07 April 2007

Three Signs Easter is Near

First, it snowed 12+ inches on (Maundy | Holy | Great) Thursday. So it was a good day to stay indoors, fight a cold or something like it, work on websites that needed working on, and create a large pot of black bean soup for supper (hoping it is not the Last).

Second, as recently communicated to me, there is increased recent interest in research on Peeps.

Third, of course, it is time for the Pop Culture Association National Conference, which always seems to fall on Easter weekend. PCA is a treasure trove of quickly tossed-off papers on curious topics, looked at from an academic perspective. Here's this year's monstrous program, which I analyze below.

Where else can you study vampires; republican sex scandals; romance, mystery and detective fictions; Harry Potter and Robert Heinlein (yes, I know one's a character and the other's a sci-fi author; one is dead and the other isn't—yet); South Park and The Colbert Report (I suppose Comedy Channel could have a whole track of its own. "HBO Drama" did get its own session with papers on Deadwood, Big Love, 6 Feet Under and Sex and the City.); pirates; conspiracy theories, renaissance fairs, whew! They even turn reflective, with several sessions on "Academic Culture".

Somehow Borat some slipped under the radar at PCA; but there was at least one paper on Ali G.

There wasn't as much sex on the program as I would have hoped for, and what there was was filed under "Eros". But it's often "bad sex": "Pornifying Little Girls: Contemporary Fashion for Elementary School Girls" (Mardia Bishop, Shorter College), or sex I wouldn't want to partake in, e.g.: "Bushwacking: Porn and Politics" (Susan Cocklan, Virginia Commonwealth University) or "A Pornographic Version of Car Talk: Howard Stern and Conservative America" (Ann C. Hall, Ohio Dominican University). Thank goodness for "Super Sexy Selene and Her Kick-Ass Ways: Underworld and the Evolution of the Cinematic Vampire" (Mary Findley, Vermont Technical College).

An attendee pointed out to me there seemed to be more sessions on Fat Studies than Womens, Gay, or Post-colonial Studies. I guess they have their own conferences these days.

Adaptation seems to be a big theme. What's up with that? Perhaps it's subconsciously observing the category-theoretic dictum: Follow the Functors.

Some favorite titles:

  • “Sailor Moon Made Me a Third Wave Feminist!”: How a Group of Magical Girls Were in the Right Place at the Right Time for the Start of a New Feminist Identity (Stacy Rue, Independent Scholar)
  • Cheese in 18th-Century Massachusetts: Methods, Techniques, and the Challenges of Researching Popular Culture (Kristina Nies, Boston University) [In fact, Boston University cornered the market on Food as Pop cultural topic with a whole panel.]
  • Issues of Spectatorship in Stalker/Slasher Films (Yang Lin, National Taiwan Normal University)
  • “Liquor Bags and Lawn Chair Strapping”: The Aesthetics of Poverty in Trailer Park Boys (Dean DeFino, Iona College)

How about a panel on "popular rhetorical technologies"? Oh my, we're talking about Facebook and Myspace and I guess blogging .... No papers yet on twitter, or alternate reality games (wrong! see the Digital Games track...)

Some papers I wish I had heard:

  • The Wife of Bath and the Man from Mars: An Overview of Classic Literary Allusions in Select Heinlein Novels (Lisa N. D’Amico, Wichita State University)
  • DIY Snark: The Rhetoric of “Bad Craft” Blogging (Priscilla Perkins, Roosevelt University)
  • What Archetype is Your Avatar? (Dona Bailey, University of Arkansas at Little Rock)
  • There was a whole panel, Embedded Culture: Instructional Media in Fishing, Hunting, and Golf; with papers on, yes, trout fishing, bass fishing, hunting and golf.

I wish humanities were like computer science, and I could get those papers via google...

Did you ever notice how many papers in certain fields frequently have titles of the form: A B C: X Y Z? i.e., they are colonized (see several examples above). Where did that pattern come from anyway? Anyone know?

I'll be sketching and circulating a paper, working title: Trendy Topics and Troubling Tools: themes and methods from PCA, for your commentary, Real Soon Now — not!


pamfell said...


pamfell said...

I reread this, quite informative. thank you

rh said...

Thanks for your comments, pamfell.