Amateur Knowledges workshop, UOW, 6 July 2015

UOW is hosting a free workshop on ‘Amateur Knowledges’ on Monday 6 July 2015. We have some incredible speakers, including Alastair Blanshard, Carolyn Dinshaw, Leigh Dale, Louise D’Arcens, and Jessica White, and will be covering a huge range of topics in an effort to theorize the (prickly or comfortable, antagonistic or collaborative) relationships between scholarly and amateur knowledges and reading practices:

  • early gay muscle films
  • medievalism
  • fan fiction
  • book blogging as vernacular criticism
  • bibliomemoir

More information on the event web page here. Please circulate this link widely!

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Why I Love Linking

The love this week is for academic conferences, but it’s not from me; it’s from Devoney Looser over at the Chronicle of Higher Education. Go read!

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Why I Profoundly Esteem My HDR Students

A very quick post this week, to let you know about a longer one: this post, full of reflection, humour and practical tips for surviving a PhD without a scholarship, by my very excellent HDR student lunalovebooks. I am particularly impressed by her commitment to a bedtime. A diarized bedtime. That’s some full-on time management.

(Her supervisor sounds pretty great too, eh.)

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Why I Love Loving Things

There is a lot of love around here lately, I know! This is partly because Roland Barthes (who, guess what, I love) wrote an essay called Why I Love Emile Benveniste (and another called One Always Fails In Speaking Of What One Loves), so I have always had a soft spot for the ‘Why I Love’ title.

It’s also partly because I just got funding from the Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts at the University of Wollongong for a pilot research project called Amateur Knowledges, together with my amazing colleagues Leigh Dale and Louise D’Arcens. The idea is to  investigate the relationship between scholarly/professionalized and non-scholarly/affective responses to texts, and to pasts. It revisits some of the work that I last did in relation to the Desiring the Text conference; as part of the project I’m going to be relaunching the Society of the Friends of the Text website to foster dialogue between scholars, fans, and other amateur readers (bookbloggers, Goodreaders, etc).

So this book, you can imagine (Lynch’s Loving Literature: A Cultural History), just went to the top of my to-read pile. Also, if you are interested in this kind of thing, two very cool books to read are:

Charles Altieri’s The Particulars of Rapture, which is about ‘an aesthetic of the affects’. His argument is that part of what we find valuable in reading is the opportunity to try out a different set of affective responses from our own, and he writes about how books, poems, and pictures make it possible for us to inhabit another position. We are, almost literally, ‘moved’ by works of art, and ‘that being-moved positions [our] consciousness to make certain kinds of observations and investments’ (26). Then, he asks,

What states, roles, identifications, and social bonds become possible by virtue of our efforts to dwell fully within these dispositions of energies and the modes of self-reflection they sustain? … How are we changed by what we feel, and by our adapting different ways of engaging what we feel? (5)

and also Lynne Pearce’s criminally underread Feminism and the Politics of Reading (Amazon link, sorry) which uses Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse to talk about the ways we read, in all kinds of ways, including this one, which really reminds me of the relationship fans have with ongoing canon (walking the painful line between anticipation/unticipation as we wait to see whether our show has jumped the shark this season/this episode…):

[Reading] is, indeed (as it is for Barthes’s lover), a frankly desperate scenario, in which the reader must wait to discover not only if his or her love/desire is reciprocated, but also if her huge emotional investment in the other [the text] (based on such sudden, first impressions!) is to be proved worthy. As many texts fail in this expectation as do lovers… (133)

So over the next while, expect to see a few more accounts of loving texts, and also loving readings (it’s occurred to me that one of the reasons I’m a reception theorist is that I really like hearing about other people’s readings of texts, even – or especially – when they don’t mesh with my own).

Next up: Why I Love Jenny Colgan.

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Why I Love Bella Swan, Part 3: Why I Love Bella Swan

The Twilight saga tells the story of Bella Swan, a highly competent and intelligent teenage girl, who moves to a small town in Illinois when her mother remarries. Like all the best young heroes, and like many competent and intelligent teenage girls, she has a fierce and irreducible feeling that she is somehow out of place or out of time in the world around her. This is registered in two ways in the saga: firstly, her clumsiness and physical awkwardness, a sort of negative superpower which puts her literally out of sync with her material environment, and secondly, her lack of fit with the girl culture of her peers.

She is not interested in clothes or shopping, hates the idea of going to prom, hates the idea of weddings and marriages. She feels the wrong things for the wrong people. She is fierce, passionate, driven: she feels too much, too intensely; the intensity of her feelings scares the people around her, and it drives her to express those feelings in physically risky ways, as when she learns to ride a motorbike or jumps off a cliff into the sea.

She is, in other words, fucking awesome.

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Why I Love Bella Swan, Part 2: Anti-girl antifandom

Part one is here.

In this post, I’m going to talk about Twilight antifandom, and the ways in which a particular discourse about the books is complicit with deep-rooted misogynist aspects of our culture. In the third and last post in this series, I’m going to finish up by telling you how I read the books, what I think is valuable about them, and why I would like to see that reading more widely shared.

Twilight is a series of novels by women, about women, for women.* The first film adaptation had (prior to the opening of Fifty Shades of Grey), the highest-grossing opening weekend by a female director. Stephenie Meyer, the author of the books, went on to produce a film called Austenland, based on a novel by another female author, directed by a woman, and with women-only advance screenings and premieres. In 2014, Meyer launched a competition, in partnership with Women in Film, to help five aspiring female filmmakers to make short films based on the Twilight Saga together with an all-female panel of mentors including Meyer, Catherine Hardwicke (the director of Twilight), the actors Kristen Stewart, Kate Winslet and Octavia Spencer, Jennifer Lee (the writer and co-director of Frozen) and Cathy Schulman, the president of Women in Film.

So why isn’t Twilight already being generally celebrated as a massive win for women?

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Why I Love Bella Swan, part 1: Feminist Reading

This is a tidied-up version of a talk I gave to UOW’s Feminist Society’s Free School in October, with bonus content like:

  • full sentences
  • proper references
  • Chicks on Speed videos

It was an hour-long talk, which comes in at around 5000 words, so I’m going to split it into a few parts. This first part sets up some of the political-theoretical background to my reading of Twilight – and specifically Bella Swan – with some ideas about how feminism works and how reading works. It’s also the part with the embedded Chicks on Speed video.

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