Panel 1: THE ONE WITH SCARRED BODIES, WOUNDS, AND (RE)COVERING
“Second Skins,” Absences, and a Sealskin of Sounds: The Embodiment and Envelopment of MMIWGT2S in Tanya Tagaq’s Polaris Prize Performance
In the days following Inuk Throat Singer Tanya Tagaq’s 2014 Polaris Prize win, the Canadian media celebrated the emotional power of Tagaq’s gutsy performance. Tagaq, the first Indigenous artist to win the lucrative independent music prize, used the national spotlight to draw public attention to the growing issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, Trans and Two-Spirit People in Canada (MMIWGT2S) in both her performance and the interviews that followed. In this paper, I perform a close reading of Tagaq’s performance using a combined phenomenological, psychoanalytic, and Indigenous/Postcolonial approach to explore how the skin acts as a site of encounter on/of the body and to imagine how Tagaq’s singing produces a protective “audio-phonic skin”. Employing Stella North’s use of the concept of the “second skin”, Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s concept of “inter-embodiment”, and Didier Anzieu’s concept of “the audio-phonic skin or the sound envelope” provides frameworks for understanding both how Tagaq re-embodies and protectively surrounds MMIWGT2S, and how she connects this re-embodiment to her audience. I argue that by performing alone, on a national stage, reinterpretations of Katajjait, a traditional art performed by communities of women, Tagaq’s performance asserts the persistence of Indigenous peoples and traditions, while drawing attention to the ways colonial violence persists. Tagaq’s counter-imperial voice surrounds the absences of the MMIWGT2S and momentarily provides relief by filling the emptiness in what Anzieu calls a “sound bath”. This paper illustrates how the visual and auditory presence of Tagaq’s Indigenous-coded skin and body and solo interpretation of throat singing re-embody MMIWGT2S as an act of resistance against colonial violence and a call for action.
Jessica Fontaine, University of Winnipeg: Jessica Fontaine has a BA from UBC and is currently a graduate student in the University of Winnipeg MA in Cultural Studies program. Her research interests include comics, life writing, popular music, and Indigenous stories. She is the Research Fellow for Project GraphicBio at the University of Winnipeg.
“Now You See Me, Now You Don’t”: The Creation of the Monster through the Classical and Medieval Gaze
In many respects, the monster is a being of revelation; the monster exists as a construction and reflection of our social desires and fears. Regardless of the monster’s elucidative nature, the superficial is often the primary method for comprehending monstrosity. I will discuss how the use of the senses, particularly vision, as a method of gathering knowledge is problematic. Vision has a direct impact on the interpretation of certain Classical and Medieval myths such as that of Medusa and Narcissus and leads these characters to be given the classification “monster”; these characters are labelled examples of monstrous behavior based on their physical appearance or an obsession with the purely visual. Consideration will be given to form, appearance, and agency as they pertain to a selection of myths in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the Irish Táin Bo Cuailnge, and John Gower’s Confessio Amantis. As the gaze is used as a method of defining and prescribing, the gaze also functions as a way to exert power. As a result, this paper will explore the implications and limitations of reading the monstrous body purely through sight with the intent of revealing that the monster reveals society’s fears despite being relegated to a visual space. Rather, the monster problematizes traditional ways of judging concepts such as beauty and moral virtuousness by appearing as deformed or disabled creatures. As these depictions exist in a literary context, these creations emerge from social and cultural anxieties and a fascination with the monstrous. This analysis of literary monstrous figures can contribute to a larger discussion about the function of the monster as a way of expressing social anxieties.
Karen Hynes, Acadia University: Karen Hynes is a graduate student in the English department at Acadia University, and received her Bachelor of Arts at St. Thomas University. Her interest in the literary analysis of the monster has influenced her current research on Monstrous Knights in Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur.
The War Artist and the Wound: Monstrosity and the Freakshow in pat Barker’s Toby’s Room
The pastel drawings of Henry Tonks depict the wounded faces of young men returning from the trenches and the process of attempts by doctors at Queen’s Hospital to surgically reconstruct what shrapnel and shelling has disfigured. Pat Barker includes the character of Tonks in her recent novel Toby’s Room and in doing so juxtaposes, and at times conflates, the medical gaze and the artistic gaze in relation to disfigurement and spectacular bodies. Drawing on both Tonks’ archived portraits and Barker’s novel, I seek to investigate the discursive ruptures that arise from visual representations of wounds and disfigurement. I argue that medical and artistic discourses share a fascination with the spectacularly disfigured body, and seek to examine the ways in which the subject of these discourses (the wounded soldier) resists and unsettles the gazes of those very discourses. I approach this paper through critical disability studies and theories of the spectacular body, drawing on the ways in which both artistic and medical discourses have constructed these bodies as the “negative comparison to corporeal normality” (Ato Quayson Aesthetic Nervousness, 15). In their existence as both art and medical document, Tonks’ drawings work to not only reveal the similar fascinations with the disfigured body that art and medicine share, but also the potential for the disfigured or disabled subject to look back at these discourses as beautiful monstrosities, simultaneously adored and abhorred.
Emily Wilson, York University: Emily Wilson is a Master’s student at York University and intends to begin PhD work in the fall. Her research interests include disability, performance, genre studies and cognitive literary theory. Her proposed PhD project focuses on the representation of disability in formula detective fiction.
Panel 2: THE LIMINAL ONE: SECRETS, SPECTRES, AND SELVES
Ghostly Demarcations in Song for Night
“The loved one has slipped to ghost.”- Chris Abani
“What you hear is not my voice.” Thus reads the first sentence of Chris Abani’s Song for Night. From the very beginning, Abani announces that this novella is not narrated in a “traditional” way. The obvious first person narrator steps back from the role long assigned to him/her and declares that the voice that would accompany the reader is not his/hers. Yet, at a surface level, everything else about this novella seems normal. Nonetheless, a close reading reveals many hidden strata. Indeed, we cannot infer if the protagonist is alive, dead or else dying. In order to lessen the enigma that surrounds the obscure protagonist and elucidate the mystifying atmosphere that the reader finds him/herself in, what I am undertaking in this paper is to try to demystify the mystery that engulfs the narrative by looking at the protagonist through the different theories of Giorgio Agamben, Jacques Derrida and Jean Baudrillard respectively. First of all, I am going to show how the protagonist as a child soldier falls into the “homo sacer” category as introduced by Agamben. Moreover, using Agamben’s idea of homo sacer will lead us to his discussion of the notions of “overcoma,” “neomort” and “faux vivant.” Not knowing whether the protagonist is “real’” or enjoys a ghostly presence, I will proceed to examine him in the light of the concept of the “specter” as advocated by Derrida. The discussion of spectrality will lead us a step further allowing us to argue that what we have in this novella is a “simulation” as defined by Baudrillard. By doing so, I hope I will be able to shed more light on the protagonist in particular, the novella as a whole and the child soldier narrative in general.
Safa Kouki, Université de Montréal: Safa Kouki, a third year PhD student at the Département de Littératures et de Langues du Monde, Section Etudes Anglaises. She won her scholarship for doctoral studies jointly from the Tunisian government and the University of Montreal. She is interested in postcolonial literature and theories. Her doctoral research is about literary works of and about the refugees and the refugee camps.
Script Mall: Homolinguistic Machine Translation // Writer as Interlingua
Some methods for machine translation involve an intermediary, an interlingua. The ideal interlingua analyses and codifies all possible characteristics of the source text, organizing meaning and producing a holistic, semiotically informed translation. This project represents an attempt on the part of the writer to enter into this relay, intervening on computer code and ‘reading it’ semantically, morphologically, and intuitively in order to produce a written text that is ‘translated’ through that code. This text draws on a knowledge base of autobiographical material, specifically a personal history of homelessness.
The source code selected for this work is an appropriated slide recovered from a database of academic PowerPoint presentations, originally titled “Sub-language processing for phenotype curation” by Hong Cui via the University of Arizona. The application of this experimental poetic process to a selection of code already intended to be a computational structure for sorting, organizing and narrativizing data has produced a series of texts that each respond to the innate cues or gestures perceptible in the code.
A form of homolinguistic translation, this interdisciplinary poetic project violates the typical flow of information through computer code. By occupying the impossible: the ‘mentality’ of a component of machine translation, the writer becomes the ideal interlingua. This is an experiment in translation, an experiment in wresting an unmastered language by interpreting familiar words, symbols, and morphemes in order to force the code to communicate a monstrous, inappropriate-to-academia or seemingly ‘untellable’ personal history. The constraint-based nature of this work demands a complete co-operation with the structure and progression of the machine instruction. The resulting series of novel poetic works explore personal narrative through the semi-alien yet unexpectedly inquisitive interpreted logic of the appropriated segment of code.
Jessica Dolan, Concordia University: Jessica Dolan is currently in the MA program at Concordia pursuing a degree in Creative Writing. Her professional experience in front-line services for people living with HIV/AIDS and HepC, as well as her personal experience of queerness and transience inform her politic and subsequently her interest in creating poetic and academic works that reach beyond the boundaries of the institution and return energy, funding, and attention to communities often mined for their narratives and experience.
“Write as if they’re dead”
My MA research-creation project will culminate in the completion of Melodramatic Children, a play, and Queer Stick Dunny, a novel, as well as an analysis of ethics and outsider perspectives in fast-expanding genres of self-representation in literature. My project investigates how the pursuit of elusive truths in my unusually complicated family history has influenced my proud outsider identity—as genderqueer, feminist, polyamorous, disabled, an abuse survivor, and a Newfoundlander. Queer Stick Dunny follows a darkly funny tomboy and expert liar through her adolescence in a tiny fishing outport. Melodramatic Children tells the unlikely story of my parents, first cousins who harbour devastating and fascinating secrets but have refused to speak to each other for thirty years. For the graduate colloquium I propose to present the most challenging aspects of my “monstrous imposition” on my family, sharing excerpts of my creative works, discussing the ephemeral line that divides fiction from autobiography, and examining the ethical quandries of queering my family narrative and appropriating the voices of living people.
Last semester I had the opportunity to ask author Ann-Marie MacDonald about the ethics of autobiography, particularly in regards to intergenerational abuse. She confidently replied, “Write as if they’re dead.” Many of the acclaimed writers I have asked have answered the same. But I also know writers who are estranged from their families because of what they’ve written. Should I write as if they’re dead, outing my family as abusive, abused or concealing abuse? In what ways have I privileged a hegemonic narrative, forcing my own narrative into liminality? What are the irresistibly interesting truths of my family who, in their own ways, are also outsiders, living their lives attempting to “pass”? How can I be fair and compassionate in my representations of them, while also telling the truth? Is fictionalization the only solution? Is all autobiography fiction?
Cherie Pyne, Concordia University: Cherie Pyne is a writer, musician, and interdisciplinary creator-performer. Her academic writing has been published by the LUCC undergraduate colloquium, the Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Sexuality, and the Concordia Irish Society conference. Pyne is a Genie-nominated lyricist and composer, manages a feminist genderqueer jamspace, volunteers for Montreal Rock Camp for Girls and plays drums in a heavy rock band called Weeping Witch.
Panel 3: IMAG(IN)E: THE ONE THAT CAPTURES AND CONCRETIZES THE INVISIBLE
Mapping Architectural Bodies
How do we think about the spaces we move through? How do different bodies impose themselves on cities, and how do city structures impose themselves on individual consciousness? Through a hybridization of political and architectural theory, I came to these questions and took to the streets of Montreal to find answers.
This website, which developed out of an academic graduate course last winter, was the application of my research on Guy Debord’s French Situationists and Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins’ Architectural Body. In his critique of the capitalism that governs our movements in urban spaces, Debord emphasizes the importance of psychogeography, and the geographical environments’ effects on human behaviours and emotions. By reclaiming everyday materials and cultural tropes to which we have become desensitized in our passive roles as spectators, Debord proposes that we can construct situations that determine “the quality of a moment.” Situationists see the moment as crucially dependent upon its relative psychogeographical location, designed for and lived by its constructors. In Architectural Body, Madeline Gins and Arakawa offer the possibility of reconfiguring life through a syncretic approach towards the human body and physical architecture.
In the same way one must negotiate two languages to navigate the city, those engaging with this website must negotiate linguistic impasses and a multitude of media in order to map the consciousness of architectural bodies contained within and captured across Montreal. Drawing on Arakawa and Gins’ conviction that architecture shapes consciousness, and Debord’s manifesto against civilian apathy, I took to the streets of Montreal to engage volunteers to help me answer questions about language, identity, and architecture. Through a process of random selection, I approached two strangers at opposite ends of the city and gave them each a disposable camera and 24 hours to document their movements. I document the theory, methodology, photos, and participant reflections of this project on my website.
Sara Press, Concordia University: Sara Press is a second-year MA English student at Concordia University. Her areas of interest are modernism, postcolonialism, affect theory, and ecocriticism. Her current research looks to posthumanism as an alternative to reconceptualizing the human/non-human divide that informed and legitimized the colonial project. She can almost always be found boiling hot water to stay alive in the under-heated English department.
The Imposition of “It”: Sex, Photographs, and the Dialogic Encounter in Mary Gaitskill’s “A Romantic Weekend”
In the final pages of Sex, Or the Unbearable (2014), Lauren Berlant writes: “So many different kinds of structures organize the estrangements and attachments of the world that how we are to live among and transform their existence both materially and in fantasy is my central question” (116). This movement between the material and the fantastic is at the heart of this book-length dialogue with Lee Edelman, a dialogue that recognizes that there is no final “it” to get. The “unbearable” for Berlant and Edelman refers to “relations that both overwhelm and anchors us” (vii), a vibration between the material and fantastic but also a relation that may not be fully realized. These concepts reside at the heart of Mary Gaitskill’s “A Romantic Weekend” in which an unnamed man imagines photographs of the women he is trying to understand. The imagined other is taken for reality, translated from thought to the real by means of the photograph. In his attempt to “get” her he imposes the imagined photograph, his idea of “it,” upon her.
The photograph’s function is to make conversation unbearable through visual metaphors that overwhelm language and simultaneously fix characters to a structure that resists stability. Gaitskill renders characters mute by giving them opposing semiotic tools, imposing the visual upon the verbal, and placing them in a space where neither functions with respect to the other. It is a question of form and content, but also function: if “a photograph is always invisible” (6), as Roland Barthes says, the photograph in Gaitskill is a corporeal metaphor mistaken for the actual person. The fantasy that constructs identity is read like a photograph, a visual copy of the person. The photograph does not signify—instead it is subjected to the constant linguistic misreading of form taken for content.
Courtney Church, University of Western Ontario: Courtney Church is a PhD student at the University of Western Ontario. She studies modes of self-representation in modern drama and fiction and maintains a particular interest in the work of Samuel Beckett, Tom Stoppard, and Paul Auster. Many have noted her affinity for puns—joyously, of course.
“The Corpse was Frozen Perfectly Stiff”: An Investigation of the “ImageText-ual” Haunting of Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines
Though mid-nineteenth century scientists sought to make the invisible workings of electricity, magnetism, and wave theory visible to the layman’s imagination through metaphor, Kate Flint observes that, for many Victorians, the unseen “did not so much inspire as frighten.” Ironically, as new scopic technologies began to facilitate the printing of low-cost reproductions, photographs, and illustrations – a phenomenon that film theorist Jean-Louis Comolli terms a “frenzy of the visible” – the unquestioned authority of Cartesian perspectivalism faltered. This crisis in confidence resulted in an exploration of new visual practices and epistemologies that embraced the embodied character of sight; sensations in experienced time, writes Martin Jay, “dislodge[d] the frozen ‘take’ of a transcendental, atemporal viewing subject.” Using Lorraine Janzen Kooistra’s reading of Mitchell’s “imagetext,” I propose that the ways in which Walter Paget’s original illustrations of Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines (1888) fail to produce a visual double for the word (or “quote the text”) expose the importance of the corporealized glance to the anchoring of subjectivity. The central role of the onlooker in these drawings, for instance, reminds one to recognize their own role as both beholder and moderator of image/text relations. The onlooker’s absence from an image of a mummified human corpse is therefore conspicuous. When “no-body’s looking,” the text tells a story that exceeds the bounds of immediate perception and, in so doing, endows the dead “old Dom” with spectral survival: “Gazing at him, my imagination could reconstruct the whole scene,” recollects Quatermain. Time is dislocated from space as the image discloses its inability to register death. Frightened by the unseen, Sir Henry and Quatermain take the deceased’s crucifix and improvised writing pen in an apparent effort to concretize and thereby comprehend this “semi-miraculous sight.”
Abigail Slinger, Concordia University: Currently in her second semester of a Masters in English Literature at Concordia University, Abigail Slinger’s research interests include English Canadian and Modernist print culture.
Panel 4: THE ONE WHERE AFFECT ALIENS MEET EXPLOITED OTHERS
It’s Not Easy Having a Good Time: The Pleasure and Punishment of Alienation in The Rocky Horror Picture Show
When people picture The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), Richard O’Brien’s infamous cult classic and longest-running film in movie theatre history, people picture debauchery, lips and heels, corsets and ray guns—people picture meaninglessness. Even O’Brien himself describes his inspiration for writing the musical as thinking, “it would be nice if you could . . . watch a little of everything you liked, a collage, a rock and roll show with a storyline, with a little horror, a little sex, bit of titillation . . . no message, just entertainment” (Picart 62). True, the tale of newly-engaged, all-American couple Brad Majors & Janet Weiss as they find themselves trapped and ultimately seduced by mad scientist Dr. Frank-N-Furter and his band of fellow aliens from the planet Transsexual in the galaxy of Transylvania, is all camp and B-movie parody. But O’Brien’s parody, through its depictions of the “happy objects” (Ahmed 21) of both American life and transgressive sexuality, is nothing if not a moral statement. His characters struggle against the complexity of their desires, the stifling moralities of their “affective communities” (Ahmed 38), and are punished when they deviate from the expected alignments—no matter which galaxy they’re from.
Jessica Bebenek, Concordia University: Jessica Bebenek is a poet, writer, and English graduate student at Concordia University with creative work appearing in Prairie Fire, CV2, and Grain, among other places. Her current research interests include feminist revision narratives, and symbolism in herbalism & the occult. She is not a witch, but one day hopes to be.
Melville’s Minstrel Aesthetic: Moby-Dick as Antebellum Pop-Culture Artifact
In a 2011 New Yorker article entitled “What Moby Dick Means To Me,” Philip Hoare addresses the difficulty of categorizing Moby-Dick in the realm of nineteenth century literature. He proposes that the major effect of Moby-Dick’s many references to Old World cultures and its innovative, genre-defying form, is to instill in the reader an implicit “sense of time travel” (Hoare). Hoare terms the novel “pre-postmodern” literature. Yet despite Melville’s time traveling, he positions himself as a distinctly American writer, enmeshing his work with his national culture in its exact moment. The dominant mode of cultural production that Melville engages is the theatre of blackface minstrelsy. For Moby-Dick, Melville draws his African American characters, Pip and Fleece, from the stereotyped minstrel stage. Despite the constraints of minstrel stereotypes, Pip and Fleece embrace them to express resistance and seize a modicum of power, much like the slave revolt leader Babo in Melville’s 1855 story “Benito Cereno.” But Melville harnesses the subversive potential in the less-explored non-racial elements of minstrel theater as well. Demonstrating Melville’s investment in the content, motivations, and structure of minstrel theatre, I claim that minstrel aesthetics account for Moby-Dick’s apparent formal disjointedness. Melville scholars, therefore, must reimagine the work as a literary artifact of antebellum popular culture.
David Fleming, Concordia University: David Fleming is a poet, fiction writer, and pained researcher who does not type a single word until he knows what every paragraph of an essay will say. He has received two Nova Scotia Talent Trust scholarships, and his work appears in The Impressment Gang, Everything Is So Political, and Word and Colour.
Grotesque Shrines: Performing Abject Female Subjectivity in the Music of Purity Ring
Electronic music confronts its listeners with the many paradoxes of technological modernity. In name alone, it invites the technological into the musical space frequently regarded as a non-technological one defined by intuition and emotion. On their 2012 debut album, Shrines, Purity Ring uses this inherent anxiety of electronic music to probe the deeply corporeal effect of such music and problematize the gendered gaze that such a dichotomy raises. Throughout Shrines the duo pairs gleaming pop music production and James’s clean and silvery voice with lyrical content that is both unsettling and disturbing. With lyrics focalized through a female speaker that edge ominously into themes of corporeal destruction and interrogation, Shrines precludes the gendered violence that it illustrates by making any performance of that violence both monstrous and abject. The grotesque corporeality on display in the lyrics, and the juxtaposition of such content creates against the aesthetic lustre of the album, can be elucidated through an appeal to structuralist psychoanalytic theory and feminist film criticism. Jacques Lacan’s concept of the l’objet petit a, Julia Kristeva’s description of the abject, and Laura Mulvey’s exploration of Freudian scopophilia in film all create fruitful discussions about gender, the patriarchal gaze, and the radically monstrous tactics that modern artists exploit to problematize the often violent gender binaries of postmodern life. Drawing on psychoanalytic theory, this essay will examine how Purity Ring’s album Shrines creates a bold model of a new and unburdened female subjectivity as well as the reorientation of patriarchal structures of gaze and performance that such a project depends upon.
Matt Dueck, University of Winnipeg: Matt Dueck is currently pursuing a BA (honours) in English at the University of Winnipeg. His writing interests lie in critical theory, film, and popular music.
Panel 5: THE ONE WITH FEMALE SADNESS, EXCESS, AND THE AUTHORIZED EXPERIENCE
“If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad”: Sad Girl Theory and Queer Erasure
In the age of “oversharing” on social-media, the performativity of online identity allows women to self-represent in highly vulnerable and mediated ways. In a Canadian culture that circulates images of young women as either hysterical (Bieber fans!) or narcissistic, the emergence of the “Sad Girl” is a potentially radical alternative to reductionary images of a generation of young feminists potentially alienated by corporate campaigns promoting a narrow brand of solely-celebratory “Self-Love Feminism.”
This paper considers how the possibility of resistance in self-portrayals of sadness is in many ways already mediated by a history of fetishization of female sadness; a sadness that is additionally mediated for queer women, trans* women, women of colour, and disabled women, who are already assumed to have stereotypically tragic narratives. Furthermore, it addresses the problem of how to “read” and theorize online sadness—sadness made more complicated by the layers racial, economic, social, cultural, patriarchal, capitalist, and colonialist parameters of identity performance. By exploring an overview of online sadness, investigating the corporatization of online intimacy, and discussing the erasure of marginalized groups, this paper will draw on the theories of Leslie Jamison, Sara Ahmed, Lauren Berlant, and Ann Cvetokovich in order to consider the potential of radical resistance and sincerity in online instances of sadness.
The paper will also consider Canadian artists Petra Collins and Madelyne Beckles as examples of young women producing work that critiques how cultural, academic, and historical views of women speaking about trauma have fetishized, dismissed, and pathologized female sadness. By considering Sad Girl theory as a public instance of women sharing and aestheticizing private pain, this presentation hopes to bring to light the involvement of young Canadian artists in the online/international community of so-called “Sad Girls,” as well as to frame online sadness in a larger discourse about the distrust of young women speaking about their experiences of trauma.
Karissa LaRocque, Concordia University: Karissa LaRocque received her BA in English from Mount Allison University. She is currently an MA candidate in English at Concordia University, where she studies confessional poetics, teenage poetry, and anything queer.
She Made it Up / Elegy for Wife
My lyric essay considers theories of narrative empathy and includes an original elegy, titled Elegy for Wife, for the unnamed wife who is killed by her husband in Sherwood Anderson’s short story, Brothers. The first imposition of this project is the form. Lyric scholarship, as noted by Tina Northrup, “signifies a contemporary movement in which poets and scholars resist what they see as prescriptive and unethical programs for academic pursuit.” The form of the essay is a hybrid of prose and poetry, and the sources are diverse and not solely academic. For example, I cite Rebecca Solnit’s essay on LitHub, “Men Explain Lolita to Me.” She discusses empathy and the idea that art is dangerous in that it can have an impact, for example, on the reception of women’s stories of assault and abuse, which are often discredited or dismissed. She argues against those who insist that one must read Lolita only as allegory. Their insistence denies the validity of empathy for or identification with female characters such as Lolita. I would take this further to say that identification with or empathy for monstrous characters, such as Humbert Humbert, has been imposed upon readers by so-called correct ways of reading or accepted (academic) methodologies. The second imposition of this project is the elegy. In Precarious Life, Judith Butler discusses mourning and writes, “without the capacity to mourn, we lose the keener sense of life we need in order to oppose violence.” While Butler addresses capacity, I address opportunity. The elegy presents the opportunity to mourn an unnamed character. It is an attempt to provide that sense of life needed to oppose violence and the disbelief of women’s lived experiences. Ultimately, this project insists that consideration of empathy and mourning need not supplant established modes of literary studies, but rather, expand them.
Tessa Liem, Concordia University: Maria Tessa Liem’s writing has been published in The Malahat Review, Soliloquies Anthology, Petal Journal, and on the Metatron ÖMËGÄ BLÖG. She writes, reads, eats, and sleeps in Montreal and sometimes tweets @eastmiles & @CUwritersread.
“So Dull, So Wretchedly Dull”: Austen’s Dull Characters and the Politics of Pleasure
My paper, titled “‘So Dull, So Wretchedly Dull’: Austen’s Dull Characters and the Politics of Pleasure,” seeks to investigate circumstantial forms of pleasure in relation to the rise of the novel across the long eighteenth century. Grounding my study in contemporary theories of affect, which posit that “the object of feeling lags behind the feeling” (Ahmed 27), I examine how Austen’s dull characters, from Mrs. Jennings in Sense and Sensibility to Miss Bates in Emma, weaken or enhance the power of human wills, habits, and ideas.
Placed in its historical context, I examine dullness alongside the eighteenth century neologisms interesting and uninteresting to see the processes through which certain forms of entertainment fall in and out of permissibility throughout the eighteenth century. Studies such as Ros Ballaster’s Seductive Forms, and William Warner’s Licensing Entertainment, prove crucial in this respect as both work to show how certain pleasures are labeled negative by male authorities through the creation and identification of emotional and bodily excesses, which in turn sets up strict parameters for what counts as interesting in social settings.
Following the development of the dull character across Austen’s oeuvre, alongside affect theorists such as Sara Ahmed, Lauren Berlant, and Sianne Ngai, I show how this character type serves to make the protagonist, as well as the reader, feel how the pursuit of the interesting thus limits our ability to empathize with others since it is largely socially circumscribed. What the application of affect theory ultimately helps us to see is that dullness emerges as a label for certain types of pleasure on account of a growing anxiety over the tenuous nature of patriarchal authority in the literary marketplace.
Buddy Lively, Concordia University: Buddy’s real name is Matthew. His research interests include eighteenth-century literature, affect theory, and contemporary Canadian literature. He likes to fish, but doesn’t care for the beach; his favourite animals to draw are giraffes and kittens; and if he could only eat one vegetable it would probably be broccoli.
Panel 6: THE ONE WITH SIMULATED MYTHOLOGIES: AGENCY, DISRUPTION, AND NEW MEDIA
The Monster in the Closet: Video Games under Discussion
Ever the impostor, the video game teases out the tensions that arise when conventions of storytelling are questioned: who is truly telling the story? Where and with whom does the power of authority lie? What new power dynamics are created between text, author, and reader, when the reader’s role is one of heightened interaction, rejecting the passivity of books and films? Understanding games to be more than just stories, but first and foremost interactive systems, our paper will endeavor to answer these questions by taking a close look at contemporary games such as Toby Fox’s Undertale (2015) among others. Scholar Gonzalo Frasca asserts, “[f]or the first time in history, humanity has found in the computer the natural medium for modeling reality and fiction. Simulation, in both its paidia and ludus flavors, provides a different –not necessarily better– environment for expressing the way we see the world” (np). Through a close reading of some seminal video games, we hope to explore the ‘different environment’ Frasca references, with regards to English literature and its surrounding conventions. Undertale is an independent role-playing game that serves as a potent example of the video game’s disruptive, monstrous status within literature. The game boasts a multitude of branching paths, a series of varying endings based on the player’s decisions throughout the game, and a great amount of player- agency despite the game’s linearity. Nevertheless, the experience of player-agency is controlled: the game forces the player to play in a very particular way that emphasizes moral choices that at times challenges the fundamental idea of what an RPG is. Undertale’s narrative is complex, layered, and has the potential for a multitude of divergent experiences for each player – a trait that is worth exploring as subversion to the linear experience we expect from our consumption of literature.
Marie-Christine Lavoie, Concordia University is a first year graduate student in English at Concordia University. She is interested in Middle English and Video games. Her area of study focuses on literature, digital storytelling, and media studies. Specifically, fan generated transmedia narratives, folklore, and adaptions in video games.
Saeed Afzal, Concordia University is completing his BA with a Major in English Literature and a Minor in Religion. His area of focus has been digital storytelling and media studies, particularly within the realm of video games. His research and interests include: RPGs, Japanese pop culture, fan culture, fandom as religion, graphic novels, webcomics, and gender & queer theory.
The Grendel Project: Of Monsters and Men
Grendel from Beowulf is one of the oldest monsters in English literature and for centuries he was but the demon from the moor-nest. In 1971, John Gardner, hailing from a strict academic environment, reimagined Beowulf’s Grendel. We ask: how do we see the monster in 2016?
Nowadays, monsters are “cool.” Our modern monsters rarely engender terror; instead, they kindle compassion ― or an irresistible combination of both. In light of the massive appeal monsters hold in popular culture (for example Lady Gaga, aka ‘Mother Monster’), we wish to explore what we term the ‘Millennial Monster Movement’ by foregrounding creative contributions of English Literature undergraduate students (with the approval of Dr. Stephen Yeager) as they reimagine the story from Grendel’s perspective. We have selected this demographic because English undergraduate students have basic knowledge of Beowulf, but are yet ‘untainted’ by critical approaches and rewritings. This is not to say that knowledge of literary criticism is necessarily corruptive; we are, however, interested in the views of the upcoming generation of thinkers, critics, and writers.
This project is to generate a creative-critical piece composed partly of a cumulative short story on Grendel and partly of a critical discussion of both the present and prospective places the imagination situates ‘the monster.’ The critical direction we will take will depend heavily on the collection of short creative works we receive from the undergraduate students. While we do not wish to immediately specify one critical direction in particular, we anticipate incorporating (and questioning) elements of postcolonial critique, reader-response theory, and criticism on adaptation and rewritings. Though we may include these critical frameworks, we also remain cognizant of the issues within each one: postcolonial theory comes with assumptions that do not hold within the Canadian context; furthermore, we may choose to weigh our reader-response contributions according to the reader’s demographic. We aim to address the following issues: How does the evolution of what we understand as “monstrous” open up and develop criticism of the Other? What does our sympathy toward the monster mean in terms of fear? Are there any literary monsters left to fear?
Katrina Tsimiklis, Concordia University is pursuing her MA in English at Concordia University. An aspiring medievalist, her academic interests include dead languages and the transmission of medieval romance.
Chalsley Taylor, Concordia University spends her time in Montreal, working towards an MA at Concordia University. Her research and creative interests centre around race, second generation identity, and the politics of place. Currently, Chalsley is the photography editor and art director at carte-blanche.org.
Stephi Stavropoulos, Concordia University came to Montreal to pursue her MA and she can’t wait to move away to a place that doesn’t have winters. Her academic interests include affect theory, theories of humor, and Jonathan Swift, and she is currently exploring the implications of readers’ laughter responses to satire.
Michael Perry’s, Concordia University self-identification as a queer male of Caribbean descent just happens to be the driving force behind his determination to promote Black queer visibility. At present, he specializes in postcolonial fiction, specifically the works of Caribbean-Canadian and Caribbean authors who foreground some of the experiences one may face upon immigration to Canada. He is a Popular music artist who has been performing for crowds since the age of two years old. His experience living on the island of Antigua influences his singing style and he spreads what he labels the “Queer Gospel” through his music! Be sure to check out some of his recorded music at https://soundcloud.com/michaelperry/sets/poorly-mastered and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MichaelPerryEntertainment/ .
Infidelity: Immanuel Labour and Revelation
“Poetry is consciousness dreaming of domicile at the core of the foreign world, the mind deeply homesick and scheming return, the tongue contorting itself toward uttering what such a return might be like.”—Tim Lilburn.
My current poetry / performance practice deals with this crux of language and the speaker who stands before it, a prairie preacher teetering on the edge of liminal subjectivity, a lonely [fey]th-full spoken into being by blooms of holy incense, a kaleidoscope of stain glass saints, and a triune tribune: the law of the father who art terrestrial, the law of the Father fulfilled through the Son, and the Law of the Father sipped from an Iced Hazelnut Macchiato. And now, in a middle-aged return to the mirror stage, he begins to whisper secret sermons, in the nuts and bolts sections of hardware stores and in sacristy toilets, craving heaven—or earth, whichever is closer. As the glacial edge of the unconscious encroaches on the borders of his life, he is set adrift between irl and url, between the sublimity of the patriarchy and the present absence of the patriarchs, between orthodoxy and infidelity / the loosening of a heretical tongue / for ever and / ever / amen.
Weaving together excerpts from this long-poem-in-progress with reflections on mythology, technology, psychoanalysis, and jokes, my presentation explores the monstrosity of language, digital humanity, metaphysical disaster, magical capitalism, and what happens when playing Halo 2 feels more compelling than reading the Gospel According to Saint Matthew.
Davis Plett, University of Winnipeg: Davis Plett is a Winnipeg-based poet, musician, theatre artist and, occasionally, academic. He has been published in Lemon Hound’s New Winnipeg Poets Folio and is head editor of juice, the University of Winnipeg’s creative writing journal.
Panel 7: POSTMEMORY: THE ONE WITH INSTITUTIONAL TRAUMA AND COUNTERHEGEMONIC NARRATIVES
“Unblinking eyes of different others” and the Failure of the Colonial Gaze in “Museum of Final Journeys”
In Walking With the Comrades Arundhati Roy says, “from the moment India became a sovereign nation it turned into a colonial power” (123). Writing against this colonial power of the independent Indian state, Mahasweta Devi’s “The Strange Children” and Anita Desai’s “The Museum of Final Journeys” emphasize the way colonial systems of oppression and distinction persist, in narratives focalized through the colonial gaze of government authority figures in remote or peripheral regions of India. In both of these stories, the protagonist’s insistence on his authority and superiority exists in uneasy relation to the landscape and its human and nonhuman inhabitants, and in both cases the protagonist’s anxiety springs from a discomfort with the invisibility or illegibility of the other, which cannot be seen or known, and the returned gaze of the other, which emphasizes the protagonist’s physical body and jeopardizes his control over the colonized subject. Both narratives culminate in the protagonist’s recognition of the fallibility of the colonial gaze to which their identities are integrally attached. In this paper, I will begin with an overview of the way the colonial gaze has historically framed the other as subhuman, animal, or demonic as a means of maintaining the colonizer’s hierarchical dominance over the colonized, and the way representatives of colonial authority in Desai and Devi deploy this gaze in order to assert their superiority over the other. I will also note the ways in which the romanticized colonial narrative jars with the lived and embodied reality of the colonized. Next, I will examine the ways that the villages in both narratives, as “places off the edge of the map of empire” (Mueggler 60), resist and disrupt colonial gaze by presenting problems of indistinction, invisibility, and illegibility. At the same time, both neocolonial figures struggle “to insulate their eyes from those of others” (60) and experience anxiety under the gaze of the other. I will argue that both narratives expose the decay of not only the oppressed local populace but also of colonial structures of knowledge and rule, and foreground the inefficiency of the museum, the archive, and the colonial gaze as instruments of knowing, defining and framing the other.
Rachel Burlock, Concordia University: Rachel Burlock is originally from Winnipeg and is finishing her second year of graduate studies at Concordia University in Montreal. Her current research interests include Canadian and postcolonial literature, ecocriticism, and representations of animality.
Notions of a Jewish Homeland in Canadian Jewish Memoirs of the Second and Third Post-Holocaust Generations
Marianne Hirsch defines postmemory as a form of memory that “characterizes the experience of those who grow up dominated by narratives that preceded their birth,” such as the Holocaust, explaining that those occupied by postmemory often find their “own belated stories are evacuated by the stories of the previous generation [and] shaped by traumatic events that can be neither understood nor recreated” (Hirsch 22). My paper will examine the transmission of Holocaust trauma, not from survivor to child as has been the predominant focus in literary and psychological studies, but as it is represented through postmemory in Jewish Canadian memoirs of second- and third-post-Holocaust generations. I intend to focus on two compelling works: Bernice Eisenstein’s memoir I was a Child of Holocaust Survivors (2006), and Jonathan Garfinkel’s memoir Ambivalence: Adventures in Israel and Palestine (2008). The Holocaust is a central pillar of Canadian Jewish identity and though Eisenstein’s family was displaced from Poland by the Holocaust and Garfinkel’s was displaced also from Poland by pogroms that foreshadowed the horrific event, both authors are representative of how Holocaust trauma has been passed down not only through familial lineage, but through ancestral lineage as well. Drawing on work done previously on Canadian Jewry by historians such as Richard Menkis and Gerald Tulchinsky, writing by Marianne Hirsh on postmemory and tropes of Holocaust representation, and by Shoshana Felman on post-Holocaust writing, I will attempt to answer the following question: How can the inheritance of Holocaust trauma and acts of postmemory rewrite diasporic identity narratives?
Lizy Mostowski, Concordia University: Lizy Mostowski recently obtained her Master’s in English Literature at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec. Her poetry and fiction have previously appeared both in print and online publications including The Center for Fiction’s The Literarian. She was the Miriam Aaron Roland Fellow at Concordia’s Institute for Canadian Jewish Studies in the 2014-2015 school year.
Haunted Present, Spectral Figure: Narrating the Nation in Half of a Yellow Sun and Imaginary Maps
“When did we become a people? When did we stop being one?” – Edward Said, After the Last Sky
Postcolonial studies have been significantly marked by what Neil Lazarus calls “an obsessive return” to the questions of cultural nationalism, national consciousness, and nation narration. Such a return signifies a manifest departure from Ernest Renan’s famous question “What is a Nation?” to the processes, structures, and mechanisms of nation formation/narration. In a world deeply governed by global relationships, transnational capital, and migration flows, the subject of nationalism remains a central one. In this paper, I will examine the poetics and politics of radically re-envisioning the nation “as a case of spectrality” – to borrow Pheng Chea’s phraseology – in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun and Devi Mahashweta’s Imaginary Maps. I will particularly uncover the writers’ incorporation of the tropes of ‘spectrality’, ‘haunting’, and ‘reincarnation’ that might not only reflect a suppressed history and traumatic violence, but also a future hope for rewriting and re-inscribing a different vision of the nation. These tropes signal a recurrent preoccupation with the authority of history, the relationship between the vanquished and the victors, the politics of remembering, and the “mutual haunting” of the global and the local. These “counterhegemonic” narratives, I will argue, unsettle through their subject matter, formal patterns, and generic transgression, the coercive structures of what Jacques Derrida labels as the “phantom-States.” By subverting the linear history of the modern nation and displacing its authoritative discourse, they destabilize the “monstrous impositions” of master narratives and gesture towards more inclusive, ethical, and open-ended politics.
Imen Boughattas, Université de Montréal: Imen Boughattas is a Ph.D. candidate at the Université de Montreal. She received her MA from the Université de Tunis and is currently writing her Ph.D. thesis entitled “Deviant Minds, Captive Bodies: Incarceration and Resistance in the Narrated Lives of Janet Frame, Nawal Saadewi, Bessie Head, and Azadeh Agah et al.” Her research interests include Gender Studies, Transnational Feminism, Postcolonial Studies, and Life-Writing Studies.
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2015 – The Odd Couple