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Saturday, October 6 • 4:00pm - 5:20pm
Mixed Panel 4

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Lauren Russell, ""Descent": An “Encounter with Nothing” Takes Form(s)--A Reading "
In 2013, I acquired a copy of my great-great-grandfather’s diary. Robert Wallace (“Bob”) Hubert was a Captain in the Confederate Army. After his return from the Civil War, he fathered twenty children by three of his former slaves, who were also sisters. One of those children was my great-grandmother. As I transcribed the 225-page diary, I became interested in its omissions and decided to write into the space of what is missing. In "Lose Your Mother," Saidiya Hartman writes, “I was determined to fill in the blank spaces of the historical record and to represent the lives of those deemed unworthy of remembering, but how does one write a story about an encounter with nothing?” In "Descent," my reckoning with this part of my family history, I adopt Hartman’s question as a formal challenge. What forms might “an encounter with nothing” take? What surfaces when I excavate the language beneath the words in Bob Hubert’s diary, as in my poem “Whippoorwill”? What does a formal constraint like iambic pentameter produce when lent to the voice of my great-great-grandmother Peggy, who, like the “saints” in Alice Walker’s “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens,” must have exercised her creativity within the confines of her life? Descent is a hybrid work of verse, prose, images, documents; traditional and innovative forms. Following in the footsteps of poets like M. NourbeSe Phillip, my reading, as a textual and vocal enactment, will raise questions around what emerges when we give an “encounter with nothing” form.

Travis Sharp, "Does that make me crazy?": Bob the Drag Queen's Radical Aesthetics
Aesthetics and politics are prominent in many Marxist theories of the avant-garde, with aesthetics and politics being alternately read as incommensurable and mutually exclusive or as necessarily in dialectical or mutually deterministic relation, as autonomous spheres, as an autonomy-in-heteronomy, or as tools to be put to use in the revolution. Absent in many of these narratives are any integral inclusions of race. Susan Ferguson, in “Intersectionality and Social-Reproduction Feminisms,” argues against the Marxist tendency to subsume race under the sign of class and for the displacement of outdated notions of class and intersectionality in favor of a social reproduction theory; while her interest lies primarily in social reproductive feminism, she notes that this has profound implications for race, which must be understood as integral and interior to class, not relegated beneath it. Similarly, this presentation offers readings of performances/texts that consider race as an integral category in the dialectic of aesthetics and politics. Specifically, I will show and discuss Bob the Drag Queen’s covers of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” and Britney Spears’ “I’m a Slave 4 U,” which interrogate the aesthetics/politics of the original songs and their lip synched iterations, including the relationship between black performer and white audience, the slippages between person and persona within drag, and the politics of race and place in primarily white queer venues. Given the tradition of considering the avant-garde as that which integrates the artistic into the praxis of life, it is crucial to consider drag performances as key contemporary avant-garde gestures.

Harvey Thomlinson, "A Different Language: The Strike "
Recent research by Lera Boroditsky and others have revived interest in the question of how intricately language shapes our thought, and in the practice of fiction writing in the modernist tradition which tries to hack linguistic templates. Standard syntax implies conceptual relations, such as causality, which as the linguist Peter Kay suggests, shape the way we ‘compartmentalize reality’. My project The Strike purposively misuses language to create a mimesis for readers of the temporal fissures of a remote ice-bound Chinese border town torn apart by an underground strike. The experimental sentences subvert correspondences between syntactic and semantic structures and has been described as a kind of idioglossia that shakes up the synapses of readers. The real aim, though, was to help readers understand the world of the novel and all the meanings it contains. In my session I will read fragments and draw on perspectives from multiple disciplines to present a taxonomy of syntactical templates from the text which share a consistent goal to destabilise the sentence. There may be a resonance with phenomenology, as practiced by Merleau-Ponty and others, which tried to relate experience without obscuring the description through misused concepts.


Lauren Russell

Center for African American Poetry & Poetics, University of Pittsburg
Lauren Russell is the author of What’s Hanging on the Hush (Ahsahta, 2017). She was the 2014-2015 Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, the 2016 VIDA Fellow to the Home School, a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing... Read More →

Travis Sharp

University of Buffalo, SUNY
Travis Sharp is a poet, book artist, and teacher living in Buffalo, NY, the writer of the chapbook Sinister Queer Agenda (above/ground press, forthcoming), co-editor of Radio: 11.8.16 (Essay Press, 2017), and a PhD student in the SUNY Buffalo Poetics Program. He's also a teaching... Read More →

Harvey Thomlinson

Originally from the UK, Harvey Thomlinson is best known as a translator of novels by rebellious Chinese writers including Murong Xuecun and Chen Xiwo. Harvey’s translations (and occasional columns) have also been published in New York Times and the Guardian. His own innovative writing... Read More →

Saturday October 6, 2018 4:00pm - 5:20pm EDT
120 DeBartolo Hall

Attendees (1)