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Archive for the ‘phd’ Category

Since my previous post I’ve mulling over the so-called ‘passive’ heroine in romance novels. The stories I mentioned that didn’t have passive heroines in the previous post are fairly recent, say from the 1990 onwards. Also, the heroine I believe must be considered in context. The heroine in the Barbara Cartland novel discussed was an historical heroine. Would that account for her apparently passivity? Maybe. Then I thought of Georgette Heyer’s work and thought not so.

I have a weakness for Georgette Heyer’s Georgian/Regency romances.(Heyer died in 1974 so her works are much earlier than 1990s)  They don’t have sex scenes all, but they evoke a period in time reminiscent of the great and wonderful Jane Austen. A fantasy world, I suppose, with particular tropes. (I am equally weak at the knees for Scottish historials with Lairds in them. Totally non-realistic. Yes, I know it’s all fantasy, right?).

So four books that I have been listening to on Audible a lot lately are, Venetia (abridged), Sylvester (abridged), The Quiet Gentleman and the Grand Sophy. I have lots of Heyer’s books in print, but these just happen to be on my Audible account and I replay them a lot. Venetia and Sylvester are read by Richard Armitage. Enough said. He does a brilliant job. Those two books got me breaking my Audible rule. I set out not wanting to buy books on Audible that I own in print. I confess I spanked myself thoroughly when I broke the rule, but you know…Richard Armitage!!%$$$###???

Then I decided I didn’t like the abridged books, so I bought The Quiet Gentleman (almost romantic suspense) and The Grand Sophy because they were heaps longer and I could go away into another world while driving long distances.

I thought about the heroines and about whether they were passive or not. There is definitely a spectrum here. Sophia Stanton-Lacey is the strongest, least passive and positively feminist heroine, in some regards. She is the centre of a whirlwind. The first time I read this book I quite missed that it was a romance, or meant to be. I had to read it again. I missed something. It’s quite a wonderful satire. Now more recently listening to it many times. I can’t  count them. I’m weak. What can I say? Sophy stands up for herself. She locks horns. Charles her cousin gets quite riled with her. He is probably the most aggressive out of the heroes in these four novels. Mind you he has to be or he’d be pulp on the bottom of Sophy’s shoes. I could go into the plot a bit more but why spoil it for you. Just read the damn thing or listen to it.

Venetia on the other hand has lived a very retiring life. She pretends to be passive but she’s got steel in her, resisting the boring neighbour who wants to marry her. She falls in love with a rake. Who might be a libertine but is not overly aggressive. They form a lovely friendship until they are separated by interfering relatives. But when she finds out about her past, which has been kept for her, she just goes for the goal. She makes the rake propose to her, against his will. I wouldn’t call that passive.

Sylvester features Phoebe, who runs away when she thinks she’s going to be forced to marry Sylvester, a duke, who snubbed her. I wouldn’t say she was feisty exactly but she’s very unusual and when they are thrown together her magic explodes. She laughs at the duke, tells him what she thinks (a bit like Margaret in North and South) and she’s quite clever. They have an accord. Sylvester is not aggressive at all. He’s a gentle man, but very capable of fixing mishaps. Phoebe also has courage and gets into scrapes trying to do the right thing, to right the wrongs she has done.

In The Quiet Gentleman there is no aggressive hero. He’s so laid back, he’s almost effeminate. In fact, he doesn’t think much of Drusilla at all. She’s quite plain, short and plump. She isn’t trying to win him either. There’s is a slow and gentle coming together.Drusilla is practical and also quite determined to prevent, St Erth being murdered. It is really quite interesting really. I have listened (as well as read) this story and I don’t know when the transition occurs. It’s just a slow warming of him to her. Apparently he’s so gorgeous he was out of her league in the romance stakes and yet…without trying in any way to fix him, he falls for her. While Drusilla seems a bit laid back, she rears up at the end and tells them all what’s what. I don’t consider Drusilla passive, but realistic. This story is also an excellent satire and Heyer is great with her character descriptions. What a gifted writer.

So I don’t think historical heroines in romance novels are passive either. Of course, there are some. But don’t say they are all PASSIVE. You’re wrong!

If you are a romance reader or writer, please consider taking my survey. It’s for my PhD on Feminism in popular romance fiction. Just click here for more details.

 

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I’m back on the PhD with a vengeance lately. This means I’m reading some academic papers that get me angry with their generalisations.

‘the ideal heroine in a romance is passive…’ Mary Ellen Ryder

‘Romance’s generic requirement that the hero should be volatile in his affections and sexually intimidating…’ Doreen Thierauf

These are throw away lines in articles that have some good in then but the stuff mentioned above makes me scribble ‘bullshit!’ in the white space.

Ryder in particular made me growl this week.I get strange looks from other PhD candidates. Ryder read some Barbara Cartland. Each to its own I suppose, but her greatest flaw was saying that because Cartland published 24 books when she was 93 she obviously wrote to formula…’which means that examining just one of her books should reveal a great deal about the whole romance genre.’ For godssake, the whole fucking genre, really? I wouldn’t say one book from any author would allow me to talk about all their works, let alone the whole genre.

Her actual analysis of the text was really quite interesting but why put that tripe at the beginning of her paper?  And it was a gothic bloody romance to boot.

I pull my hair out and shout why, why, why?

Luckily there were some good articles, like from Mairead Owen and possibly Laura Struve (I’m still pondering it). I guess I’m learning to be critical. Step one for me.

Also, I find that when academics talk about Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey they lose their shit when it comes to romance. They may be blockbusters but that doesn’t mean they are the typical romance novel.

Actually, I don’t think there is a typical romance novel. There are key features of a popular romance novel but I won’t go into that. Others like Pamela Regis have already done that.

My current fiction reading though has run counter to what these people are saying about passive heroines and violent and volatile heroes. I’m reading some vintage, retro if you like, Amanda Carpenter. I’ve mentioned her before in past posts. The Great Escape (1984) and The Passage of the Night (1990). (Amanda Carpenter writes as Thea Harrison these days.). These book are examples of her early works. She’s a damn fine writer and I think has a great mind to boot. I can certainly tell she had the chops for paranormal writing in those early days. (I’ve read four of her books so far. They have been very different from each other!)

(possible spoiler)

The Great Escape features a 17 year old protagonist. She’s an heiress, unhappy but quite clever. She escapes from her guardians and is pursued by a PI, whom she outsmarts. In this book, she drugs the PI, she punches him, she seduces him and then after they fall in love, she gives away all her money without consulting him once about it. She hates the money. It defines her too much. If this book had been published later, I suspect it would have been a romantic suspense because someone is trying to kill the heroine.

So in this 1984 story, the heroine is not passive and has agency.

The Passage of the Night is also very interesting. The heroine kidnaps the tycoon hero at gunpoint, she drugs him and then takes him to a mountain top in Vermont. The reason she has kidnapped him is to save her sister, but the hero isn’t anything like her sister said he was. He’s angry at being kidnapped, of course, but he is never aggressive or violent. He chops wood continuously to ‘sublimate’. He’s not going to have her charged. He voluntarily stays with her and then she flies him back because she can’t justify her actions anymore. She’s a helicopter pilot and plane pilot and her family has a bit of money. She’s also loyal and brave.  He’s on seven figures. She sees his life and doesn’t like the long hours etc. She doesn’t demand he change his lifestyle but she’s walking out until he sorts his priorities. In the end, he gives up his job.  I think that about reverses the tropes.

I’m not done with the Carpenter read through yet. It’s fascinating.

Other fiction reading, Full Moon Rising, Keri Arthur. I’m sorry. Riley Jensen kicks butt. It’s urban fantasy on the’ boil the coffee over’ end of the spectrum but mmm…not much passivity there.

I’ve started rereading JD Robb’s …In Death series. I’m on book five so far (it’s been a week?) and there’s no sign of passivity there.

The In Death series is harder to peg. It’s futuristic urban fantasy with romantic elements or romantic suspense or just SF crime with romance. The heroine and the hero are the same couple all the way through (very well done by the way) and for me the series discusses child sex abuse all the way through, even peels it back to a very stark and dark root that makes me blanch. But I applaud JD Robb for doing it (JD Robb is Nora Roberts btw) and I think she’s brilliant.

In my reading of retro Mills & Boon, there are occasionally passive heroines and other times not. I’ve not read everything. No one will be able to. I’m not as well read in romance as people I know, but I know enough not to generalize about it.

But I’m happy to get angry at people who do and blog about it…maybe…

 

BTW I still have my survey going for my PHD study. If you write or read popular romance fiction, please check out my survey. I’d really appreciate the contribution. See blog post here.

Articles cited

Owen, M, Re-Inventing Romance: Reading Popular Romance Fiction, Women’s Studies International Forum, Vol. 20. No. 4, pp.537-546, 1997

Ryder, M. E, Smoke and mirrors: Event patterns in the discourse structure of a romance novel, Journal of Pragmatics, 31 (1991) pp. 1067-1080

Struve, L, Sisters of Sorts: Reading Romantic Fiction and the Bonds Among Female Readers, The Journal of Popular Culture, Vol. 44, No. 6, 2011.

Thierauf, D, Forever After:Desire in the 21st-Century Romance Blockbuster, The Journal of Popular Culture, Vol. 49, No. 3, 2016.

 

 

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Now that I’m back from Shanghai, I am back on the ball with the PhD.

An important part of my research is obtaining the views of romance readers and romance writers. I have been working on these surveys for a few months and they are ready to launch.

Now there are two surveys: one for romance readers and one for romance writers. Please use the correct link!

Yes. Romance writers can be romance readers but I have questions on their romance reading  in the writer survey so you don’t need to do two surveys.

I think the survey can take up to 15-20 minutes to do. I do it quicker but I’ve been looking at it many times. So do allow some time.

I am also going to select some people for a follow up interview. There is space to indicate your willingness to be involved in this is the consent form. The consent form is the first part of the survey.

This survey is for my PhD, which is examining romance fiction. Please help!

This is the link to Survey Monkey for Romance Writers

This is the link to Survey Monkey for Romance Readers.

Thanking you all in anticipation. Donna!

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I can’t believe it is six months already.

I’ve been at this gig for six months!

Do I miss work? No.

Do I miss the money? Yes, a bit, but not as much as I thought I would. I keep telling myself I will get a part time job, but I’m not desperate enough yet.

Do I miss my work mates? Yes, I do. The social scene at uni is different. You come to the study centre and you study. Occasionally you chat to people. It takes time.

As a PhD is self-directed research it can be difficult to judge your progress. If I sat around at home and did nothing, then I’d have the guilt meter out. But I’m on campus usually four days week and if I don’t then I’m working from home. If I consult my guilt meter it’s pretty good actually. No falling into the red zone there.

Actually, I’m just getting to the part of my study where I’m calming down. I won’t call it slowing down. Looking back I can see I approached this PhD like a bull charging a red flag. I was anxious. I was stressed. I was working like a maniac at times, dreaming up papers in my sleep. There was so much to know and I wanted to know it all. But that’s been settling down now for a few weeks.

I think there came a point that I thought I can do this. I can understand. A bit earlier than that I knew I had to dial it back as I couldn’t sustain the pace over three years. I was studying on my day off. Technically my day off is my writing day. My fiction not related to PhD writing day. It also doubles for catching up with friends day, which means I usually don’t get to write much when I do the social thing.

I’m enjoying it though and it can be absorbing. Some days on campus, I look up and see the time and think what am I doing here at 6.00 pm? Then I scurry home.

I’m coming up to my six months study. I am going to be doing my introductory seminar next week. That’s where I get to stand up and talk about my research topic, methodology and my creative project. I think my supervisor is optimistic that I won’t flubber, blubber…splat. This is a compulsory seminar, but it is not assessed. I have a bit of work to do before my first year is up as I have to do my confirmation seminar. Yes that’s right. I can be booted. I can’t see that happening but you know I have to get things up to scratch.

I’m heading for the Romance Writers of Australia Conference in Adelaide this week. We are driving down because we’ve not driven to Adelaide before. We are driving over two days. I’m doing a signing there. Waves! There is an academic stream for the conference. I put in for a paper but didn’t get chosen. Apparently there was an over supply of papers. But I believe it is a truncated stream. I am putting in a paper for the conference proceedings. Well I will. I’m just waiting on some final comments from my supervisor. I’ve been working on this paper since March. But as it is my topic area, none of it’s wasted. It was probably a good way to get across the topic, having that paper to write.

When I get back from Adelaide, I’ll be reorganizing myself. I want to start working on my creative project. So far I’ve thought about it and drafted a short outline. However, I think I have to write it and see if it works, then change it if it doesn’t. This is a fiction piece I’m giving myself time to draft. I think I might have mentioned it will be SF with romance. The other task I have to complete for my confirmation seminar is my literature review. I still have stuff I need to read, most stuff I will read two or three times before I’m done. Then I have to read romances! This means dividing up my time so that I get things done. I like to be flexible of course, but still…Would you believe I’ve been tidying my desk today? I’m sorting my journal articles into alphabetical order and putting flags on them as to why I think they are important. I feel saintly and so unlike me. I think it’s because I’m treading water. I’ve done my prep for the seminar. I’m heading to a conference and I’m waiting for comments on a paper so I can send it off.

I also have a romance readers survey and a romance writers survey as part of my PhD and it’s ready to go. Give me a hoy if you want an invite. I’m going to kick that off in September post introductory seminar.

 

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It is coming up on the first six months of my PhD. A friend said that studying/researching for a PhD is an apprenticeship. It’s about learning to be an academic. Once the PhD is achieved there’s more work ahead if academia is the choice of occupation. Or more accurately, if one is lucky enough to get to work in academia afterwards. The message I get here at Uni is there is little work for PhD candidates after awarding of the degree and what jobs there are go to those who are known etc. Mine PhD is in creative writing so year… This is rather depressing really.

Coming from the public sector where in principle jobs are gained on merit, I can’t help react to the idea that it’s not the same outside of the APS. However, I try not to think about it and just get on with the work. Maybe that’s a skewed point of view. Anyway, I enjoy the work, or the research if you please. Perhaps I have faith in people. Perhaps I don’t know what my long term plans are. Perhaps I don’t believe what people say…

So, I have probably rabbited on about this paper I’ve been working on for months now. Yes, it has dragged on and on and on until I think I’m going to go insane or that the paper development, commentary/edits etc will never end. Not doing things right the first time feeds into my internal ‘I’m not good enough motif’. Lucky for me I’m also very persistent and somewhat driven. I have an excellent supervisor who doesn’t let me off the hook. Finally I think there is sunshine on my horizon.

My paper started off with everything I’d found to date about my topic. All shoved in there with big waving banners. Nothing given too much depth. Like a bit of jumping up and down at the beach and saying look at this castle I made before the wave comes in and washes it all away. That sort of thing…

Then my supervisor comments on the paper. In fact it’s an infestation of comment boxes. There’s something not quite right with my structure, he says. Perhaps I should thin it out a bit… so something along those lines.

I chuck out bits of the paper like flicking lint across the table and watching them fly off into the wind. Next go, mmm still not quite right with the structure. Perhaps I should just talk about three or four books in more detail. Perhaps I should reread them…do deeper textual analysis. (I then read some papers on textual analysis). This time I get the scissors and cut the paper like a string of paper dolls, a concertina of vague shapes snapping back and forth. I have to build it up again. I’m told not to throw anything out but start a new document. All that stuff is good, just not in this one paper.

I return to my key texts and start the process of really examining them, taking notes and figuring out how they work and how the issues are discussed within them. It takes heaps of time.  I’ve also continued researching books and journal articles, adding more and more to the critique of romance and feminist critique of romance and anything else that I find interesting about romance. I read  books, thank you Laura Vivanco and Pamela Regis.

Then I find I have a big, huge, lengthy paper that is well over my maximum word limit. I’m struggling with the structure. I’m working late on the paper at uni without even realizing it.  Crazy!

So I know I have to restructure the damn thing. It’s too long and definitely unwieldy.

My supervisor is not available for structure rescuing and nor should he be. I know I can do it. I need distance. I read a paper on Untamed by Jodi McAlister and the structure is so straight forward, bam, bam, bam. I look at my paper. I stop wailing and pulling my hair and think-you can do that. It’s possible. Go with your gut instinct.

I take the paper home with me on the weekend but I don’t look at it. I need space. I go to a funeral and find I’m not up for working on it. All good I say. Distance and thinking is what is required. I talk to my daughter about the paper and about structure generally. Then I go into uni on Tuesday and just do it. The need to cut helps me. I cut things and try to keep it focused. I rearrange, put funny headings everywhere, try to make it flow into a new form. To me I think I’ve done it. I’ve improved it. I’ve focused it. I’m getting the idea.

I realise I am learning. I have been told by the other PhD candidates here at Uni that the first paper is the worst. It’s my first attempt at putting the research, part of it at least, into words and for others to see it. I feel my mind shifting gears. It doesn’t mean I won’t have structure issues again, but I probably won’t quail as much as  I did this first time.

So yesterday I sent the paper off to my supervisor again. It will need a careful read and some tweaking but… My supervisor said the structure was better…I got positive vibes!!! I’m so excited by this. It’s not world domination (there are no spreadsheets involved) and it’s not the cure for cancer but it’s my paper….yay!

Okay so maybe I should calm down…but I am an apprentice. The apprenticeship grind is long. But maybe there is a small improvement in me right now.me with glasses

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Recently, I was offered the opportunity to drive to Victoria and pick up a collection of Mills & Boon books. These were Grace’s books, her romance collection. Grace died about a year ago. This collection consisted of six 80 litre tubs of Mills & Boon. I couldn’t even lift one of these tubs. They are like gold to me for my PhD studies of feminism in popular romance fiction.

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This collection is so exciting for me. So many books. I had so much fun just looking at what was there, discovering. Grace’s collection as originally larger, but some were given away before they ever came my way. However, what I did get held amazing variety.

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Grace’s friend, author Lisa Ireland, told me she didn’t know Grace was a such a huge romance reader until after she died, but her family were well aware. Lisa said that Grace had a wicked sense of humour and a quick laugh. And she was determined. She defied her diagnosis for a very long time.

This collection spans the mid 70s until 2012-13, with lovely gems from the past with lots from the future. I believe Grace loved books, her books as much as I cherish this collection. I hope I’ll get to read them all. I believe Grace grew this collection because she loved the genre, loved reading and a bit like me, a bit of a hoarder. The hoarding baton has passed to me.

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Her brother John said of Grace.

What can I say about Grace Fastuca? How to sum up her life? Grace many Aunty a universal word. The fun Aunty, the wise Aunty. Whether you were or weren’t family.

Grace didn’t judge anyone. Many people have said how she helped them be a better person and this wasn’t just about staring death in the face. It was about taking a person a face value. Not talking down to people, really hearing what they say. About being in and making the most of every moment.

Ten years ago Grace was told she had six months to live and would miss her 40th birthday. So what did Grace do about that? She organized a very memorable 40 minus 3 party to be enjoyed with family and friends.

When Grace wanted to enjoy moments away from the hustle and bustle she went to Anglesea. Nothing can be said that will do justice to the connection she felt for the area, not to mention the amount of Mills & Boon books she bought at second hand stores there.

Grace knew as much about your life as you wanted her to know and vice versa. She was and will continue to be a great inspiration to everyone who knew her.

Grace was one of the funniest people I have ever known. As time passes we all realize how much we miss her laughter, her voice and her ability to cut through it all.

Everyone deserves an Aunty Grace.

Thank you Grace for this lovely collection which means so much to me. I must say that this collection complements the one started by Doreen Watt, from a gift of a selection of retro Mills & Boon to start my reading, which was augmented by Lifeline Book Fair purchases again assisted by Doreen. And also a collection given to me by Debbie Phillips, mostly of Silhouette romances. It is also amazing!

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It took me a few days to sort through this amazing collection. First I just had to look and get excited as I looked at each one. Touched it, wondered over it and then reached for the next one. Then I started roughly sorting the books.

IMG_6500There were many double Harlequin Mills & Boon and I just didn’t know how to file these as they were two different authors and there were so many books. These found their way back into the tubs for later sorting. Then there were a handful of non-genre books and single title books that were more historical romance. These I’ve put aside. I filled one tub with medical romances as I’m not focusing on them. Matthew argues that I should look at them too. I might just not now. Not enough shelves for starts. Then I put them in alphabetical order. I found books from authors I knew about but didn’t have books for. I found I had piles of books from particular authors who I didn’t know but where obviously quite popular, like Sara Craven, Sandra Kendrick, Anne McAlister,  Lindsay Armstrong etc. I also gained a few from authors I did have books for like Charlotte Lamb, Robyn Donald, Daphne Clair and Penny Jordan. My collection of these authors has expanded.

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I had just collected two new book cases so the books went straight in there. My lovely partner, Matthew, lugged the books inside. To my surprise I found them in the lounge and then I was a lost woman and all my plans for the day went out the window. Although they don’t all fit in the shelves atm.

I had to take a break from the sorting as it was physically demanding. All that crawling around on the floor, squatting, crouching, leaning over etc. I scored some Helen Bianchin and then I realized that she was an author I read when I was 19 when living in New Zealand. When I looked through the books I  saw that I had that book. THAT BOOK! And then when I looked up Helen’s bibliography I realized it was her first. It is a great book too. I love it. So I lay back on the couch and read The Willing Heart by Helen Bianchin, then Vines of Splendour and a more recent one, The Marriage Arrangement. I do note though as I’m collecting books in Australia, that there is a bias towards Australian and New Zealand authors. No problems there.

In amongst the Mills & Boon were some older Harlequins, and quite a few Silhouettes. These I have merged with my Debbie Phillips collection in the other book cases. I think there’s a thousand books there. I don’t know. But it’s awesome and the collection will be put to good use in the PhD reading and for enjoyment and my hoarding genes are well aligned.

 

 

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This post my take up a bit of your time. POPCAANZ16 was my first academic conference ever! I didn’t present. I went to sus it out-network etc and to see if I could present next time. POPCAANZ stands for the Popular Culture Association of Australia and New Zealand. It was so fab. Every presentation I went to was interesting and somewhat exciting. For me it was like an ideal SF convention where all the panels added to the view of my world and filled me with excitement that people were actually talking about stuff, about pop culture things that are relevant to the now.

There are a number of streams ranging from fashion, movies, television, gothic horror, crime fiction, creative writing etc. Unfortunately there was no romance fiction stream as they were undersubscribed or so I heard. Also about half the people were from New Zealand.

Day one

There were three streams per day and sometimes the choices were difficult to make. Also, all speakers presented their paper and then there were questions so generally once in the room you were likely to stay. My first stream was the Disability/Gender & Queer on Wednesday morning. The first paper was one on Beauty Contests for Landmine Survivors by Fran Hassencahl. She talked about a documentary about Morten Taavik’s beauty pageant that challenges our concepts of beauty. Apparently Cambodia pulled the plug on the documentary as the victims were symbols of shame. Fran was saying that as a Buddhist country there is a strong sense of Karma and that the victims somehow deserved their fate either in a past life or this one. This translated to very little opportunity for being reestablished in society, work etc. I was quite struck with that. Also that only intact women compete in regular beauty competitions. There have been in recent years some entrants with impairments, such as a  contestant being deaf or wearing in insulin dispenser. But visible impairments not really. Fran was saying that Morten wanted to draw attention to these women’s plight but also that everywoman deserves to feel beautiful.

The next speaker was Michaela Baker talking about Mental Illness and Artistic Creation. She talked mostly about David Bowie’s concept album, Outside. This was an interesting piece about depictions of madness and provided insights into Bowie’s creative process.

The next paper was on Mental Illness in the X-Files by Kimberley McMahon-Coleman. This was an insightful analysis of the show. The role reversal between Scully and Mulder. Scully is the scientist, the skeptic, the logical one a role traditional ascribed to the male protagonist and Mulder is the intuitive, feeling one. However, Mulder is invariably right. Scully gets kidnapped a lot. What Kimberley was highlighting in her talk was the medical model of mental illness with the immediate listing of symptoms, that anyone with a mental illness was immediately discredited/testimony discredited by Scully and then proved right by Mulder. She also talked about the depiction of Autism and how wrong that was. That Autism wasn’t a mental illness but a communication disorder.

The last paper in this stream was on post-racial feminism by Holly Randell-Moon. Holly used a portion of Angela McRobbie’s (2004) paper in her paper and also about recent debate about People of Colour (POC) and about how whites don’t acknowledge their whiteness. My thoughts on this paper was that some delving into McRobbie’s position. I’ve read McRobbie (some) and she’s very interesting but she reads to me like a radical second wave feminist, using Marxist analysis. I also think that as a white from a dominant white culture we don’t want to draw attention to our privilege. Just my thought there.

After a nice lunch where I tried to talk to people I didn’t know and succeeded, I went to the Film stream. First up was Sequential Multimplicity in Franchise Cinema by Tara Lomax, a phd candidate. This was the most technical of the papers for me and also interesting. I mean Marvel right? She talked abit about Marvel’s transmedia strategy and the groups of writers that keep track of the stories and copyright etc. Apparently DC didn’t want to copy Marvel’s strategy but that may be changing. This speaker was very enthusiastic about her topic and ran out of time. Next up was Exploded Views by Pansy Duncan. My notes are going to fail me here, but the essence of this for me was the study of explosions on film from the 1900s to the present and how they have evolved and that the new ones were going in upwards directions instead of down. Apparently in Independence Day movie, the first came down, the second just hovers, but in Xmen Apocalypse the bits of Earth go up. I’m going to keep an eye out for those. Seeing the Future of American Industry by Christian Long. He talked about John Carpenter’s film, Escape from New York and the politics in there. He discussed the crime rate in the 1970s in New York in the lead up to the film. He also talked about in this future envisioning, the USA could live without its financial centre.Inside the prison of New York lack of industry lead to problems. Kurt Russell (Snake) was to rescue the president to make world peace. The irony is that when saved the president shoots the baddie with glee. A very enjoyable paper and I must watch more John Carpenter.

Next I ducked into the Fiction:Words on paper stream. “It’s all in the detail” Historical crime writing by Jean Anderson. Jean talked a lot about the paratextual in historical crime novels, that is the text on the outside of the book, blurb, about the author etc. In the novels she discussed there was an effort to establish the author’s authority through the non fiction they published or academic career etc. Some part of the talk was on the recipes in some of these novels and also how if an author gets this wrong who responds. Most readers won’t notice but some do and will let you know. Jillene Bydder talked about Icelandic author Arnaldur Indriaason and the detective Erlendur. I know have to read all these books and the Icelandic sagas. Jillene did a comparative analysis of Arnaldur’s books and the Icelandic sagas. I’m to start with Jar City because that talks about the DNA project that is going on in Iceland. Next was Beatrice Dahl: JG Ballard’s Hidden Heroine? by Tracy Clement. Again an excellent talks. Tracy is doing her phd on the book, The Drowned World. I recall she said it was a fine arts degree which included sculpture and her doing an additional chapter of The Drowned World. Utterly fascinating and another book on the to read pile. Next up was In Search of Australian Noir: by Leigh Redhead. More books on the to read pile. Hannah Kent Burial Rites. Anyway, for me an introduction to what noir is. Negative ending.

Day two

I was a bit late. Bus caught in Sydney traffic so I only caught the end of the first session and I chose the big room because I would be less conspicuous on entering. This was the performance stream and I only caught the end of Tilda Swinton: Performing Fashion. Apologies to Karen De Perthuis the presenter. Lorde, Lady Gaga and ‘Authentic’ David Bowie tribute by Alison Blair was entirely enthralling. An analysis of the two performances and the reaction, particularly on twitter. Lorde’s performance being the most appreciated. The crux of the matter for me was that Lady Gaga was performing David Bowie and sensationalizing him and Lorde performed as herself singing Bowie with a low key and respectful performance. Who knew this stuff was so interesting and complicated? Costume, Condertfeit in Neil Armfield’s ‘King Lear’ by Julie Lynch. I met Julie first up and she’s from NIDA. Her first time at this conference too. This was an eyeopening talk that discussed the costumes used in this performance but also a bit about the Sydney Theatre Company, particularly under Cate Blanchet and co.

Next session I ducked over to the gothic horror stream. Dining at the table of (cultural) horrors by Lorna Piatti-Farnell. Some interesting preamble about eating and manners and how we have manners because eating is violent. Loved it. She talked about a move, The Sushi Girl. Another movie for the to watch pile. She deconstructed some horror tropes for me which makes me thinks I could watch some. The Gothic Heart of ‘Hinterland’ by Emma Doolan was an exploration in settings and liminal spaces. She discussed the series Hinterland set in Wales and yet another DVD series to watch. To end that session was (Im)moratlities of Style in ‘American Horror Story’ by Samuel Finegan. Again for me a refreshing look at a genre that I don’t gel with normally. He explained this so well and how ‘camp’ the horror was. We have some of these at home so they have been star rated for watching with my partner, Matthew, who loves horror movies.

After lunch I switched to Television because of Zombies as you do. First up was LIving with Zombism in ‘I Zombie’ by Kayleigh Murphy. I hadn’t really been aware of this show. And yes another one on the to buy pile. This was an interesting analysis of this TV show and what zombies are embodying-social fears etc. I Zombie apparently is about stigma and living with disease or something else that can be hidden but is not socially accepted. It is a show that is focused on young people too. I won’t spoil it for you but I’d love to read this paper. Hopefully it will be in the conference proceedings. Gender in ‘The Bachelor’ New Zealand. Interesting and I guess typical of those shows. Performing gender. Lots of good quotes for Judith Butler which I appreciated. Thank you Ximena Smith. Utipic Spaces and the Rewritable West in Mad Men by Grace Torcasio. I’m not a watcher of Mad Men but I have heard of it. This talked about the spaces New York and California and how California served as a type of holiday space, a place where the character (Fred?) could reinvent himself. I hope I got that right. I’m working off memory here.

The last sessions were hard to pick but I left Gothic and Horror and chose History/journalism/religion mostly because first up was Ritualistic Societies and the Neo-Victorian Perspective by Matthew Thompson. He talked about Downey’s Sherlock so I’m cool with that. Second reason for this stream was Sue Green’s talk Knitting Needles as Weapons of War. I’d chatted to Sue before but I’d already picked this session. I mean Knitting Needles! So yes this was fabric, textile paper with a feminist perspective. It was quite eye opening as it discussed knitting patterns and how they were used to manipulate women, even in their language. Women knitted socks and other bits for men at war. One million in WW1 and 3 million in WW2. Also was the change in patterns after the war, particular WW2 when they changed from utilitarian to lacy, feminine things. Also the new look and corsets constraining women back into the home after working in men’s jobs during the war. Loved this. Please, please universe put this paper in the conference proceedings. Some great historical images in this talk too. IN the program there is a session listed, The Dispute is Not About Oil, by Michael Potts. I’ve got nothing for that. I was either transported to another reality while he spoke or he wasn’t there. Last up on day two was Warhol’s Religio-Secular Incongraph by Jewell Homad  Johnson. This was fascinating. I had no idea Warhol was religious! Ta daa! And I had no idea someone tried to kill him and that person was from SCUM (society for cutting up men). Now I have to read the manifesto because I had no idea. Interesting piece. Nice work Jewell.

Day three (last day)

Filled with the proceeding day’s awesomeness and post Alex Caine Series book launch at Galaxy Book shop, I made it in only a little late. Again bus, traffic etc. The first talk was Gothic Wedding Cake Decoration by Carmel Cedro. This garnered so much discussion. I decorate cakes as you know. I’m probably the kind of person who would put a bleeding heart on my wedding cake. I’m geek and I’m proud to be so. Apparently goths express their identity with these cakes. Carmel said the rest of the ceremony is very traditional except for the cake. Just google gothic wedding cakes and you’ll see. It’s a thing but mostly USA centred apparently. The Frankenstein Myth and Deals with the Devil by Naomi Von Senff. This was an interesting talk. The only problem was the speaker spoke so quickly, reading off her paper that it’s impact was lessened. Naomi did a analysis of novels with the Frankenstein myth but said there wasn’t much in recent novels. If you know of some let her know. She’s on Twitter maybe. I have two unpublished books that deal with the Frankenstein myth…as in resurrected monsters type thing. Weird Tales and Monstrous Subverions by Cory R Walden. I’m drawing a blank here. There were pictures! Sorry I’m going from memory. He did do the talk but I need a hint to trigger my memory.

After lunch which was very yum, (Great catering at Sydney University Village) was the visual arts stream with Socialist Realism (un) popular culture by Ryszard Dabek. This looked at socialist realism in art and architecture. Those North Koreans are weird. Soda_jerk’s science fictional Aesthetics by Andrew Frost. I have to look into this art work, by these two anonymous artists. Apparently they mine the edge of copyright infringement taking bits of film and reworking it. Fascinating. Hurrah for Art! 20th century popular culture by Eric Riddler, which was a picture stream with commentary that was very encompassing. Last up was Arabic Appearance in a Predominantly Anglo Culture by Cherine Fahd. A very striking paper about how we use visual cues to judge, probably incorrectly. The main part of her presentation was a series of photos in black and white with white background with men with dark hair and beards. The men wore the beard by choice not for religion and not all were of Arabic/middle eastern/sub continent decent. The main upshot from this presentation was could  hipster beards coexist with the jihad beards. Some mentions of people being beaten up for having a beard and being mistaken for middle eastern or jihady or terrorist beards. A thought provoking session all up.

Last sessions were on biography & life writing and girlhood. The Militant Suffragette by Anne Reddacliff and Rachel Franks provided a good overview on the Australian suffragette story with a focus on the holdings from the State Library of NSW. Some excellent sources provided. Hateful Eight Contains the Uncanny Power of Girlhood by Juliette Peers. This was an amazing presentation but somewhat over long. This was due to this session not having a chair or the chair not being able to communicate with the speaker. Not sure which. I haven’t seen Hateful Eight, nor Carrie or The Exorcist, which were part of the analysis. After hearing the talk and the images I don’t want to either. Juliette put a pretty powerful argument about this movie. Little Miss ANZAC by Anita Callaway was an interesting exploration of a (for me) lost work. A children’s story that features a beleaguered wooden doll. It was very evocative of the effects on war on men, I think, but as Anita pointed out, the illustrator died before the war and the book was renamed. She also showed us illustrations from the author and the illustrator (I think) but very interesting stuff. Finally, Hashtag Skater Girl: Pop Culture and Extreme Sports by Jessica Jackson. As an aside I introduced myself to Jessica and we got talking. She’s a writer too. It was her first conference and her first presentation. She’s African American, the elder of identical quadruplets who were adopted. I’m going to check out her books. She and her siblings are writing books together. Link below. Jessica had to have given one of the best presentations at the conference. She didn’t read from a paper but spoke to her slides very eloquently. I was very impressed obviously. Her talk was about skaters, what we call skateboarding, and also surfing and snowboarding. She looked at the treatment of girls in the sports by men, the funding arrangements which prejudice women and the lack of take up of the sports by women. (I hope that is right, Jess). And what a way to end the conference.

So I’ve only given a very short impression on what these sessions were about. I was engaged throughout and I wish to thank the organisers for all their hard work. Great venue, great speakers and topics. Also, I should note that there is GANZA, The Gothic Association of New Zealand and Australia. ganza.co.nz and they are on twitter @GANZA_Official

There is currently a call for papers for their conference in Auckland in January.

Also, what the hell is the Uni of Sydney doing closing the Sydney College of the Arts!

Links

POPCAANZ here

GANZA here

And if you want to keep in touch with Jessica and her three siblings, her blog is here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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