Friday, September 05, 2008

Why I Can't Give Conference Papers

I've been trying to plan out my academic year for the last little bit; a big part of this involves trying to figure what kinds of scholarship I'm going to engage in. I would really like to attend this year's NeMLA, but most of the topic areas that interest me are ones that I just couldn't give conference papers on. Here's why:

Cheering for the Bad Guy: The Rise of the Anti-hero in Popular Culture: From Sweeney Todd to Darth Vader, some of our culture's most iconic characters stem from our darkest vices. Why do we find ourselves rooting for the bad guy in literature and popular culture so frequently? What is it about these characters that appeals to us? What does our acceptance of these characters say about contemporary society as a whole, if anything? Submissions should focus on the answers to any or all of these questions.

Here I would want write about either Noah Bennett and Sylar in Heroes or Snape and Voldemort in the Harry Potter franchise, with particular reference to the role of the internet/fan culture in their success. Unfortunately, that's about all I can think of to say, unless I were to extend the Heroes talk by talking about the bad dad complex.

History, Memoir, and Comics: "History, Memoir, and Comics" invites papers on recent graphic narratives. The panel seeks papers that investigate (1) why the comics form lends itself to the representation of tragic events; (2) the strategies by which graphic narratives simultaneously invoke personal and public history; and/or (3) why studying the interaction of verbal and visual narratives matters, especially today.

This paper would go something like this: "OMG, Maus, you guys. Maus! It's so awesome. "My father bleeds history." That's not seriously the coolest thing ever written? [pause] Blankets is pretty cool, too.

[As a side note, I would add here that I'm not sure why we STILL need to discuss the questions of "why studying the interaction of verbal and visual narratives matters, especially today." Srsly.]

Lost at NeMLA: Mapping TV's Most Elusive Island: One of the most remarkable television series in recent years has been ABC's Lost. Beginning with an archetypal premise of castaways stranded on an island, the show has evolved into a complex network of obscure connections, esoteric mysteries, literary and pop cultural allusions, and baroque experiments in narrative temporality. The objective of this panel will be to contextualize the television show within diverse but complementary critical perspectives.

Say it with me, kids: Bad dads, bad dads, bad dads!

Those Who Do Not Study History Are Doomed to Watch Repeats: This panel solicits papers on remakes of television shows such as Battlestar Galactica, Queer as Folk, and The Bionic Woman. What do these remakes say about the cultures that produce them? Are these shows indicative of any obsession with history? What are the intertextual implications of the narratives? What narrative techniques do the shows employ that differ from those of "original" series?

[taps mic] So...uh...has anyone here seen Degrassi?

Don't get me wrong, I would actually like to write these papers. I just don't know that I could come up with a full fifteen minutes on any of these topics: my position as fan situates me in a place where it's very difficult to write critically. We'll see, though.

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