Monthly Archives: September 2015

Revisiting NecronomiCon Providence

In August, The Lovecraft conference returned to Providence, RI in honor of H.P. Lovecraft’s 125th birthday.  Sponsored by the Lovecraft Arts & Sciences Council, the Rhode Island Historical Society, and the city of Providence, this year’s event was an exciting exploration of this author’s life and works.  In addition to the symposium on new academic research, there were panels discussing literary analysis of weird fiction as well as its influence on popular culture, vendors with all manner of books and artwork, and exhibitions of Lovecraft-inspired art, theater, and film.  I was first introduced to this wonderful conference two years ago.

In 2013 I presented an academic paper at the Howard Phillips Lovecraft academic conference and convention in Providence, Rhode Island.  Having recently graduated with my Master’s degree, I was simultaneously filled with unbridled ambition and crippling anxiety; riding on the high of producing a Master’s thesis while unnerved at the prospect of being thrust out into the real world to mingle with accomplished scholars.  The experience was invaluable in providing that first foray into the wide world of conferencing while helping me surmount my fear of venturing into the daunting unknown that is Academia.

For the uninitiated, Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937) was born in Providence, Rhode Island.  He spent most of his life in the College Hill district of the city where he wrote for pulp magazines including Weird Tales.  His body of work is widely regarded as the pinnacle of weird fiction: a convergence of science fiction, horror, and fantasy.

In 2013, one of the largest Lovecraft conventions was held at the Providence Biltmore, which Lovecraft called “the sumptuous Biltmore Hotel, which is 18th century in every essential outline and decoration.”  Affectionately termed NecronomiCon after a plot device used in Lovecraft’s tales of cosmic horror, the gathering was equal parts academic conference and outlet for weird fiction fandom.  There were numerous panels featuring preeminent Lovecraft scholars including S.T. Joshi and Robert M. Price, as well as talks regarding Lovecraft’s lasting impact on film and television that featured renowned director Stuart Gordon.

Despite the celebrities of Lovecraft studies, my personal highlight was the Emerging Scholarship Symposium.  This series of academic presentations was dedicated to various topics of Lovecraft scholarship.  I presented a paper culled from my Master’s thesis research titled “Poe, Lovecraft, and ‘The Uncanny’:  The Horror of the Self.”  This essay posited a psychoanalytic interpretation of Lovecraft’s speculative fiction as a progression from that of Edgar Allan Poe where the narrative “self” becomes the locus of fractured and displaced identity.  As the subconscious mind exists as alien or “other” to the conscious mind, characters (and particularly the narrators) of Poe and Lovecraft are external representations of internal dissonance.  The self is its own primal source of terror, which inevitably evolves into self-loathing.

The Emerging Scholarship Symposium was an audacious forum for professional and amateur academics to present their research regarding the works of H.P. Lovecraft.  There was some backlash regarding the designation of the event as one for “Emerging Scholarship” as several presenters were experienced academics with a wide array of published works on various topics not limited to weird fiction.  This moment brought some humor and much needed humanity to the esoteric affair as the stuffy aura that sometimes plagues Academia was interrupted by the vaunted pride of the experienced scholars and the reckless abandon of the uninitiated, eager to have something (or anything) published.  The panel has since been rechristened the Dr. Henry Armitage Memorial Scholarship Symposium, which is another whimsical reference to Lovecraft’s elaborate mythos of interconnecting characters and settings.

Student Accomplishments

Greetings students, faculty, and visitors! As everyone is gearing up for the 2015-2016 academic year, we thought we’d start off by reviewing some of the accomplishments of our graduate students from last year. What better way to inspire us all to submit that article, chair that panel, give that talk, or take on that new project than by celebrating what our peers have already accomplished. We congratulate everyone on their success and look forward to an even more productive year! (If you have been left off of this list, please contact us so we can get you added and celebrate your success!)

Laura Marie Marciano, a first year PhD student, will publish her first full length book of poetry, Mall Brat, with Civil Coping Mechanism Press in 2016. She also continues to work in the online publication of female-identified and queer poets, through her collective Gemstone Readings. www.gemstonereadings.net.

Karen Shea presented “‘I Never Did This in My Country’: Easing Post-Secondary ESL Writers out of Their Comfort Zones by Introducing Them to Rhetorical Reading and Prezi” as part of a larger panel presentation entitled “‘But I Don’t Have Time to Teach Reading’: Using Multimodal Approaches to Teach Rhetorical Reading in the Composition Classroom” at the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) in March. She also presented “Not Only in Words: Multimodality and Prezi in Postsecondary ESL” at the Massachusetts Association of Teachers to Speakers of Other Languages (MATSOL) Conference in May.

Eileen James, a Ph.D. student specializing in Rhet./Comp, published her poetry “Gardens Grow” in Contraposition Magazine and “Nightmares” in Monsters and the Monstrous: Global Interdisciplinary Research Studies. She also published “Encouraging Connections to Support a Positive Culture of Writing Assessment: Adjunct Composition Instructors, Students, and Campus Resources” in CCCC Forum. She presented her paper “Incomplete Soul: Problematic Portrayals of the Black Nerd Character in Contemporary American Media” at the National Association of African American Studies Joint Conference, as well as gave a poetry reading titled “One Normal Body: Black Mother, Black Girl, Human Being” at the English Graduate Organization Conference, UMASS Amherst. She was also a conference panel presenter at CCCC with fellow URI students Ashton Foley, Bridget Fullerton, and Jenna Morton-Aiken. Their panel was titled “Crafting a University-Wide General Education Writing Rubric: Taking on Thorny Public Practices in the Rose Garden.” Her paper was titled “Participant Recruitment and Rubric Development.”

Sara E. Murphy organized a discussion panel titled “Peter Weir’s Dead Poets Society 25 Years Later: Meditations on Melodrama, Trauma, Solidarity, and Suicide” for the Mid-Atlantic Popular & American Culture Association Conference in Baltimore in November, in which she presented her work, “Dead Poets Society and the American Culture of Suicide,” alongside that of department student and alumnae Brittany Hirth, Gavin Hurley, and Don Rodrigues. In March, she was the invited speaker at a university-wide talk for the annual awareness week of the URI chapter of the National Nursing Fraternity, Alpha Tau Delta, giving a presentation titled “Breaking Silence: Perspectives on Contemporary Suicide.” Also in March, she presented her paper, “Suffering in Silence: The Stigma of Superheroism in Suicidality for the End-of-Life Population” at the American Comparative Literature Association Conference in Seattle. In April, she defended successfully her PhD dissertation, “Toward a Psychosocial Understanding of Suicide in American Literature and Culture of the 1990’s,” directed by Professor Martha Elena Rojas. Most recently, Dr. Murphy was elected to the Credentialing Council of the Association for Death Education and Counseling. Following commencement, she will continue her work as an instructor in the Honors Program and the Thanatology Program while conducting grief and suicide education seminars and intervention programs in the private and public sectors.

Barbara Farnsworth has a book chapter coming out in June 2015. The title of her chapter is “The Self-Analysis of Christopher Tietjens” and the book is: War and the Mind: Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End: Modernism, and Psychology (ed. Ashley Chantler and Rob Hawkes, Edinburgh University Press). Along with fellow URI students Ashton Foley and Beth Leonardo, she proposed and presented a panel at the Northeast Conference on British Studies at Bates College, ME. Carolyn Betensky was kind enough to join them on their road trip and moderate their panel. The panel’s name was “Exploring Perceptions of Women in Nineteenth-Century England.” Barbara’s paper was “Surplus Spinsters in He Knew He Was Right.” Along with six other students (Ashton Foley, Molly Hall, Beth Leonardo, Danielle Sanfillipo, and Kara Watts) from Travis Williams’ Fall 2014 Hamlet class, Barbara participated in a Round Table on April 18 at the URI Graduate Conference. The roundtable was titled: Possibilities in Discourses of Hamlet: A Roundtable.

Sarah Kingston has a chapter in a book coming out in June. The chapter is called “The Work of Sleep: Insomnia and Discipline in Ford and Sassoon.” The book is called War and the Mind: Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End, Modernism, and Psychology (editors are Ashley Chantler and Rob Hawkes, Edinburgh UP).

Ashton Foley participated in the self-proposed roundtable “Possibilities in Discourses of Hamlet: A Roundtable” at the URI Graduate Conference on April 18. Her paper was “From Geruth to Gertrude: Depictions of Motherhood in Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Its Sources.” Fellow URI students Beth Leonardo, Barbara Farnworth, Kara Watts, Danielle Sanfilippo also participated in the panel. It was moderated by Prof. Travis Williams. She presented her paper “Crafting a University-Wide General Education Writing Rubric: Taking on Thorny Public Practices in the Rose Garden” (with Bridget Fullerton, Eileen James, and Jenna Morton-Aiken), at the Conference on College Composition and Communication Annual Convention, in Tampa, FL. She also presented “Recasting Fortune: Absence as Catalyst for Sentimental Education in Susan Warner’s The Wide, Wide World,” at Boston College’s Biennial English Graduate Conference in Chestnut Hill, MA. Finally, she presented “The Victorian Woman as Prescribed by Medical Science (Revised),” as part of self-proposed panel titled “Surplus, Succubus, or Slut? Exploring the Perceptions of Women of the 19th Century England” at the Northeast Conference on British Studies Annual Meeting in Lewiston, ME. She presented with fellow URI students Beth Leonardo and Barbara Farnworth, with Prof. Carolyn Betensky acting as respondent and moderator

Jillian Belanger received the URI Digital Literacy Summer Scholar Grant. She presented her paper “Summer Institute in Digital Literacy” at RIDE Innovation Powered by Technology Conference. She also presented “How Many Discourses Does It Take to Screw in a Humor Symposium?: Theorizing the Pedagogical Possibilities of Humorous Media” at the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association Conference. At the International Society of Humor Studies Conference she presented “Rhetors and Jesters: Rereading the Stand-up Comedians as Sophists” and at the URI Digital Literacy Institute she presented “Tools and Technology in the ELL Classroom.” The Journal of Media Literacy Education accepted her book review of A Pedagogy of Powerful Communication: Youth Radio and Radio Arts in the Multilingual Classroom by Dana Walker, publication forthcoming.

Anthony Conrad Chieffalo presented a paper at the Dr. Henry Armitage Memorial Symposium during NecronomiCon Providence 2015, a biennial conference featuring numerous academic panels relating to native Rhode Island author H.P. Lovecraft. Titled “From Crawling Chaos to Elder Things: Mythic Evolution in Weird Fiction,” this marks his second contribution to the symposium. His paper from the 2013 conference titled “Poe, Lovecraft, and ‘The Uncanny’: The Horror of the Self” was recently published in Lovecraftian Proceedings No. 1 (editors are John Michel Sefel, Niels-Viggo S. Hobbs, and Robyn Hill, Hippocampus Press.)