I am fairly busy in my personal life; working as usual, trying to help organise a beer festival, looking for work, volunteering & generally attempting to keep my shit together.
I did not, however, go to the Classical Association conference this year. I knew I wouldn’t/couldn’t afford to last August when I didn’t send in an abstract but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel the twang of regret.
Every day that passes I feel my academic life and credentials slip further away. In part it is because I haven’t been keeping up with my writing (soon I promise), but in part it is because I haven’t kept up with changes…
But…. Thank the daemons of the internet for Twitter. Without it I could not have followed panels of research at the biggest UK conference of its kind and found new things to investigate. Without it I would be totally cut off waiting for the open access journals to show up on Google and research to be made available through JSTOR from several years ago. Twitter gave me instant access to ideas and to people.
I know that (for many good reasons) people are nervous about the implications for their research, reputation and finances with regard to the broadcasting of their ideas online and I also know that the potential for misrepresentation in such a limited medium is very high but I can’t help feeling that the opportunities far outweigh the risks.
So, yes, I am still horrendously jealous that I couldn’t go and absorb information and ideas first hand. I feel lost without that spark and push of novelty but I am grateful that even when the money is far too tight and even if the social anxiety is far too crippling I don’t have to rot away because there are so many people generous enough to publish their interpretations in a way that reaches into my home and lets me think!
Ok, like readers trying to follow my commentary, I was by Monday morning somewhat tired and jaded which meant checking out of the hotel and lugging my bags up the hill took me a little longer than planned and I was several minutes late for the first paper of the morning.
On this basis I apologise that I think I missed some of the nuances that the speaker was trying to suggest.
When I arrived Leimar Garcia-Siino was giving a very slickly competent talk on “The Resurgence of Mythology in Young Adult Fantasy” which I struggled rather spectacularly to follow. I recall only 2 key points: firstly that the Percy Jackson novels are representative of a broader trend towards re-appropriating mythology as an emotional and academically didactic tool in story-telling for young adults and secondly that, furthermore, our ongoing mythological consciousness creates a playful metanarrative which both reinforces and ultimately reinvents the mythological framework. I also remember thinking that if I was more awake it would have made an interesting (and far more theoretical) counterpoint to Schrackmann’s reading of Riordan partially because she looked at similar aspects of the conflict between ancient conceptions of heroism and modern values.
Overall, the paper was among the more theory heavy that I listened to and although the speaker had some interesting points to make about how we can utilise imagery whilst re-writing context I think I’d need to re-read it with some coffee to hand…
Next I dashed out to Tom Garvey’s paper on Neal Stephenson’s Diamond Age. This paper reminded me a little of Brand’s paper on Watchmen in that it initially seemed strongly demonstrative in style (i.e. we were treated to a thorough explanation of why certain things should be considered classical references or allusions). However, this paper explored very different ground to most of the others that I heard at the conference because the speaker actively aimed to discuss the use of the text in a pedagogic setting. Specifically Garvey considered ways that Stephenson contrasts methods of teaching and learning within the book (and explicitly uses classical material both as exemplar and as methodology) and asked students to apply that to their own experiences and also suggested ways of reading Stephenson’s commenatry/critique of classicising education in contrast to his Eastern-philosophical leanings.
In Garvey’s exposition, Stephenson’s book is a useful example of how embedded classical culture can be identified and played with for an audience prepared to deal with self-analysis – what Reception scholar can’t get behind that?