities and institutions: Yale, Berkeley, Oregon, Santa Cruz, San Jose, Long Beach, Boston, New Orleans, Marquette, Kansas City, Iowa, Rutgers, William and Mary, George Mason, Skidmore, Louisiana State, University of Kentucky, UT Austin, University of Virginia, University of Houston... and others. INCS has also met in international venues (sometimes linked with other organizations) such as Lancaster, Paris, Venice and a few others. The 'identity' of INCS is entirely based on the annual conference. Some regulars really come to all of them and see it as an essential annual reconnection—to friends, colleagues, intellectual roots, and ongoing conversations about issues that can't be raised as easily elsewhere.