Beth Leonardo Silva joined the English department in September 2013 as a Master’s student and hit the ground running. Last year, Beth received the Student Excellence in the Humanities award for all the work she does in research, teaching, and service. Currently a Ph.D. student, Beth is working on preparing for her comprehensive exams towards her dissertation. Focusing on Victorian literature, she is most interested in sibling and sibling-like relationships in novels. Alongside this work, she has published one article, “Rethinking the Familiar: Social Outsiders in Eliza Lynn Linton’s The Rebel of the Family and Rhoda Broughton’s Dear Faustina,” in Victorians Institute Journal and has two more under review. “Rethinking the Familiar” asks readers to reconsider the New Woman novel to see the outlier as the heteronormative male suitor, rather than the threatening woman, due to the sibling-like relationships that are offered at the conclusion of the novels. “Milking the System: How Breastfeeding Opens Up New Readings of Doctor Thorne and the Familiar Marriage Plot,” currently under review, considers the relationship between breastfeeding and social climbing, and “Between Siblings: Performing the Brother in Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White and No Name,” also under review, looks more closely at potential incestous desire as a radical rewriting of the marriage contract.
We are excited to announce that our own Jenna Guitar, a first-year PhD student, has recently published a chapter in Glee and New Directions for Social Change. She was kind enough to answer a few questions about her work and the publishing process. Congratulations!
Q: First, can you give us a brief synopsis of your chapter? A sentence or two take-away if you will.
A: My paper is occupied with examining the ways theatrical performance can help high school students understand Butler’s theory of fluid identity. The paper focuses on a specific season one moment in the television show Glee. The students are asked to “go Gaga” as they perform various Lady Gaga songs to tap into their theatrical identities. By tapping into these theatrical personas, the students learn that their identities are fluid and not stagnant. Essentially they perform Butler’s seminal argument concerning identity in the episode, which I found to be fascinating.
Q: I’d like to ask a bit about the process involved in getting this published. Was this a term paper that you found a call for, or did you find a call for chapters and decide to write this?
A: This was originally a seminar paper from a Queer Theory course I took at New Mexico State University. I later presented the paper at the National PCA/ACA in Washington DC, while I was working on my Master’s degree at SUNY New Paltz. From that conference I was approached by the editors of the book who were interested in including my essay in their collection Glee and New Directions for Social Change. The book was just recently published in January. All in all, this was a five year process from writing it to actually getting it published.
Q: How was the peer review process? Was it nerve wracking? Did you get constructive feedback?
A: My editors were very kind. They offered some minor tweaks and revisions, but the most labor intensive changes stemmed from having to change everything from MLA to APA. The book is interdisciplinary and the two editors kept going back and forth about how the book should be formatted and finally determined it should be in APA. So, it was a bit tedious changing everything to the new format, especially because I was not very familiar with how APA worked.
Q: Did you find anything about working with pop culture particularly challenging, or liberating?
A: I often work with popular culture, so I really felt in my element. I feel most comfortable in the pop culture arena and am always really excited when I get to do a project along those lines.
Q: Do you want to work on Glee in the future? Is the high school experience something you are interested in, or was the chance to talk about gender performativity the greater draw?
A: I’m not sure if I would work with the television show Glee again. I wouldn’t be opposed, but I don’t have any plans as of yet. However, I am fascinated by representations of high school students in television and would definitely like to continue research in that area at some point. Gender studies is one of my main research interests and generally the lens I adopt in my work, so that was definitely a draw.
In her first semester at URI, Kara Watts enrolled in a modernism course with Professor Jean Walton, and it was here that an idea began to hatch when she read an excerpt of Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage. When we talked, Kara recalled that she hadn’t encountered Richardson before, but was immediately intrigued. Professor Walton recommended some useful resources to get started, and while Richardson’s work continued to interest her, Kara eventually decided to cut her work on Pilgrimage for the course’s culminating paper.
Remember, though, that this is a story about good work developing over time. It is also a story of how great work sometimes emerges from the waste basket. With her seminar paper submitted, Kara returned to the ideas that had originally so interested her in Richardson’s work. In particular, she continued to think about modernist conceptions of accumulation, everyday life, everyday habits, and the impulse she saw for modernists to accumulate “stuff.” While this accumulation doesn’t necessarily lead to connections, it did lead to collections, and this is especially prominent in Richardson’s work. Reading Pilgrimage evoked questions, such as: Is Richardson’s text faulty for these mundane masses of objects, risking alienating readers, like Mansfield, with assaults of “stuff”? Or, does this textual excess exhibit something else – a model of readership, an economic model of consciousness – that pushes these accumulations to the fore?
Last semester, I taught the course ENG 245, Introduction to Film Decades, with the theme “Teen Films of the 1980s.” I found that our classroom conversations often led students to puzzle over what teens were “really like” back in the 1980s. I would sometimes remind them that for those of us who grew up in that era, life was not, in fact, anything like a John Hughes film.
In my quest to find a documentary about teen life in the 1980s, I stumbled upon All American High, a film by Keva Rosenfeld , which was nominated for the 1987 Sundance Film Festival Documentary Grand Jury Prize and aired on PBS in 1988. As it turns out, the film had recently been remastered and has found a new audience nearly thirty years later; it will screen in the upcoming 2014 South by Southwest Film Festival (SXSW) as part of a program with the Austin Film Society.
So I decided to contact Keva Rosenfeld and interview him about the production and re-release of the film and its own portrait of teen life. As I discovered, the film, which was filmed about a contemporaneous moment, has now become something of a nostalgia film for the 1980s, in the Jamesonian sense. You can read the resulting interview at The Independent.