Friday, October 12, 2018
09:00 – 10:00
10:30 – 12:00
12:00 – 13:00
13:00 – 15:00
Representing Race and Gender
Chair: Roberta Hofer (Innsbruck)
The microcosm of Percival Everett’s novel, Erasure – just as our own world – is interwoven with a set of normative expectations that not only circumscribe the self-identity of its main character, Thelonious Monk Ellison, but have a determining effect on him as an author as well. Ellison does not “believe in race” yet, being racially marked, he is faced with a series of expectations to which he cannot live up to. Hence, as he confesses: “[p]eople […] tell me I am not black enough”. Racial assumptions, however, haunt him as a novelist as well. As he refuses to produce easily marketable “gritty real stories of black life”  that would (mis-)represent the African-American experience, his work remains ignored or criticised for being inauthentic. Under the pseudonym of Stagg R. Leigh, Ellison publishes a novella, My Pafology, which, although intended to be a parody, by the public is taken as an authentic insight into black experience, and it becomes an enormous success. Following the novella’s success, from the simple pseudonym of Stagg R. Leigh a complete personality develops – one that is in line with the expectations raised towards an African-American writer. And Ellison is left with a choice: he either embraces the ideological assumptions imposed on him as Stagg R. Leigh or, by rejecting them, he remains a marginal novelist as Thelonious Ellison. As it follows, the aim of this presentation is to cast light on how the novel, by suggesting that personal and authorial identity are constructed discursively, questions the idea of authorship in its essence.
 Everett, Percival L., Erasure, (London: Faber and Faber 2003), p. 4.
 Ibid., p. 4.
 Ibid., p. 4.
Mixed Race and Boundaryless: Mixed-Race Representation in Natasha Trethewey's Thrall
The representation of race in literary and artistic works has been widely debated in the field of American Studies. However, these larger debates on race and representation have not always adequately addressed the portrayal of mixed race peoples in art and poetry. As the field of mixed race studies continues to grow, my research project attempts to fill this gap by concentrating on the representation of mixed race children with white fathers paying special attention to how aspects of knowledge and colonialism/imperialism affect the portrayal of these father–child relationships. In my project, I will be more specifically analyzing poems from Natasha Trethewey’s Thrall (2012), in order to look more closely at her interpretation of the positioning of mixed race peoples in America, and in colonial representations, particularly Mexican Casta paintings. The aim of my paper is to argue that Trethewey uses ekphrasis and etymology in order to emphasize the relationship between language/knowledge and colonialism/‘othering’. Trethewey intertwines mixed race representation and experiences that seem disparate—her poems cross geographical, temporal, and spatial boundaries, just as mixed race peoples’ positioning in society often transcends such boundaries. Therefore, this project, by closely examining the representation of mixed race peoples and miscegenation in art and poetry, sheds a new light on how meaning can be developed between races and cultures. Further emphasizing how colonialism, knowledge, and etymology can be connected to these representations, thus contextualizing difference across time and space.
Female Stereotypes, (Secret) Sexual Identity(ies), and Marginalized Heroines: Representation and Subversion of Gender in DC Comics' Publications
This thesis aims to highlight the depiction of gender in DC Comics’ Publications. This paper attempts to find explanations for two key questions: first, in which way are gender roles depicted and consistently reinforced in DC Comics from the Golden Age period to the Modern Age of comic books and to what extend do these representations perpetuate assumptions about women based on stereotypes.
The objective of this paper is to establish a theoretical framework which lays the foundation for a better understanding of the depiction of femininity/masculinity in DC Comics and its influence on general perceptions of gender in the context of four main issues: stereotypical portrayals, sexual identity(ies), subversion of gender norms and underrepresentation by gender.
Therefore, the current paper is divided into four main sections: firstly, I will start with a discussion on sexualized portrayals of femininity and masculinity in DC Comics in correlation to the notion of female power/dominance/resistance as a threat to heteronormativity. Secondly, a number of issues such as a general misrepresentation of (homo)sexual identities of comic characters alongside heteronormative constructions of male superheroes will be pointed out. Thirdly, Wonder Woman’s origin story will be discussed in terms of gender norms and maternal performativity. Finally, a quantitative examination of female and male characters in DC comic books will contribute to a better understanding regarding to what extend one of the two biggest American comic book publishers has shaped and preserved stereotypes and assumptions based on gender depictions in their publications.
15:00 – 15:30
15:30 – 16:50
Chair: Christian Stenico (Innsbruck)
Since the 1970s, science fiction (sf) stories have invoked the possibility of trans identification to interrogate gender norms. However, until recently the genre’s futuristic orientation and fixation on technological advancement have overshadowed questions of identity and affective experience that are central to the lived reality of trans individuals. Thus, these stories were largely indicative of cisgender musings about what might happen if it were possible to live in a gender other than the one an individual was assigned to at birth. As a result, they negated and erased the continued historical existence of trans people and offered little to no grounds of identification for trans readers. The recent publication of six anthologies of sf short stories by trans authors provides a significant challenge to this legacy. In this paper, I will explore how the authors of these stories refocus the genre towards the affective and experiential dimension of trans life. In doing this, I will consider the ways in which these narratives might be able to function as identificatory and affective communal resources (i.e. trans worlds) for trans readers. To do this, I will juxtapose three short stories from the two anthologies published last year. Namely, Bogi Takács’ Transcendent 2: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction and Cat Fitzpatrick’s Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy from Transgender Writers.
Confusing Identities: Transgender and Crossdressing Characters in American Literature of the 1960s and 1970s
In my PhD project I analyze the changing representations of drag queen characters in American literature, starting with the period shortly before the Stonewall riots up to the present day. While researching the earliest decades, I noticed pervasive irregularities in the way non-binary characters are addressed in the analyzed novels. The terms “drag queen,” “transvestite,” and “transsexual” seem to be used either interchangeably or not at all. It is my goal to explain this confusion by focusing on the three main ways in which gender nonconformity was explained at that time: as an overt manifestation of one’s homosexuality, as necessarily transsexual, and as a third gender. Those explanations were derived from the medical and sociological studies of transgendered and crossdressing individuals, which were becoming increasingly more popular after Stonewall.
The first part of my presentation will consist of a brief overview of the beginnings of scientific interest in non-normative sexualities based on the work of Richard von Kraft-Ebing, Otto Weiningen, Magnus Hirschfeld, Edward Carpenter and Alfred Kinsey. I will follow with an analysis of studies published in the 1960s and 1970s: Harry Benjamin’s The Transsexual Phenomenon (1966), Esther Newton’s Mother Camp (1972) and a selection of articles published in medical journals. Finally, I will draw links between those theories and the strategies of representation of non-binary characters in four novels from the period: John Rechy’s City of Night (1963), Gore Vidal’s Myra Breckinridge (1968), Edward Swift’s Splendora (1978), and Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City (1978).
18:00 – 20:00
Saturday, October 13, 2018
08:30 – 09:00
Coffee / Opening
09:00 – 11:00
Chair: Helena Oberzaucher (Vienna)
Identity (Re)Construction in Life Narratives of US Veterans Suffering from PTSD (WT)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental disorder most frequently associated with, but not limited to, war veterans. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, “10% to 18% of OEF/OIF [Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom] troops are likely to have PTSD after they return.” In the broader context of trauma studies, U.S. veterans who served during the War on Terror are unique in as far as they frequently must be seen as perpetrators and not necessarily only as victims suffering from traumas. This mixed status as both victim and perpetrator in a society entrenched in patriarchal and hierarchical ideals frequently leads to questions regarding the identity construction(s) of the individual soldier especially after they leave the military service.
In my PhD project I will analyze life narratives written by U.S. veterans who served during the War on Terror and suffer from PTSD using theories from the fields of life narrative studies, trauma studies, affect studies, and gender studies. I will emphasize how these veterans employ their life narratives in attempts to negotiate their double-statuses as perpetrators and victims as well as soldiers and civilians. At the same time I will look at the presentation of the U.S. military and the U.S. government in these texts and how these institutions are used to define the soldiers’ focus on individuality and identity
(re)construction. This research aims to broaden the field of trauma studies and engage in the (moral) discussions connected to perpetrator traumas.
Postmodern and Posthuman Predicaments?
(Multi)Liminality as Monstrosity in The X-Files
In his Picturing Extraterrestrials: Alien Images in Modern Mass Culture, John F. Moffitt argues that “the reigning apocryphal celebrity of the […] postmodernist age […] is the extraterrestrial” (108), thus pinpointing the paradoxical status of the alien as a hidden icon. The X-Files, the TV phenomenon of the 1990s recently revived, likewise presents the figure of the alien as both seen and unseen. While most science-fiction/horror opts either for a full display of the monster in ghastly detail or else for hiding it from the spectators’ view, The X-Files, interestingly, does both: While (shapeshifting) aliens in humanoid form are frequently shown, ostensibly non-human extraterrestrial creatures are – barring spoofs and episodes set outside the usual narrative world – unseen, i.e. only shown as shadowy figures or in brief glimpses.
Not only in its visual representation does the extraterrestrial thus become a liminal figure and adopt a central role in a post/modernist borderland in The X-Files: the human-alien hybrids’ shapeshifting abilities both challenge gender binaries while also recalling classic monsters of the modern era, such as vampires. They thus effectively turn the alien into a multiliminal character.
Against the backdrop of the recent ‘posthuman turn’ that has blurred distinctions between the human and its others, I will use the multiliminal extraterrestrial to examine the relation between the human and non-human in our posthuman era. In line with Rosi Braidotti’s critical posthumanism, the televisual representation of extraterrestrials will serve to show that the posthuman era exacerbates rather than alleviates structural injustices.
“All You Write About / Is Being Gay or Chinese”:
Liminality in Chen Chen and Ocean Vuong’s Poems
The aim of this paper is to investigate how conceptions of space in the poems of two contemporary Asian American poets are negotiated. The analysis will include poems from Chen Chen’s poetry collection, When I Grow Up I Want to be a List of Further Possibilities, as it was nominated in Goodreads 2017 Best Poetry collection, and Ocean Vuong’s poetry collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds, as it was a recipient of the T. S. Eliot Prize, also in 2017.
I will examine how spaces are negotiated using the notions of liminality to convey specific meanings, interpretations and dynamics on two levels: the first involves the geographical references in the poems that function as spaces of comparisons, conflicts and negotiations. The second is the spatial location of the poems; where the narrative of the poem is based on. The negotiations between two spaces, one of the home country and the country of origin, between the East and the West, are always present. These are negotiated through the notions of liminality as poetical strategies in the poems. The notions of space are also addressed in terms of the visual forms of the poems and in terms of the in-betweenness of the geographical and mental spaces of being within the diasporic nuances of Asian American experiences. I argue that these spatial in-betweenness between two geographical references and locations show not only liminal occurrences, but also the heterogeneity of Asian American experiences.
11:00 – 11:30
11:30 – 12:50
(Constructing) Dynamic Space
Chair: Silke Jandl (Graz)
Construction, (Re)Creation and Transformation of Identity through Immigration
The concept of identity and identity transformation is a prominent and highly relevant topic in the context of (im)migration. As a buzzword once before in the 1980s and 1990s emerging with the increasing rise and prominence with American ethnic voices, among other areas of literature, identity can by no means at all be discarded as an old hat in literary and cultural studies in view of the recent political upheavals in the world as well as the current refugee crisis in particular.
The immigration process from Iran to the US from the 1970s onwards has witnessed two waves of “aliens” and “native-aliens” who respectively developed feelings of nostalgia and hope, while both had a constant longing of a one-day return to homeland. The present study contributes to the existing literature review by recognizing a third group—known as the third generation of immigrants: the “borderless immigrants” who may not be necessarily aware of their shaky identity but are bold enough to “shift the dynamics” of diasporic identity by going beyond the geographical borders in search for a sense of belonging.
As a human phenomenon, (im)migration in whichever form will always be shaped by questions of identity not only in the national and binational sense but also, and perhaps more in the current world, towards transnational approaches of identity. The inevitable outcomes of alienation, loss and homesickness may be reduced to a great extent through rethinking and reestablishing the socio-cultural boundaries we have always assumed as parts of our inborn identity.
Recently, Mobilities Studies has gained traction within American Studies, as more scholars look at the ways social, cultural, economic and linguistic mobility intersect, and how these intersecting processes are depicted and mirrored in literature and film. But mobility – a word which is here taken to point to the movements of people through space, the sociopolitical, financial and personal reasons for those movements, and the ways their movement changes their sense of place and sense of self – gestures not just towards large-scale movements (for example a “refugee crisis”) but extends to the small-scale mobility of moving apartments: Even if it’s just from one Brooklyn apartment to another. This kind of mobility has been particularly present in American television (and film) in recent years: While Carrie Bradshaw lived in the same beautiful Upper East Side apartment throughout the run of Sex and the City, the characters in Girls steadily move from one apartment to the next, sometimes to be closer to lovers or friends, but often out of financial necessity; the same is true in films such as Frances Ha. Through looking at the mobility of moving apartments, it becomes possible to engage with the usefulness of Mobility Studies for American Studies while linking the characters’ (in)voluntary movement through space to the highly individual relationships they nonetheless build to their apartments, their “corner of the world” (Bachelard, The Poetics of Space).
13:30 – ~17:00
Optional: Farewell Lunch (tba),
followed by a cultural activity in Salzburg