Month: June 2014

Call for Papers, Sept 30 Deadline: “Comedy and Comics: Parody, Satire, and Humor in Superhero Narratives” (Northeast MLA, Toronto, April 30, to May 3, 2015)

Shameless plug: I’m co-organizing a panel.

The Northeast Modern Language Association will host its 46th annual conference for April and May 2015 in Toronto. NeMLA continues to attract scholars from a wide range of specializations and is a productive community for first-time presenters, graduate students, and senior professors.

I have been fortunate to have a session accepted for the 2015 meeting in Toronto, which will focus on comedy, parody, and satire in comics and the larger superhero genre. I am indebted to Dr. Rafael Ponce-Cordero, as this session develops from ideas generated at his session, “Can the Subaltern Be a Superhero? The Politics of Heroic Alterity,” at the April 2014 meeting in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, of NeMLA. I have worked closely with Dr. Ponce-Cordero on the following CFP, and we will be working together on organizing this session. Thanks also to the organizers at NeMLA, especially in the Cultural and Media Studies area.

I have included the CFP abstract below as well as the longer description. NeMLA has created a new user-based system for submitting abstracts to all sessions directly online at NeMLA.org/convention/2015/cfp.html. At this address, please create a user account to submit your abstract (no more than 300 words) to Session #15447, and please consider some of the other 350 sessions hosted in Toronto this year, comprising paper panels, roundtables, and creative sessions. The deadline for submissions is September 30, 2014.

If you are unable to submit your abstract through the web site, please send me an email at derek.s.mcgrath@gmail.com, and I’ll be happy to assist you with you submission. Please also email websupport@nema.org regarding additional questions about the user-based system.

Now I’m off to watch reruns of The Tick.

ABSTRACT:

Stan Lee bristles at calling them “comic books,” lest readers think they are only “funny books.” This panel identifies how humor operates in works centered around superheroes—as parody, satire, and comedy. Potential topics include comedic twists on the superhero archetype; “campy” TV and film adaptations of “serious” characters; webcomics and humorous children’s books; teaching satire through comics; and cross-cultural appropriation of the superhero motif.

Submit abstracts (no more than 300 words) to Session ID#15447 at NeMLA.org/convention/2015/cfp.html. Visitors to this web site then may sign up for a free account to submit abstract or at NeMLA.org/users/?operation=register. For any questions about submitting electronically, please email websupport@nema.org or derek.s.mcgrath@gmail.com.

DESCRIPTION:

This session welcomes submissions on a range of topics.  This session may draw together studies of comics and the superhero motif as captured in works published by mainstream and independent outlets, including the works of Mark Millar, Frank Miller, and Alan Moore, and in works including El Chapulín Colorado, Dr. Horrible, Robocop, El Santos, The Tick, and Tiger and Bunny.  This session also can include presentations focused around children’s literature, based on how often texts directed at younger readers—Bone, Captain Underpants, and The Powerpuff Girls—eschew the conceits of superhero narratives to appeal to audiences across multiple age groups. In addition, camp in comics motivates considerable discussion in gender and sexuality studies, as many scholars develop their scholarship out of the shadow of the Adam West Batman television series (itself continuing in new comic books released by publisher DC Comics). Additional topics can focus on the use of satire built around superheroes in fan communities online, such as The Hawkeye Initiative and Escher Girls.

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The Rice University Neologisms Database

I have found a new database to follow.

Conference organizing work frequently has me proofreading numerous documents, including a CFP that uses the word “Italianicity.”  One Google search later, and rather than depending on Urban Dictionary, this database from Rice University appears as a top search result for all definitions that you need for compound words, portmanteaus, and whatever other wordplay you can’t define.

The Rice University Neologism Database includes entries–some familiar, some surprising–for B-dubs, H.A.M., kaiju, vachaos, and of course l33t.  Etymologies are included, some drawing from verified sources, others less verifiable and more reliant on firsthand experience, yet still identifying newer terminology that many dictionaries may not have yet incorporated.

Enjoy tracking the evolution of the English language–just be aware that some of the language may be a bit coarse, some quite disturbing given the levels of hate (based on, to name a few, race, religion, and gender) we have seen produced through language, especially in online discourse.  Even though this is a database hosted by a university, you may receive odd glances from people reading over your shoulder.

Acknowledgements

In February, I successfully defended my dissertation, “American Masculinity and Home in Antebellum Literature,” to the English Department at Stony Brook University. In the last few months while revising this document for final submission, I kept busy: I have read more from the authors who constitute the dissertation–Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, George Copway, Sojourner Truth, Mark Twain, and many others–to finish revisions.  I also have drafted material for updating this web site and worked at both the Modern Language Association and the Northeast Modern Language Association, and now I am preparing forthcoming publications and upcoming conference panels.

In addition, just a few weeks ago, I walked at graduation—at three separate ceremonies, one for the doctoral hooding, one for the entire university, and one for the English Department. The events were varied, allowing me to catch up with other PhD recipients, professors, friends, and students. There were some downsides (“Pomp and Circumstance” is still stuck in my head, and a constant loop of the Dr. Horrible soundtrack does nothing to push out the musical memory), yet it is a relief to have made one accomplishment, and I look forward to the next steps in my research and teaching.

Now I have a few moments to type a somewhat proper thank you to a few people who helped me from the initial steps of the dissertation to its conclusion.

I started in the English doctoral program at Stony Brook University in Fall 2007, and the past seven years have constituted a lot of ups and downs, and I’m grateful to have shared the good experiences—and pushed through the frustrating experiences—with colleagues, friends, and family. Thank you to those who have contacted me with congratulations, and congratulations as well to many of my colleagues and students who graduated this semester; I was happy for the time to catch up with you on Long Island and via email.

As I work towards revising the dissertation for publication, and as I meet deadlines for publications I have coming out, I wanted to excerpt a portion of my dissertation, the acknowledgements, to post online. This excerpt is hardly exhaustive: I likely have exempted many people for whose guidance and support I am grateful to have received. The acknowledgements are also varied, ranging from students, fellow graduate students, professors, and helpful advisers at local comic book shops who could special order Runaways or secure me a discount on the complete Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 volume.

But I also hope the following identifies that a doctoral degree is not an individual effort. The process of researching, writing, and re-writing is isolating, and as I identify below there is much all of us within and outside of the academy must do for our students and our colleagues to provide more supportive, safer learning environments—housing being a key priority. Because we know the challenges that a doctoral degree entails, it’s up to us to advise strategies for facing them, and I hope this web site becomes one avenue to offer that guidance.

For your help, I thank you.

(Maybe the Soul Eater soundtrack can kick “Pomp and Circumstance” out of my head…)

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