Saturday, January 06, 2007

Trauma, Mourning, Marshall, Devi

One of the great things about being an academic is that you can do a lot of work in your head. Say imoto--who I may start referring to here as Giggling Science Girl (because she giggles at the drop of the hat and has amazing powers of concentration and observation for an 8-month-old) or Standing-Already Girl (uh, thinking through the Morrison reference there, that would be a no) or maybe just Grabby Girl (nothing is safe from her now that she can crawl and sometimes half-stand half-balance on chairs and small tables or the kotatsu I love to work on because it's heated)--wakes you up at 2 am, but it's too cold in the house to seriously contemplate getting out of bed and firing up the computer, the space heater, and the kotatsu, yet in the time it took to change her diaper and go to the bathroom the cold woke you up enough to get you thinking about everything you have to do the next day, so rather than aimlessly stressing, you can do something productive like come up with an outline for the conference paper you've been working on.

Normally I don't outline when I write. I write down a lot of notes and do a lot of brainstorming by hand, then type them and key notes from my research process into a Word document, type out some key quotations I know I want to use in the paper, and agonize over my introductory paragraph or three until I feel some confidence about my thesis, and then start into the body. When I start again the next day, I edit what I wrote to get warmed up, then pick up where I left off. This process continues until I finish the first draft. Then the serious editing starts. But more on my inefficient and time-consuming writing process later.

For this paper, however, I have to be much more disciplined than usual. Here's what the panel looks like:

Time: 3:00 - 4:30 PM 1/12/2007 Room: Waikiki III (Marriott)
Session Topic: Postcolonial Identities
Session Chair: Waggaman, Beatrice

Decolonization and Surrealism in Aimé Césaire’s Two Plays: "A Season in the Congo" and "Tragedy of King Christophe”
Waggaman, Beatrice Villanova University

Literary Vestiges of France in the Mississippi Valley
Metzidakis, Stamos Washington University in Saint Louis

Traumatic Displacements and Militant Mourning: Paule Marshall’s The Chosen Place, The Timeless People and Mahasweta Devi’s “Pterodactyl, Puran Sahay, and Pirtha”
Simon, Bruce Kyushu University

The Colonial Poems
Puch-Bouwman, Jen The University of the South Pacific

Going third in a 90-minute panel means I have to keep it to 15 minutes, because I can count on the two people ahead of me to go over time (nothing personal, everyone does it) and I don't want the person going last to hate me for the rest of my life.

So here's the outline for the paper:

Outline (15 minutes, 7 pages)
I. Intro (1): key issues, debates, claims
II. Structural Similarities (2): the chart I'm preparing will allow me to do a faster plot summary than usual b/c I'll let my audience read the details
III. Detail Similarities (1): these are bonus details that allow me to clarify I'm not talking about influence and transition into the next, bridge section
IV. Differences (4): summarize via works' different perspectives on and uses of trauma/testimony and mourning/melancholia, using chart and quotes handouts--again, I can let my audience read the details, so I can keep this short
V. Significance of Intertextual Dialogue (3): I can use this section to spell out what I mean by "traumatic displacements" and "militant mourning" and make a case for the theoretical significance of the two works
VI. Stakes of Dialogue (3): the two works together provide a meeting-space for thinking through key issues facing activists and intellectuals today--a space for debate not consensus
VII. Conclusion (1): implications for postcolonial studies, black studies, marxism

Well, this is probably meaningless to anyone but me, but I did promise I'd give the update on the conference paper today. Little did I know when I made the promise that our flight leaves 6 am tomorrow morning, which means we have to get up at 4:30 am, or that the three-year-old's formal photos we put off taking until today would be a two-hour extravaganza, complete with hair (lots of it), make-up (lipstick only!), costumes (kimono and yellow princess dress), and lighting--or that the process would be so fascinating and horrifying at the same time that I had to get it all down on video"tape" and thus would be unable to do any real thinking about the paper during it--or that it would go on so long I'd have little time to write this evening. Long story short, it's time to put the girls to bed! Next post from Kyushu!

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