Reframing the Gothic

Ok, I have just sent off my paper proposal for the Hamburg conference in September. Hope they’ll like it!

My proposed topic is called “Reframing the Gothic: Narration and Reflexivity in House of Leaves and The Southern Reach Trilogy”. In one sentence, I claim that both of these works use fantasy techniques to confuse readers. Let me elaborate that a bit:

Nearly all fantasy literature features a secondary world – a complete world which is not crucial for the story per se, but which gives us nice and interesting background information about flora, fauna and all those bits of history in between. In fantasy, this technique is used to make the world appear real.

Now Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves and Jeff VanderMeer’s The Southern Reach Trilogy both also feature extensive background information that lurks around the corners of the main story. Yet instead of making the worlds of the House or Area X appear to be real, they add to their irreality. Why do we have all those footnotes and excerpts from diaries in House of Leaves? Why do we learn of the true implications of the twelfth expedition into Area X (and what really happened to the eleventh) only when it is already too late?

In both of these texts, the world continues off-page, but you don’t want to leave the marked paths…

How to be a good academic

towards a gentle academic:

ptsdscully:

gaspss-s:

  1. be up front and honest about the things you do not know
  2. acknowledge the intrinsic value of others’ knowledge bases, even if they do not seem important to you from your institutional context
  3. do not feign mastery where you have none
  4. respect the gaps in others’ knowledge bases
  5. be generous, not only with others
  6. but also with yourself
  7. you overwork yourself at the risk of legitimizing a culture of overwork
  8. privilege voices and perspectives that have historically been left out of the academy
  9. nothing is ever neutral or apolitical
  10. support the progress of other scholars
  11. collaboration over competition

a really helpful thing that a good education-minded friend of mine has had me do lately is to explain things to people outside of my academic microcosm regularly and using terminology that’s accessible. it’s good practice for honing your own understanding and it keeps you from replicating the intentionally inaccessible nature of the academy.

I try doing this whenever I can. I do not believe in the old bias that you cannot explain the core of your thesis/paper/research in everyday language – this is keeping information to yourself and excluding others from sharing their point of view. Apart from this sharing, the biggest bonus is that you get to see your own work from another, less cryptic perspective. I cannot stress enough how valuable such shifts in observing yourself are – getting proven wrong or doing so yourself is not failure, it is part of learning. Thanks for spreading the message!

…and back again

So here’s the middling-to-major update I promised you almost two weeks ago:

– First of all and the cause of my delay: My conference paper is finished! I have tried to approach Mervyn Peake’s Titus books from a postmodernist Gothic perspective, claiming that the humongous size of Gormenghast castle creates a labyrinth both in stone and in mind – if something horrible appears to be infinite in all directions, it sooner or later will screw up your mind. I will be presenting this claim today in a week at the conference in Zurich and hope to publish the paper afterwards.

– Secondly, I have also one week left to decide about whether and what I want to send in as a paper proposal for another conference in November in Hamburg (or was it Marburg? I’ll have to check later). So far, my ideas are circling around Frankenstein, Piranesi’s Carceri d’Invenzione and a really obscure Swiss author you have never heard of.

– Apart from that, business as usual. I am already missing England again (blame it on the remarkable choice of good ales, ciders and foods in general) but I’m not sure if I’ll make it there anytime soon. My thesis demands more attention and would like to be finished by July, and to do that, I more or less have to lock myself in my office and hide under my desk whenever someone knocks on the door.

More news whenever they arrive…

Interlude

I have just read Pratchett’s short story Dragons at Crumbling Castle and am so happy and feel so privileged to write a doctoral thesis about such a talented, warm and funny man.

I normally try to avoid fanboying for fear of losing objectivity, but right now I can do nothing but sit here and marvel at the simple yet wise message of this story.

Starting tomorrow, I will put this feeling into more elaborate words and hope to express it with the same vigour.

Happy holidays!

All Christmas presents wrapped; first two episodes of Good Omens listened to. The final episodes of Cabin Pressure are coming up as well, as is the Doctor Who Christmas Special.

And, as always, the recurring question: Should or shouldn’t I take work with me on my Christmas holidays? Experience says that I will not have the time (nor intention) to get anything done, but I still like the feeling of having the instruments around if I need them. In the end, it will probably boil down to my Kindle and whatever philosophy/literary works it holds.

That said, I wish you all happy holidays, a very merry Christmas and a safe journey towards the new year!