In the English Department at Regional U., I'm one of two ladder faculty who work on the Renaissance and one of four who work on a non-modern period (we also have an Anglo-Saxonist and an Ancient World specialist). All things considered, this is awfully good for a department of 20 full-time faculty, and I'm especially lucky in that all four of us are very active scholars AND almost exactly the same age--not only are they good people to bounce ideas off of, they're also just plain fun to hang out with.
However, this isn't the same as having a group of peers with whom I can really discuss the minutiae of my work, turn to for suggestions about sources, or just chat about the latest scholarship. Many of my colleagues in other subfields make up for this by participating in regional reading groups made up of faculty from various local institutions--depending on the group, they may meet once or twice a month; may present works in progress, discuss recent books in their field, or trade manuscripts; or they may just chat and keep in touch largely through an email discussion list.
To my knowledge, though, there is no such group in my region for Early Modernists. (There IS an Early Modern colloquium at the university in The Next City Over. . . but it's 65 miles away and it appears to be designed solely to bring in speakers; I'm sure that I'd be welcome to attend talks there, but I'm not sure that it would present quite the kind of community that I'm looking for. Also, 65 miles isn't exactly close.)
So you see where this is going. I've talked to my department chair about how her own reading group functions, and she was very enthusiastic about the possibility of my starting one up in my own field. However, I have no--zero!--experience with this kind of thing. I've done my homework, and I think that there are probably enough Early Modernists in the English departments at nearby institutions to support such a group (and if we included faculty from the history and art history departments, so much the better); I can also handle all the little managerial issues of setting up a mailing list and/or webpage, arranging for meeting space, and all that good stuff. Not for nothing was I the manager of the INRU marching band, and at least no one in a Renaissance reading group is likely to be setting Sousaphones on fire.
But, see, I'm a good manager; I'm not sure I'm a good leader. What if people express interest, but never attend meetings? How does one decide which books the group is interested in reading, or whether indeed to orient the organization toward reading recent scholarship--or reading each others' own works in progress--or doing something else entirely? And will this whole thing just turn out to be a huge pain in my ass?
On the one hand, I'm really excited about the opportunity to meet and make connections with people at other institutions (including grad students!), and if I intend to stay at Regional U. for any length of time, I'm probably only going to be happy if I have that kind of professional circle. This would also be a good thing for my department (and institution)'s reputation, and as such would be a good thing for my C.V. and my reappointment and promotion bids. But on the other--well, it's a little daunting. Who am I, with my 11-month-old Ph.D., to be managing such a thing?
So. . . anyone out there ever organized a reading group or colloquium (whether regional or institutional)? Any thoughts or advice you'd care to throw my way?