10 Things I Learned at #pcaaca16

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1] Twitter is the actual best (and kind of like academic crack): at cons, it’s the best way to distribute info about upcoming panels, to share what’s being said in panels, and to communicate with/meet other scholars in your field.

2] That said, tweeting at Misha Collins may have…unintended consequences.

3] Fan studies scholarship is a tres small world: in FS, it’s not unusual to have undergrads, people new to the field, and some of the biggest names in our field all in the same room–hell, on the same panel! And that’s one of our greatest strengths.

4] I am never drinking rum at a conference again.

5] Ever.

6] Hanging out with fandom + scholarly friends for three days spoils you for real life.

7] Supernatural is everywhere. It’s the textual kudzu of fan studies. I’ll never be free.

8] The most productive work at aca cons happens outside of panels: in the bar, at breakfast, while walking down to the waterfront. I’ve heard this idea many, many times before, but this is the first con where it’s been true for me. It was great, if unexpected.

9] Twitter is the actual best (and my saving grace): a space to keep those conversations going–to talk about the next con, to wax at length about Hannibal, to keep each other’s spirits up when academia is at its greatest drag.

10] Never underestimate the power of a fucking unicorn.

“Thanks for making English fun.”

My last post was, to be fair, a barbaric yawp of despair. But now, classes have ended, final exams have been given, and my students have completed the unofficial course evals I use to supplement the uni’s “official” (read: Likert scale) ones.

And so, in the spirit of the support and kind words my last post generated (thank you, readers! they were much appreciated), this post is an act of self-kindness: a reminder that whatever my state of existential, academic-related despair, I am a damn good teacher.

(Perhaps at some point I’ll publicly parse the constructive criticism that my students provided. But, for now, I’m sticking to the sunny side of the street.)

The comments below tell me that many of my students get something out of being in my classroom and some even enjoy being there. Indeed, I’ve been teaching for six years now, and never before has the word “fun” appeared so many times in a set of evals. Given how little fun I was having this semester writ large, I am pretty damn pleased to see that.

FWIW, these are responses submitted by students in both of my classes in response to this, the last question on the unofficial eval:

10. What else would you like to tell me about your experience in this course?

Continue reading ““Thanks for making English fun.””

Entangled in Public

When I worked for a presidential campaign, way back before social media even existed, we were keenly aware that, as staffers, we represented the candidate at all times. Period. Thus, we were advised to consider what our field director, Tom, called “The New York Times Test”:

Before you do or say anything, consider: would you want those words and/or actions splashed across the front page of The New York Times?

I’ve been thinking about Tom’s advice lately in light of a recent uptick in talk about grad students and social media. How we should use it. What we should say. What we shouldn’t mention. Its benefits and its dangers, huzzah. (See Karra’s recent take on it here, for example).

But perhaps it’s less an uptick and more a renewed sensitivity, because it’s been an issue very much on my mind of late.

Continue reading “Entangled in Public”

I call bullshit.

Last month at PCA/ACA, I had the pleasure of hanging out with some very excellent people who are just as damn well fond of slash as I am. And to prove it, these lovely people were willing to read porn in public—at an academic conference, no less! Bless you, my friends.

Our reading was designed as both a celebration of slash and as a very public fuck you to anybody in academia or otherwise who tries to get us to justify why we love and choose to study fanfiction.

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Presented under the gleefully George Michael-derivative title of “What’s Your Definition of Dirty, Baby? Taking Pleasure (Together) In Fanfic,” the event itself was so much goddamn fun. In teams of two, we performed excerpts from six fics, each representing a different slash pairing, in an old-school forensics-style more akin to mini-plays than formal literary readings.

(Though I gotta admit: the performance itself was scarier than I’d expected. It was harder reading Dean Winchester’s dirty talk with a straight face [or, uh, something] that I thought it would be.)

More to the point: the thing generated enough happy, pervy energy that we’re going to try and stage a repeat performance at the next PCA/ACA con next year in Seattle.

But this, what follows, is the exigence for this event, the spark that set off the slash: a NSFW rant I composed one afternoon in a fit of fic-fueled fury that came to serve as the opening remarks for our little get together. So consider this some rhetorical ammo for the next time someone looks askance at what you love and what you do: a big ol’ hey, fuck you, too.

Continue reading “I call bullshit.”

Sources I Love (‘Cause They Haunt Me)

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I have a new post up—but it’s over on the Journal of Fandom Studies (JFS) site!

A quick summary of the thing, “Sources We Love,” from JFS editor, Kathy Larsen:

Welcome to the first in what I hope will become a regular feature here.  What sources resonate with you?  What do you keep returning to?  What did you read for the first time and shout an excited “Yes!!!” or a horrified “No!!!”  (Because, let’s face it, sometimes the texts that affect us most are the ones we agree with the least.)  First up – KT Torrey (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University).

Read the whole thing here!

(And dude, let me tell you: writing this sucker was hard.)

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been

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If only I looked this pretty getting shit done.

A few quick updates on the (seemingly all-Supernatural?) academic front:

1) As I’ve mentioned before, I’ll be participating in A Celebration of Supernatural at DePaul University next month. It’s free! and open to the public, so if you’re in or near Chicago, come hang out with us! Here’s the schedule for the event.

2) Me and my friend and colleague JSA Lowe are working on a new project, to be presented at the Association of Internet Researchers Conference in October 2015. We’ve posted a copy of the abstract for our nascent study, if you’d like to take a look:

3) And finally, I’ve posted downloadable copies of my two most recent conference presentations + slides:

Whew. And then there’s that dang (totally not Supernatural) dissertation to finish…

My Disciplinary Wish List

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Yesterday, I read Lucy Bennett’s “Tracing Textual Poachers: Reflections on the development of fan studies and digital fandom,” an excellent history-cum-consideration of fan studies, some 20+ years after the publication of Henry Jenkins’ foundational work. In the context of the conversations I was part of recently at SCMS and PCA/ACA, I was particularly struck by Bennett’s discussions of how we as scholars might encourage the continued, conscious evolution of our methodologies, objects and subjects of study, and our own reflective self-positionality as researchers.

This essay, it caused a thunderstorm of sorts in my head.

Me, I’m just a whippersnapper in these parts; hell, I’m at a stage where the phrase “early career researcher” still feels like a stretch. That said, I’ve had my flag planted in fan studies ground for a while now, and I feel settled enough in this happily still-wild territory to draw up a wish list of my own. I’ve been staring at the horizon here long enough to have a sense of the kind of work I’d like to do, the sort of scholarship I’d like to see, in the future.

So here’s my disciplinary wish list for fan studies, things I’d like to see us do moving forward:

Continue reading “My Disciplinary Wish List”

10 Things I Never Thought I’d Learn In Grad School

  1. How to spell “Apocalypse.”
  2. What it’s like to go to your student’s funeral.
  3. How to drink bourbon straight.
  4. That I’m really good at writing porn.
  5. That cats can get asthma.
  6. What it’s like to get a tattoo. Or two.
  7. That I’m a kick-ass teacher of literature.
  8. That writing at its best is always a collaboration.
  9. That Twitter is my lifeblood.
  10. That academia may not be for me.

The Road Ahead

Part of embracing this whole “the way opens” mindset for me is appreciating all the cool shit I get to do this term. I love going to conferences, as a rule, but my line-up for the next few months is particularly outstanding.

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Like the man’s hips said: awesome.

To wit: Continue reading “The Road Ahead”

The Way Opens

About a month ago, I wrote a barbaric yawp of a post about how disillusioned I was with the academic job search thing. And don’t get me wrong: I still am.

But yesterday, I read “So What Are You Going to Do With That?”: Finding Jobs Outside of Academia by Debelius and Basalla, and, to my surprise, I found it empowering instead of depressing. Hell, I was so jazzed that I wrote a resume! Heh.

The book’s also inspired some self-reflection about the way I went at the job search last fall. Here are my big takeaways:

  1. I applied for too many jobs. Period. I should have picked a few (less than 10) and really focused my energy and attention on each in turn. Doing so would have afforded me the chance to write really targeted cover letters for each one and to shape my CV to meet the needs/requirements/desires of each gig.
  2. My job letters were not tailored enough. People who suggested that I tailor less were totally wrong, and the notion that you can create one letter and just tweak it a bit for each gig is utterly outdated. I did not respond to the job ads as carefully and specifically as I might have, and that was a mistake.
  3.  I have a lot to offer employers outside of academia–the trick is putting it in a way that said employer can recognize. What I really like about So What is that it’s helped me to understand how I might translate stuff I do as a graduate student and as a teacher into terms that people in the business and non-profit worlds can see as potentially valuable to their organization. For example, fighting with goddamn dissertation points towards my skills in project management. Working with students on a daily basis underscores my experience in customer relations. Plus, I worked for a decade between graduating from undergrad and starting my PhD, and that
    experience—as wide and weird as it is—is also quite valuable.
  4. I’m not going to get a job in academia this year. And I’m ok with that. Am I happy about it? No. I still feel like a failure, at some level. And I hate that my advisor is waking up in the middle of the night worried about why I haven’t, and spending time blaming herself (?!?) for my inability to get a gig.

    That said, in keeping with item #1, I am going to be selective in the real-world jobs that I apply to. I’m going to apply these lessons to my new search, and look for organizations I’d really like to work for, rather than gigs I know that I could do, if that distinction makes sense. Then, I’ll work to make the best case I can to them that I’m the right person for the job.

Here’s my current to-do list:

I’m going to keep working on my resume.

I’m going to make an appointment with Career Services here on campus.

I’m going to reach out to my informal network.

In general, I’m going to do what it takes to find gainful employment and stop wasting my time pummeling myself for what happened this fall.

As one of the interviewees in So What put it, there’s a Quaker proverb that says: “The ways opens.” That resonates with me, for some reason. The trick is, now, I’ve got to have my eyes peeled for that open door.