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Postmodern Village
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Writing and Responding: Voices in the Post-Modern Age
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 langue.

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 downright cozy.

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

Verna HubertTwo Kafkas Diverged in a Wood: Franz Kafka’s ‘Hunger Artist’ and Barbara Kafka’s Soup: A Way of Life
Verna Hubert

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?
 

Jemimah Pearl-RhysThe Totemic Sausage: The Phallus as Martyr Between the Two James Deans
Jemimah Pearl-Rhys

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?
 

Juanita Diega Gonzalez-LujanoSome 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.
 

Patricia WhitesideWhy Two Fat Ladies? Why Two Hot Tamales?: Lesbian Homes on the Range
Patricia Whiteside

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

Monique Simone LacroixRememberance 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.
 

Hillary HardcoreBr/Other as Other: Cl/Ass and Race in Sir Mix-a-Lot's 'Baby Got Back'
Hillary Hardcore

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.
 

Jacqueline Sonja JohannsonThe 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 thinkers.

Pop Culture

Industriousness and the Immortality of Chow Yun-Fat:
A Coptic Christian Perspective
Billy-Bob Hameed

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.
 

Sophistic Overtures in the Dark: from Mark Twain to Depeche Mode (Perry Ferrell in King Arthur’s Court)
Biafra Smith

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?
 

Sisyphus 'Retread' JonesTanked 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.
 

P.B. WombatMarked Contrasts: How Changes in Crayola Color Offerings Reflect Marxist Alienation
P.B. Wombat

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.
 

Stan WankeyFrom Karl to Groucho: 100 Years of Oppression and the Hilarity of the Proletariat
Stan Wankey

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 as liberation.
 


Expressions and Repressions of Sexuality

H. Pap BrownCandide 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.
 

Norma PerfectSportin’ and Cavortin’: Lesbianism as Liberation in American Sport
Norma Perfect

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.
 

Hannah Horn-BlauerThe Culture of Kink: Porno and Primacy from Freud to Foucault
Hannah Horn-Blauer

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.
 

Seamus ShortzChicks with Dicks: the Fall Guy and the Femme Fatale
in Detective Novels Through the Ages
Seamus Shortz

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.
 

Rod FranklinThe Abundance of Fruit Images in Psychedelica: Quiet Voices of Homophobia from the Strawberry Alarm Clock to Tangerine Dream
Rod Franklin

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."
 


Special Features

Theodora CarsonDon’t Call Me Anne: Ayn Rand, (Pre)Tension, and Academia
Theodora Carson

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.”
 

E. W. WilderThe Unbearable Lighthouse of Bean
E.W. Wilder

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.
 

Clytemnestra JohnsonMyths Jung and Old: The Apotheosis of Freud as Normative Mythmaking
Clytemnestra Johnson

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 undeniable.
 

Francine DuBoisWe'll Always Have Paris, Texas: The Redefinition of
American Romanticism Through Harry Dean Stanton
Francine DuBois and Hezekiah Allen Taylor

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.
 

Sisyphus 'Retread' JonesBlack/Mail: 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.
 

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