Thursday, April 30, 2009

What isn't wonderful about a fairy tale conference?

One of the joys of the job is that I can cheerfully tell people I've travelled to the UK for a fairy tale conference.

And it was a fantastic conference. The After Angela Carter conference at UEA in Norwich. There were presenters from all over the globe, some of the 'big names' in fairy tale including Warner, Haase, Zipes and Bacchilega (all keynote speakers), and a very packed programme. In fact, it was so packed, I'd have to seriously hesitate to name highlights. Actually, I don't think I can. Most of us repined that we couldn't be in two or three places at once to catch all the panels and coffee breaks began to look like mad dashes to exchange business cards (I really do need to get some made up!) and email addresses. The final lunch was a prolonged affair of people calling out 'yes, I will email you soon!'

We did have a terrific evening of puppet theatre too, which featured a version of Sleeping Beauty told with a doily princess and prince of thimbles and a version of Little Red Riding Hood told with tomatoes, cabbages, a big red pot and a sinister grater. (Figuringa: Grim/m/aces)

Many of us also noticed that it was one of the best dressed conferences we'd been to. In fact, during the breaks, I often heard people talking about vintage discoveries. All of this boded well for my own paper - which was about princess dresses. I do think there is an inate link between fashion and fairy tale that has yet to be fully exploited. However, I would like to get a head start on that exploitation.

I also got to see Marina Warner, which I was very excited about. From the Beast to the Blonde was one of those pivotal books on my road to academia. And she was wearing a great purple dress with a slim yellow belt and multicoloured cardigan. Sorry, I had to mention that. For those interested, she gave us a preview of her next book on the Arabian Nights, one I'm seriously looking forward to reading.

The only problem about fantastic conferences such as this is the travel involved. Although, there were a couple of amusing moments on the way back. At Heathrow, I was asked at check-in about being a 'Doctor.' When I explained I wasn't medical at all, I was asked what I was a Doctor in. I couldn't resist. "Fairy tales." "Oh!" her face lit up. "That explains the dog on your necklace, the pig on your ring and the dog on your suitcase..." Okay...

Then at Sydney, after hours and hours in the air, I had to declare the chocolate I'd bought at customs (Montezuma's orange & geranium organic dark chocolate - seriously delicious).

"What do you have to declare?"
"Some chocolate."
Customs chap pulls face and is about to wave me off, then looks at my customs/immigration card.
"What are you a lecturer of?"
"Children's literature, actually."
"J***s C****t! Just go through!"

Now, of course, I just have to shake off the last of the jetlag. I've already sorted through all the email that accumulated and taught a class. The terrifying thing is that I have two more conferences (June and July) to write papers for...

One is on Wizard Rock, so if anyone has any suggestions, they'd be more than welcome.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Amazon and the rankings

Most of you will have already heard all there is to hear about the latest at Amazon, with many books, mostly those related in any fashion to homosexuality, being removed from the rankings. I particularly liked Meg Cabot's blog about it, which, after all the serious reports, was rather fun. Then, this is the author who was desperate to have a banned book.

What struck me, though, was that with Facebook, Twitter etc, there's a fantastic opportunity for scholarship to get immediately involved in these situations. We are seeing the world in action - in real time, so to speak - to stop discrimination in book retail. It's pretty wonderful. And if I did have more time today, I would blog more seriously about it.

That's the catch. Time. Scholarship usually involves the taking of time to ponder the situation and its implications. Scholarship works against the immediacy of the online environment. Some academics are finding ways to juggle the two timescales, but I foresee much more to be done in reconciling how scholarship can fully embrace the instancy of new digital technologies.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Zombie Darcy

Many of you by now should know about the version of Pride and Prejudice with zombies. There's a very good piece in The Times about it. Only, opening with "So brazen a perversion of the opening lines of Pride and Prejudice, one of Britain’s best-loved novels, will doubtless give Jane Austen fans more than a touch of the vapours" is a little predictable. Many, many Jane Austen fans are only having the vapours out of amusement and anticipation. Not that I, personally, am a horror or zombie fan, but Lizzie as a ninja zombie killer? That's diverting.

Of course, the problem is that some see this as somehow devaluing Jane Austen. I actually think Jane Austen can survive.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Celebrating being Geek

This was one of the funniest items I've read of late. To quote, "According to sources in the White House, President Barack Obama has been uncharacteristically distant and withdrawn ever since last month's two-hour series finale of Battlestar Galactica." But you have to read the whole - seriously.

One of the things I've noticed of late is that some people are slightly incredulous that an English Lit. academic will spend time online instead of reading books. This baffles me a little - beyond the fact that yes, I also read books. There is much material online that is worthy of discussion and analysis. Authors go online all the time. Readers are forever online. The online environment is a hive of activity that must be of interest to English Lit. academics. A general, somewhat vague analogy would be to the early days of print. All sorts of fascinating things were occurring as people experimented with what could be done with some ink and a printing press. I guess I'm simply amazed that more English Lit. academics don't spend as much time online.

Because they miss things like "Obama has reportedly brushed off key budgetary decisions, ignored his wife and children, and neglected his daily workouts, claiming that he no longer cares if he lets himself go "just like Lee did before the rescue on New Caprica."