Talks & Trips

Etta enjoys taking ideas beyond the university classroom. Whether speaking at a public venue in Missouri, a library in Tuscany, or on the streets of Rome, the subjects she considers are tailored to a group’s interests. She organizes workshops, educational trips, and talks for adults that build from topics she writes and teaches about. Past custom-designed trips for adults have focused on alternative communities and religious practices, American Protestant pilgrims, and American writers abroad. Recent talks, listed below, center on utopian foodways in literature and culture and her new book, Engaging Italy: American Women’s Utopian Visions and Transnational Networks.

Contact Etta to organize a small group trip, a workshop or talk.

Upcoming Events

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Past Events

In Constance Fenimore Woolson’s Footsteps in Italy

May 14 - May 26

This May 2024 small group trip to Italy focuses on the life of 19th-century author Constance Fenimore Woolson. I will co-lead the trip with Woolson biographer Anne Boyd Rioux. The trip begins in Venice, where Woolson died, and moves to Florence, Rome, and then, for those who wish to add a few extra days, to Sorrento. More information about the trip is available on Rioux's website here and by emailing me directly: [email protected].

Openness in the Archives of Women Writers: Moving through an Unknown Future

September 22, 2023 @ 12:30 pm - 1:45 pm CDT

This short talk will be part of roundtable (which begins at 1:30) during an event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first awarded PhD from the UNH English Department, where I completed my doctoral work. My presentation will focus on some "hows & whys" of research for my latest book Engaging Italy: American Women's Utopian Visions and Transnational Networks. The event runs from 10 a.m. through 4:30.

Saints, Martyrs, and Mystics in Italy

June 10, 2023 - June 20, 2023

A small group trip to Rome, Siena, and Assisi, with a few other stops, too. Contact Etta for information about a future trip.

Unsung History Podcast on Engaging Italy

January 23, 2023 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm CST

This conversation on the Unsung History podcast with Kelly Therese Pollack focuses on what drove me to write Engaging Italy, why I selected the three women in it, and how literature intertwines with history. The three women's lives and the book's relevance today are also part of the conversation. The podcast be found on any platform where you find podcasts and here.

Mr. Kate Cromo: News Correspondent Anne Hampton Brewster in Rome, 1869-1890

January 19, 2023 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm CST

This presentation, part of the Library Company of Philadelphia's Fireside Chat Series, focuses on Philadelphian Anne Hampton Brewster's career as a news correspondent in Rome. This part of her life plays a significant role in my book, Engaging Italy: American Women's Utopian Visions and Transnational Networks. The talk will also provide a brief overview of the book. Brewster's personal library, papers, and several other items were left to the Library Company after her death in 1892. Research in these materials laid the foundation for Engaging Italy and for the talk. The talk will be streamed and recorded. Register for this FREE event here.

The recording is now available on Youtube here.

Writing for Spiritual Regeneration Winter Workshops

January 11, 2023 @ 7:00 pm - March 22, 2023 @ 8:00 pm CST

These hands-on sessions, co-facilitated with Dr. Deborah Cox,  require no prior writing classes or skills. The goal is to foster creativity and emotional health. The four one-hour sessions during a twelve-week period (January-March) employ techniques from Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way and from expository writing classes. The sessions were set up for a private organization and designed for a small group. Interested in a future workshop? Contact Etta.

Let’s Talk Books! Engaging Italy: American Women’s Utopian Visions

November 18, 2022 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm CST

This virtual presentation on Engaging Italy is part of Professor Lynn Domina's series, Let's Talk Books at Northern Michigan University. A Q & A will follow the presentation. The presentation was recorded for later viewing. It is available here.

Author Interview with Biographers International Organization (BIO)

October 16, 2022 @ 4:00 pm - October 19, 2022 @ 5:00 pm CDT

This interview on the writing of Engaging Italy: American Women's Utopian Visions and Transnational Networks is part of the BIO podcast series.

Anne Hampton Brewster’s St. Martin’s Summer

October 11, 2022 @ 8:00 am CDT

This podcast episode of Lost Ladies of Lit with Amy Helmes and Kim Askew focuses on an 1866 novel, St. Martin's Summer, written by Philadelphian and expat author Anne Hampton Brewster.  The autobiographical novel, set primarily in Naples, Italy, sets the stage for Brewster's later career in Rome. Listen wherever you get your podcasts!

The (Happier) Therapist Who Writes

October 4, 2022 @ 6:00 am - 7:00 am CDT

A conversation with Reconceive podcast hosts Dr. Deborah Cox and Tracy Maxfield, on writing as a therapeutic practice. Numerous studies point to regular writing as a way to improve our health and well-being. Given burnout in healthcare professionals, writing offers an affordable way to move stress and emotion onto the page, clearing our minds for more creative and enjoyable work. In this episode, Deborah and Tracy interview author, professor, and writing coach, Dr. Etta Madden, about the practice of regular writing for healing and apply the writing concepts to helping professionals.

What’s New in Foodtopia?

October 1, 2022 @ 7:30 am - 9:00 am CDT
Canterbury, NH United States

This presentation is a review of Margot Anne Kelley's Foodtopia: Communities in Pursuit of Peace, Love & Homegrown Food, published by Godine Press (2022). My review places Foodtopia within the larger context of eating in utopian and intentional communities (see Eating in Eden and the special issue of Utopian Studies). The presentation will be about 20 minutes, as part of a panel of book reviews on other topics.

Registration for the Communal Studies Association conference at Canterbury Shaker Village, Canterbury, NH, is required. See more about the annual conference here.

Revising Daisy Miller: The Story of Miss Jones

September 7, 2022 @ 11:00 am - 12:00 pm CDT

This online talk, drawn from Engaging Italy: American Women's Utopian Visions and Transnational Networks, will focus on Emily Bliss Gould, founder and fundraiser for an industrial school and orphanage in Rome.  The audience will be an online group--mostly academics--that focuses on "transatlantic" women writers. See the Transatlantic Literary Women website for more information about connecting.

A woman in black dress and hat sits with young boy in her lap and girl at her side

Emily Bliss Gould (1825-1875) with Venetian Bartoli children, from Italo-American Schools at Rome [1874], New-York Historical Society.

Engaging Italy: American Women’s Utopian Visions

April 22, 2022 @ 9:00 am - 10:00 am CDT

This overview of my book with the same title is part of a research presentation series at Missouri State University. The presentations are streamed via Zoom. The link will be provided here a few days before the event. You may also contact me to receive the link.

Utopian Visions of Food

April 21, 2022 @ 9:30 am - 10:30 am CDT

Part of this year's Missouri Humanities Symposium, Sustenance and Sustainability, at Drury University. I will provide an historical overview of utopian foodways. The talk highlights dreams individuals and communities have shared about food. From dreams of Edenic abundance to the contemporary explosion of urban gardens, people through the centuries have centered their lives upon desires to eat better. What "better" means varies from person to person and group to group: having plenty, having healthy habits, eating with others, or eating less.

This presentation draws from Eating in Eden: Food and American Utopias as well as my "Food" essay in The Palgrave Handbook of Utopian and Dystopian Literatures (2022).

The talk is free and open to the public. Registration is requested (required for streaming the presentation).

A Conversation with Margaret Sullivan, author of Fragments of a Mobile Life

February 2, 2022 @ 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm CST

A Virtual Author Event with Margaret Sullivan in conversation with Dr. Etta Madden (Missouri State University) and Dr. John Schmalzbauer (Missouri State University), exploring topics such as cultural literacy, diplomacy abroad, identity as related to gender, place, and profession, and Ozarks history. The event celebrates Sullivan's memoir, FRAGMENTS FROM A MOBILE LIFE. This event is also sponsored by the Department of English at Missouri State University.

Read more about Sullivan and the event at the Pagination Bookshop website.

The event may be accessed through this Zoom link:

Sororal Sadness and Hope: Transatlantic Letters of Public and Private Loss

November 6, 2021 @ 2:15 pm - 3:30 pm CDT

This talk focuses on letters Caroline Crane Marsh and her sister Lucy exchanged during the Civil War, when Caroline lived in Italy and Lucy witnessed the ravages of family, friends, and strangers near her St. Louis, Missouri, home.

It's part of the Society for the Study of American Women Writers conference in Baltimore. The presentation will be streamed, but audience members must be registered for the conference to receive the link.

American women in Italy

November 2, 2021 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm CDT
Springfield, MO

Private event

Controversies of Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option

October 1, 2021 @ 2:30 pm - 3:45 pm CDT

This virtual presentation will comment on Rod Dreher’s bestselling book, The Benedict Option (2017), as it connects to traditions of communal life and utopian visions.

As part of a panel at the Communal Studies Association (CSA) annual conference, the presentation will be accessible to those who have registered for the conference.

Negotiating Networks, Not Friendships, in 19th-Century Rome

September 22, 2021 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm CDT

As part of the Society for the Study of American Women Writers panel, "Networking, 19th-Century Style: Preserving and Analyzing American Women's Networks." I will discuss Anne Hampton Brewster, Emily Bliss Gould, and Caroline Crane Marsh in Rome. These three women did not consider themselves good friends, although they remained neighborly during their time in Italy.

Here's the link for registering for this FREE event.



Talk on Caroline Crane Marsh’s Visions of Mission and Travels

July 10, 2021 @ 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm CDT
Boston, MA

This presentation at the American Literature Association Conference will juxtapose the writings and travels of black itinerant preacher Rebecca Cox Jackson (1795-1871) and white translator and poet Caroline Crane Marsh (1819-1901) with brief references to Transcendentalist Margaret Fuller’s writings and travels. Jackson’s dream visions (1830s-50s) and Marsh’s publications demonstrate the ways in which writing empowered both women, in spite of their cultural positions in the antebellum US.