Intrusive comic book research, literary misbehavior & pop-cultural observations.
May include nuts, personal opinions and non-academic language.

torstai 19. tammikuuta 2017

Still Alive!

Yeah, regularity is not how I roll. If I was a bus, I'd be operating in somewhere deep in Siberia.

But that's not the whole story. I've also had a crisis of blog faith in these past six months. Remind me again: why? Who the hell ever reads any of this? Sure it's better to have a blog than a block, but isn't blogging really just a nicer word for procrastinating?

Regardless of all that, one of my New Year's resolutions was writing at least 500 words OF SOMETHING every day of January, and so far it has gone so swimmingly I thought I might chuck a piece of my new-found writing mojo here as well. Not all writing needs to be of any use to anyone besides the writer herself.

Of course, not much of this flow and wishful thinking has reached my dissertation either. Not yet. That would be the next month's goal:
1. Wake the dragon.
2. Learn how to ride it.
3. Fly!
4. Save the kingdom.
Right? Dissertation writing in a nutshell.

But now, let us wrap up 2016:

The best news is I had two of my dissertation articles published! (Out of four or five, I haven't decided yet.)

You can find the final draft and publication information of the first one, "Something Borrowed: Interfigural Characterization in Anglo-American Fantasy Comics" here. It has three main points:
  • It explores how comics might correspond to Müller's theory of interfigurality (that is, how characters in different works of fiction relate and allude to each other).
  • It suggests that The Sandman and Vertigo have inspired a very peculiar subgenre of intertextual fantasy - which may not be unique to comics but seems to be especially well suited to this specific medium.
  • Most importantly, it points out that the notion of interfigurality presupposes a cognitive conception of characters. (Of course, intertextuality and transmediality rest on the cognitive processes of reading - on the readers' memory and inference - on a larger scale as well!)

The second one "Hyllyiltä ruutuihin ja ruuduista sydämiin: Sarjakuvahahmot muuttuvina elämystuotteina" came out in an anthology about experience economy Elämykset kulttuurina ja kulttuuri elämyksinä (2016). Unfortunately, the book is only available in Finnish and not open access quite yet. My text argues that the production history as well as the marketing strategies of comics industry have affected comic book characters in many direct and indirect ways - a fact that comics scholars ignore far too often! On the other hand, characters can be regarded as brands that differentiate and guide multi-platform media consumption. In addition, the final subchapter discusses how copyright holders and fan producers - canon and fanon - negotiate representational and identity issues largely through characters.

(This subject actually piqued my interest again this week, as the (admittedly) disappointing Sherlock season finale roused noisy internet protests against "queerbaiting". I'm not a real fandom researcher by any stretch of imagination, but the phenomenon might be worth looking at through the characters' perspective as well. Who is to say - or how is anyone to know - what a fictional character "deserves"? And does it matter, since - unlike us - fictional characters are able to lead several counterfactual lives?  - Well, apparently it does matter to great many people. And that right there is the really interesting part. Paradox of fiction exemplified - but also something much messier, more social and more complicated.).

On top of that, I presented at EIGHT conferences. And helped to organize one. Oh, and then there was this winter school where we sought alternatives to representational thinking (and I lodged in a freezing nunnery)!
Was that maaaaaybe a bit too much?
Oh, yes. I'm trying to take it easier this year and concentrate on writing for once.

Only two of the conferences required traveling abroad, though. SASS 2016 took me all the way to New Orleans, and while I didn't get that much out of the conference itself, I really enjoyed every drop of the Deep South. USA always surprises me (- and it used to be positive).

NOLA was rainy but wonderful.
Transmediations! conference in Växjö was the exact opposite: for a Finn, Sweden isn't exactly the most exciting place to explore, but the conference itself was easily the best one I attended during the entire busy year. I had such interesting conversations with so many nice people, and my own paper was overwhelmingly well received. (Marie-Laure Ryan actually praised my idea to rethink transmedia theories through character theories (and vice versa)! And that, boys and girls, is the origin story of my final dissertation article-in-process...) 

Central Växjö
I have no idea how much I read work-related stuff last year, but if I had to approximate, I'd say...a thought-whale and a half? I try (and fail) to take brief notes of all comics albums I read, and I have 50 entries from last year. Here's some highlights:
  • 2016's topmost reading memory is that I finished two of my favorite series: Mike Carey and Peter Gross's The Unwritten, and Hiroaki Samura's Blade of the Immortal. The former was quite thrilling in professional sense, the latter quite emotional on a more personal level.  (I was still in high school when I first encountered this beautifully drawn samurai seinen series, and it's the only manga I've ever kept following from beginning to end!)
  • My other favorites included Eva Dorkin and Jill Thompson's Beasts of Burden, and the Edward-Goreyesque Agnes-trilogy of 2016's Comics Finlandia award winner Kati Närhi (Saniaislehdon salaisuudet, Mustasuon mysteeri, Seitsemäs vieras). Both works manage to be very adorable and very creepy at the same time.
  • That Richard McGuire's Here is a masterpiece probably goes without saying? 
  • Blakey Vermeule's Why Do We Care about Literary Characters? was the only theory book I read completely from cover to cover. It gave me loads of ideas, but little answers.

And so. What's next? What adventures promises 2017?

I'll soon be attending a course where they'll teach me how to compile an article dissertation. Which is great. I have no idea what I'm doing.

Tomorrow I'll be leaving for Svalbard. (For a conference, yes - you got me!) A land that's haunted my dreams since I read The Golden Compass at the age of 11. The farthest North I'll probably ever go. I might get chills, but it's not all going to be from the cold.

I'll be spending March and April in Leuven, Belgium. I'm expecting sunny, continental courtyards, loaded Belgian waffles, new comics-crazy contacts and acquaintances, taking inhumane amounts of notes and photocopies, and riding the train to various locations of interest on weekends.

If everything goes according to plan - or if my improvisation skills are on point (because nothing ever goes according to plan) - I'll be defending my Frankensteinian dissertation baby against all odds by the end of the year.

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