Friday, February 02, 2007

On Turning a Talk into an Article

A while back, I announced with little fanfare here that I've made a .pdf version of my Hawaii talk on Marshall, Devi, trauma, and mourning, complete with handouts, available to CitizenSE's legions of adoring fans. To depart from my usual habit of launching into close readings here, I want to talk a bit more generally about revision and publication plans for this piece.

One of the first things you'll realize if you read the whole thing is that I don't cite readings of either work from any scholars, critics, or theorists--much less mention the name of anyone besides the authors and their characters. If you've read any of my other work, or heard any of my previous talks, you'll know what a departure that was for me. If you've even just read a couple of my posts here, you probably can guess how difficult it was for me to do without close readings or citations for fifteen minutes. Of course, I did allude to controversies within and over postcolonial studies in general and particular debates over postcolonial identities (the theme of the panel), but I correctly figured that the panel wasn't going to draw too many people with any great expertise in the subjects I was addressing in the talk, so I kept my allusions issue-focused and accessibly-worded, so as not to bog down my larger argument. As I mentioned before, overall I'm happy with my choices and think the talk turned out more than halfway decent, despite all that I wanted to do that I didn't allow myself to do in it. (I've just finished a draft of an 18-page opus in an area completely, well, almost completely outside my specialty for a non-academic audience that I'll be revising over the next three weeks and delivering on the 24th, and all I can say is that those extra 10 pages make all the difference!)

The main reason why I didn't start citing other people in the talk is that I wouldn't know where or how to stop. While my prime sources were Cathy Caruth's brilliantly edited and introduced collection of essays, Trauma: Explorations in Memory, and David Kazanjian's and David Eng's equally accomplished and more recent essay collection, Loss: The Politics of Mourning, the list of people doing serious work on trauma and mourning is long and imposing--and the debates are serious, intricate, and difficult to follow. There has also been a lot of great work done on Marshall and a smaller amount, though perhaps even better, work done on Devi. Plus there's the larger traditions of critical and theoretical work on the Caribbean and on South Asia, the history of attempts to put marxism and psychoanalysis in dialogue with each other, and the ways both relate to the debates within and over postcolonial studies. So figuring out how to elegantly bring all that work to bear on developing and refining my own arguments is the challenge of turning this talk into an article.

Here's how confident I am in my larger project, though: I really can see this as a PMLA paper. Or, if I want to speak more directly to postcolonial studies folks, I could go for one of the journals that Amardeep Singh has provided links to--perhaps, in the spirit of aiming high, Ariel (it's too literary to aim for a journal like Cultural Critique, I think, and probably not Critical Inquiry's cup of tea). The point is, the eventual paper will be shaped by my understanding of its audience (first, the editors of the journal I shoot for, and only later their readers)--so it could become almost anything. What attracts me about PMLA is the potential to reach non-specialists as well as specialists, but assuming I'm successful, I would lose out on the street cred of getting into Ariel. I think at this point trying to jam it into the co-edited collection on trauma and melancholy that's been going nowhere fast for far too long is not a good idea. The point is to try to break the peer-review barrier!

So if anyone wants to give me any suggestions on the talk-->article process or even the talk/article itself, I'm all ears. I'm done with grading by the end of next week and working on another talk I'll be giving in Sendai in the first week of March while we're visiting family in Chiba, so I don't foresee turning serious attention to expanding the talk into an article until after we get back from Sendai.

This is definitely one of those old ideas of mine that's still new, so it would be smart to take advantage of a great teaching schedule from April to July to send out a big article to a major peer-reviewed journal and hopefully snag a good publication during my teaching leave. Because at the rate the book manuscript is (not) going, if I finish it next summer it will be a miracle, especially given the 4-3 load that awaits me just three weeks after I return to the States from Japan!

Now back to our regularly scheduled program of close readings and vain attempts to build a readership for the obscurest outpost of blogoramaville.

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