Writing and Responding: Voices in the Post-Modern
A Report on the 7th Annual Postmodern Village Conference
January 15-19, 2000
It Was Sort of a Becoming . . .
But then, aren’t they all? The 7th annual Postmodern Village
Conference brought us face-to-face with the psycho-social challenges
that characterize our endeavor as academics and as subjects of an individual
Wandering around the Wassergarten Hotel, one could easily find herself
in a bit of an existential crisis: as the demarcation between self and
media becomes less secure, and public space becomes increasingly private,
it became impossible not to see the notion of conference itself as a
sort of Foucaultlian Panopticon: the papers presented were selves laid
bare, made public, selves subjectified. The observer became presenter,
a double movement of identification and sublimation between conventioneer
and conferee, between panelist and interrogator. In other words,
it was the perfect setting for our conference.
With mid-January Cincinnati forcing us all indoors, the hotel became
a microcosm of the socio-linguistic itself, subjectifying, self-destroying,
inescapable, climate-controlled, and full of liquor. It felt felt
The total extent of the conference was, as always, too great to cover
in any kind of comprehensive way here, so what follows highlights particularly
memorable papers presented in each of the four major panel discussions.
The Lite Side: Food And Literature in Society
Kafkas Diverged in a Wood: Franz Kafka’s ‘Hunger Artist’ and
Barbara Kafka’s Soup: A Way of Life
Being and non-being explored in the synecdoche of stomach to self,
Verna Hubert presents these two works as epitomizing the oppositional
reactions of the artist to the bumper-crop that is modern life.
Rejection of the self-through stomach and the embracing of suffering
in Franz Kafka is here contrasted to the imbibing of life’s liquid leftovers
as artistic pastiche in Barbara Kafka. Hubert truly brings us
to a fork in our aesthetic road by forcing us to ask if the epicurean
artist is the wave of the future, and what that does to our idea of
who an artist is. Is this the road to a radical acceptance of
realistic body shape?
Totemic Sausage: The Phallus as Martyr Between the Two James Deans
The idea is so clear that it took a visionary like Jemimah Pearl-Rhys
to see it: we consume our sausages like we consume our celebrities;
we consume our celebrities like we consume our men. A truly enlightening
work, Pearl-Rhys brings us to terms with phallus-sacrifice, forcing
upon us the dysfunction of penis-worship and bringing up serious issues
about the evolutionary expendability of men. Is male hegemony
a mere result of evolutionary low self-esteem?
of Us Are Breasts, Some of Us are Thighs, but We're All Chickens:
The Feminization of Poultry and Agricultural Workers in the Poetry
of North Mexico
Juanita Diega Gonzalez-Lujano
The passivity of the underpaid in Northern Mexico appears in their
poetry, according to Gonzalez-Lujano. Their reluctance to fight can
be seen by their blind devotion to traditional forms and their refusal
to experiment with word choice. Gonzalez-Lujano's one-day intervention
in a meat-packing plant in Matamoros resulted in two prize-winning poems,
three arrests, and one accidental death.
Two Fat Ladies? Why Two Hot Tamales?: Lesbian Homes on
By examining the proliferation of paired women on the Food Channel,
Whiteside proposes that lesbianism is now becoming normative and expected.
Whiteside also veers a bit off track, commenting often about the psuedo-dyke
K-mart spokespersons Martha Stewart, Rosie O'Donnell, Penny Marshall,
and Wynonna Judd. One reason why this paper was such a big hit is because
Whiteside handed out cookies during her presentation. They were peanut
butter oatmeal, so very few responders could open their mouths and many
left for glasses of water, never to return.
Writing the Body: The Human Form in Society
of Things Passed: Flatulence and Excretion
as Mourning in Contemporary French Literature
Monique Simone Lacroix
An exploration into the works of Marie Darieusse, Marquerite Duras,
Michel Pennac, and Claude Simon yield a bevy of insights into the functions
of the body and society. Lacroix's fascination with the process of casting
off physically and emotionally provides an insight most scholars are
ashamed to admit makes a certain amount of sense.
as Other: Cl/Ass and Race in Sir Mix-a-Lot's 'Baby Got Back'
Hardcore, long-respected as "one bad m/other" herself, takes a long
look at the backside of attraction in Caucasians and African-Americans.
Hardcore proposes that there is an undeniable inverse relationship between
social status and women's derrière size, magnified by the voices
of African-American rappers.
Denial of Self-Reliance Among Teletubbies:
The Need for a Viewer and a Receiver
Jacqueline Sonja Johannson
Using the theories of Lacan, Johannson examines the universal needs
for language as typified by Teletubbies. Although they have televisions
in their stomachs, they do not have the capability of clearly watching
their own images, nor do they have any control over when "transmissions"
are received. Johannson argues that these beliefs are deeply engrained
and without a rejection of these standards, we will never be truly independent
and the Immortality of Chow Yun-Fat:
A Coptic Christian Perspective
Hameed plays on his audience’s assumptions about Orientalist inscrutability
by producing an inscrutable text. This is either pure genius or
a problem with the sound-system.
Overtures in the Dark: from Mark Twain to Depeche Mode (Perry
Ferrell in King Arthur’s Court)
A multimedia extravaganza involving a 30-foot tall interactive video
display, a 1,000 watt multi-speaker surround-sound audio system, a moat
(replete with live crocodiles), and a life-size styrofoam castle, Smith’s
look into what makes for argumentation in literature and music forces
us all to wonder about our own complicity in the construction of self-as-object.
Do we all secretly want to be persuaded?
in Tunisia: Otherness and Alcoholism(s) as a Function of Be-Bop
Sisyphus “Retread” Jones
Another in a long line of intimately revealing looks at the Righteous
Black Hegemony of American culture, Jones displays our collective white
myopia, showing us again how Black culture is the driving force in America
since World War II. This time, we become blind to being in the
thrall of black music because of the association between jazz and drinking.
The live band was informative, but his words are giant steps into a
new understanding of the true nature of white guilt.
Contrasts: How Changes in Crayola Color Offerings Reflect Marxist Alienation
Another of Wombat’s “informed by industry” efforts, he here asks us
to see the relationship between “burnt sienna” and who is really exploited
in our society. His assessment of “skin tone” should make us all
reconsider our line of work.
Karl to Groucho: 100 Years of Oppression and the Hilarity of the Proletariat
Wankey places our world in the under-utilized framework of Northrup
Frye, showing us a comic movement in Karl Marx, away from the status-quo
of Capitalism and, ultimately, back to conquer and reign as a working-people’s
revolution. Karl Marx as literature but, more to the point, Groucho
Expressions and Repressions of Sexuality
et Candida: from Voltaire to V.D.:
A Musical Exploration of Sexually Transmitted Disease.
H. Pap Brown
Brown manages to challenge the notion that art is necessarily the product
of language or of mind. Could it be possible that the mental depredations
provided by the long-term effects of STDs are more to blame for cultural
production than anything else? Brown explores the issue both as
subject and subjectifier, boldly barging into the graphically biographical.
“Candide et Candida” proves once and for all that we write what we know.
The slide show was just a disturbingly perfect icing on the cake.
and Cavortin’: Lesbianism as Liberation in American Sport
In this “post-post-Femynist critique of ‘dyke-jockdom,’” Perfect shows
that Billie-Jean King destroys representation itself by her double movement
away from the mainstream as both “dyke” and “jock.” Beating Bobby
Riggs was just an afterthought.
Culture of Kink: Porno and Primacy from Freud to Foucault
Deep inside our sexual obsessions hide the id; deep inside our attraction
to psychology hides that same voyeuristic tendency that drives us to
exploit the Object of our desire. Horn-Blauer deconstructs the
dual nature of watching, being watched, and our own need to (psycho)
analyze. Sometimes, a couch is just a couch.
with Dicks: the Fall Guy and the Femme Fatale
in Detective Novels Through the Ages
As hard-boiled as the title implies, Shortz’s work transports us into
the noir by contending that the femme fatale is an extension of the
phallus. Ultimately, he argues, it is the phallus that fails us
in the end, the phallus that got us into this mess in the first place--functions
also of the femme fatale wherever she appears. Petit morte indeed.
Abundance of Fruit Images in Psychedelica: Quiet Voices of Homophobia
from the Strawberry Alarm Clock to Tangerine Dream
After providing a detailed etymology of "fruit," Franklin's investigation
into the simultaneous celebration of love and disapproval of proudly
gay activities of the 1960s wanders into an argument that homosexual
men were not barred from the Summer of Love, but only tolerated like
"a no-thank-you helping of beets at the in-laws' house."
Call Me Anne: Ayn Rand, (Pre)Tension, and Academia
A deep meditation on just why you now have every right to be called
“Doctor,” Carson also reminds us of the extreme stress caused by a repressive,
patriarchal academic environment. We see here battles won and
lost, rights smashed beneath an “informality” that is just an attempt
by the hegemonic forces to reify. “Don’t Call Me Anne” can only
be called “highly appropriate.”
Unbearable Lighthouse of Bean
A retrospective of the short and tragic life of the Midwest Neo-Beat,
Wilder takes us from his birth in the early 1970s right up to his death
in the late 1990s. Newton is presented by Wilder as the consummate
anti-poet: self-educated, scrappy, teetotaling and genuinely intelligent.
Wilder’s portrayal brings to mind a post-modern Keats with a severe
need for Prozac. It is difficult to see why such genius must only
be discovered when its creators have passed-on. “The Unbearable
Lighthouse of Bean” is a sad reminder of the endlessly repeating cycle
of history. It is truly a dharma bummer, but a lesson that could
benefit even the least trained awareness.
Jung and Old: The Apotheosis of Freud as Normative Mythmaking
It was inevitable--and that’s exactly Johnson’s point. As we
move from Freud’s era temporally, we move closer to Freud mythologically.
We have become, she argues, subject to his precepts and dream imagery
in our own collective unconscious. If you’ve ever dreamt of killing
your father and sleeping with your mother (and who hasn’t?), you have
experienced the Johnson effect firsthand. (Arche)typical, but
Always Have Paris, Texas: The Redefinition of
American Romanticism Through Harry Dean Stanton
Francine DuBois and Hezekiah
DuBois waxes nostalgic for the old connotations of romanticism instead
of "romantic comedy": she prefers the lonely, troubled hero always on
the move in the American wasteland. By focusing on The Mini-Skirt
Mob, Paris, Texas, and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me,
DuBois suggests that financial, emotional, and physical stability were
attractive only to "hardened fools who can't see the neediness in Stanton's
eyes." Taylor's rich commentary on Repo Man and an in-depth analysis
of Stanton's deep ties with various forms of transportation make this
study eerily convincing.
Normal Mailer as Apologist for the Righteous Black Hegemony
Sisyphus “Retread” Jones
Jones, the hardest-working man in academe, pulled double duty at this
year’s conference, presenting this special feature along with “Tanked
in Tunisia.” Here, he takes Mailer to task for being subject to
the stereotyping of Black men at the same moment he praised them.
But at least, Jones tells us, Mailer realized the way things really
are, and the way they ought to be. Mailer, know thyself.