Research Grant News

Over the summer, I applied for the American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR) Grants for Researchers with Heavy Teaching Loads. I was honestly unsure of my chances with this grant, although I absolutely fit the criteria to a T, in my opinion. Well, dear readers, I was notified last week that I WON THE GRANT! This news has reinvigorated my research agenda and given me an academic self-esteem boost that I really needed.

With my book proposal currently under external review with a publisher, I haven’t moved too far forward on any of my planned upcoming research projects. If I were to consider my various plans, they could amount to nearly two or three books scheduled for the next several years! However, as a visiting appointment with a 4-4 load, I have very little support or opportunity to conduct sustained research or to travel for research. Enter the ASTR Grant.

The research proposal I submitted to ASTR is something I’ve wanted to get started on for a while. I came across the Third World Women’s Alliance (TWWA) during my dissertation research and haven’t had a chance to research them in any real depth. They were an activist organization in the 1970s dedicated to promoting women’s rights and were radical intersectional feminists before we even used that terminology. I know they had a theatre/performance wing, and put on plays, but there is no secondary research available about this. Fortunately, Smith College has their archives!

And so, my plan is to visit the archives at Smith and spend some time exploring the 7 boxes worth of material housed in the Sophia Smith Collection. I don’t know yet what I’ll find–I need to get in touch with the librarians and archivists there, of course–but I am excited about a new research adventure and the ASTR Grant has made this possible.

In the same collection are the archives of the Theatre of Light and Shadow, which was a women’s performance collective that I know nothing about; they just happen to have the entry above the TWWA in the list of finding aids at the Sophia Smith Collection website. There are 10 boxes of material related to this group, so I’m hoping I will have enough time to poke through some of those items, as well.

Given the already tight constraints of the fall semester, I am tentatively setting my research trip for spring break 2017. As it happens, the library with the collections will be closed next June through August for relocation, so a summer trip is right out. Once I have a little more time to plan and have gotten in touch with the library, I’ll have a better idea of what I’ll need to do and how long it will take. Either way, I am so happy to have this opportunity.

Imposter Syndrome is a real thing, hating even those of us who have degrees and employment in the field. I feel quite confident in my pedagogy on any given day, but I often feel shaky in my research. I know I have something to offer my field, and I enjoy the process of research and writing (sometimes, anyway!), but I am often plagued by self doubt and procrastination. Of course, these are intensely normal feelings, or so I am told. But they are still hard to shake. But winning a grant based on your own ideas and plans goes a long way to making you feel at least a bit more confident. And so here’s to the rest of the fall semester, with more confidence and less impostering!

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The Literal Kindness of Strangers

Over the Labor Day weekend, I was the recipient of some kindness from strangers. Unlike Blanche duBois, though, I never rely on the kindness of strangers. In fact, I avoid strangers as much as possible. Whether that’s a holdover from growing up in the “stranger danger” era of the 1980s, or due to my general introverted personality, I’m not sure. It’s probably both. Yet this recent experience is challenging me to rethink my relationship with “strangers” and the various ways I tend to interact with those around me. Continue reading

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Labor Day Break

In honor of Labor Day, there is no post this week. Although I suspect, that like most professors, I will be grading or working in some capacity on this fine day, regardless.

Enjoy whatever form your day takes, readers.

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Towards a Theory of Novelizing

Husband's copy of Star Wars novel, 1976 original edition.

Husband’s copy of Star Wars novel, 1976 original edition.

Earlier this week, I listened to this fascinating piece from an April edition of On the Media It discusses media tie in novels, focusing on what we more often refer to as “novelizations” of feature films. You know, the book that’s adapted from the screenplay and sold in every major bookstore. The segment interviewed many of the big names in media tie in authorship, including Alan Dean Foster, considered by many the king of media tie in novels and novelizations. I read a few of these adaptations in my childhood (for some reason, I remember reading the novelization of The Karate Kid), and was a big fan of the tie in novels for Star Trek: The Next Generation (Peter David definitely wrote the best ones). So I was interested to hear that Despite the record sales of these adapted novels, they are not granted much critical respect by literary critics or readership at large. Continue reading

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And So it Begins

Fall 2016, that is. Classes at my university start on Monday, but I don’t have a face to face (F2F) class meeting until Tuesday. As I often do, I am teaching 2 sections of my course load F2F, and 2 sections online. This is actually a really nice schedule for me, since it provides a decent amount of flexibility for me during the week, allowing me to set my workout schedule and research time pretty much however I wish.

Now I realize this sounds positively relaxing, but as a visiting appointment, the 4-4 load can be quite a challenge, and thus the half online/half F2F breakdown is helpful in providing work-life balance for me. Not that I am super great at that balance, but this schedule gives me a chance at it, anyway.

The start of the semester tends to be stressful, of course, and this year I feel somewhat in between stress and calm. I’m ready, and I’m not teaching any new courses, but because of that I haven’t really had the panic and pedal to the metal attitude that indicates true readiness. I am just hoping that, like muscle memory, teaching memory will take over.

I plan to set out some goals for myself on Monday, once I have a chance to face the Semester and see what seems reasonable to accomplish. I’ve been feeling pretty good about my CV, but there are conferences to attend and more to write. So let’s get started, shall we?

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Olympic Feminism

On the heels of my recent piece about intersectionality, I’m thinking a lot about Black feminism this week. African American women have been spectacular at this year’s Olympics in Rio, and their strength has been legendary. I wanted to highlight a few athletes as I think about how their example is not only inspiring me, but certainly inspiring a generation of young Black girls who can now see themselves more often on top of that podium.

Simone Biles – she has (now famously) said that she doesn’t want to be referred to as the “next Michael Phelps”, since instead, she’s “the first Simone Biles.” In a Twitter conversation on Friday, 8/12, Franchesca Ramsey was remarking on Biles’ skills and confidence to be able to even make such a declaration. And, naturally, there was plenty of mansplaining and whitesplaining about why Biles should just be so happy to be compared to Phelps, etc. So I chimed in to observe that we really don’t need another Michael Phelps. We have one already. He’s really good. We do, however, need the first Simone Biles. She and her teammate Gabby Douglas have shown the world Black Girl Magic time and again, and thus stand firmly on their own feet, in their own legacy. We don’t need to filter everyone through a white, male prism in order to make them relevant!

There was also another Simone at theses Games, the swimmer Simone Manuel. She is being hailed as the very first ever African American woman to win an individual Olympic gold medal. The barriers she’s breaking down are also remarkable. Swimming pools were (and frankly, still are) racially contested spaces in the United States. You can read more about that at the link in this paragraph. Manuel’s achievement is nothing short of ground breaking.

The third athlete I’d like to discuss is Michelle Carter, subject of this great profile in The New Yorker. She is the first American woman to win a gold medal in shot put, and she did so while looking fabulous. I noticed her during the shot put qualifiers when I was out at lunch and happened to notice a tv playing Oympics coverage. I admired her red lipstick and awesome hair and when I read later she had won the gold, I was so excited! It turns out that she is a professional makeup artist and believes in challenging society’s notions of what women should look like while competing. She sees herself as built for shot put, and she likes to look her best so that she feels confident when she competes. It clearly works.

(And women in track & field have been stylin’ forever, anyway. Remember Florence Griffith-Joyner’s nails? Or Sanya Richards-Ross’ hair?)

Women have to put up with so much garbage about their appearance on a daily basis, and can never win. You have to wear makeup to be taken seriously, but not too much. You really shouldn’t wear any makeup if you’re in a sporting profession or need to be seen as “one of the guys” in order to be taken seriously. If you’re too thin, you’ll appear weak. If you’re too fat, you’ll look unprofessional. Are you  muscled at all? That’s weird. Are you shorter than average, taller than average? Going gray at a young age? Dealing with a disability that might affect your appearance? Just try to hide all that.

That’s why Carter and these other women are so inspiring to me right now. They offer three different models of Black femininity, and three ways of being a bad ass that anyone can look up to.

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Grind & Rewind

I’ve been having a lot of trouble preparing a blog post for this week. There have been some interesting things happening in the news, but I haven’t found anything that really struck me as fascinating or blog worthy. Nothing has happened that intersects with my work or research or hobbies. And I’m finding this irritating–shouldn’t there be something I can contribute?

However, I realize that this Monday marks exactly two weeks until the start of the Fall 2016 semester, and, as always, I just don’t feel ready. And I think I’m feeling a bit intellectually frazzled, so generating a brilliant blog post just isn’t happening for me. Continue reading

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Intersectionality Required

You may have seen this editorial cartoon making the rounds after Hillary Clinton’s historic nomination last week: 2016 cartoon by Kevin Necessary, Scripps Media.

It features three panels, one with a white boy, one with a black boy, and one with a white girl. Each of them say “I could be president,” with the corresponding captions of “since 1789,” “since 2008,” and “since 2016.”

I’m sure this sentiment comes from a good, heartfelt place, and I am not writing this post to harangue or insult Kevin Necessary. What I do want to draw attention to is who is left out of this picture–women of color. While Hillary Clinton’s nomination and (hopeful) election are indeed groundbreaking, historic, and exciting, this cartoon illustrates why many women of color may still feel left out.

This is not to say that there aren’t many, many women of color amongst Clinton’s supporters, because there are. But it’s a familiar sight to see a white woman break through any glass ceiling first, dating back to First Wave Feminism, when white suffragettes kept Black women at the back of their marches and insisted that white women must lead the way in their movement. Black women have had to wait, wait, wait throughout US history. The first Black American to be President is a man. The first women President is white. Black men gain voting rights first. White women gain voting rights first. (And I realize this discussion isn’t even adequately touching on women of other races and ethnicities.)

This is why intersectional feminism is so critical. We must be aware that when we lift up only white women as the vanguard of women’s advancement and equality, we are erasing and ignoring every woman who is not white. And feminism which does not seek to encompass and encourage women of all ethnicities, abilities, sexual orientations, gender identities, (etc) is not a worthwhile feminism. So remember that we need to stop seeing women’s equality as a “white women through the door first” movement. All women have the right to be President, to be treated equally, and to see justice done on their behalf. Period.

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Truthiness & Consequences

Chances are that you’ve heard something about First Lady candidate Melania Trump and her oopsie of a speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention. It already has a nice Wikipedia entry: Melania Trump speech plagiarism controversy.

There was much discussion in the media about whether it constituted plagiarism or not, whether her speech writer should be fired, or whether she even had a speech writer. An astute piece by Dr. Brittney Cooper, aka Professor Crunk, demonstrates why the response to her speech is a perfect example of white privilege in action.

As a professor, and one who teachers both composition and courses online, I am no stranger to student plagiarism. In fact, a student in one of my courses plagiarized just this week. So, I am familiar with what constitutes plagiarism, and Trump’s speech certainly counts. It was nearly word for word, and in some cases paraphrased, pieces from another source without acknowledgement. It did not seek to reframe the original words, or place them in a different context to highlight something interesting about a topic, nor did she perform the words in a funny or undercutting way. In other words, Trump’s speech was not a remix, a sample,  a satire, or a parody, which are some types of presentations that would not count as plagiarism. Continue reading

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Hannibal & the Ethics of Meat

HannabeeI’ve finally finished watching Hannibal, the television series created by Bryan Fuller that recently aired for 3 seasons on NBC. The show was particularly known for its lush, cinematic camera work and its focus on food–the preparation, the serving, and consumption of food. As Hannibal Lecter is known for his impeccable sense of taste (in everything, including fashion, which might be another interesting topic in itself), the series focused closely on his cooking, lingering over shots of Hannibal chopping, sautéing, tasting, serving, and eating lavish meals, typically with guests. Of course, Hannibal also serves his guests as the main course–not all of his meat is found at the local butcher.

As a vegan, it was interesting to watch these displays of meat–and “meat”–consumption within the series. A lot of ink was spilled over the “pornographic” quality of the meal prep on the show, how beautiful the food was, how intricate the recipes, etc. The series employed a food consultant to assist with the work of making the meals look gorgeous, despite their disturbing provenance.  Yet, for me, since meat itself is already off putting, I didn’t find the televised food as “delicious” perhaps as many did. Beautiful and artfully constructed, yes, but not particularly appetizing. So that got me thinking about the ethics of meat consumption as presented in the series. Continue reading

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