In exactly one week (ONE WEEK!), I will be presenting at the Center for Early Cultures at the University of California, Irvine’s graduate student conference, Historical Corporealities. I cannot wait! And, as of today, it’s even more real: there’s a poster with my name on it! Take a look:
Surprise! Today has been an exciting day, mostly because of some great news I received: I will be presenting at University of California, Irvine’s Center for Early Cultures 2020 Graduate Student Conference, “Historical Corporealities” on January 30. I’ll be talking about autofiction in Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World and biofiction in Danielle Dutton’s Margaret the First. Although that’s an honor in and of itself, I am even more excited for the keynote speaker: Valerie Traub. She’s one of the foremost scholars in queer theory and queer historicism, and I cannot wait to hear her speak.
Happy Holidays, all! I come bearing exciting news. This February, I will be attending and presenting at the Southwest Popular/American Culture Association 41st Annual Conference, and I couldn’t be more excited.
On February 21st, I will be on a panel in the Esotericism and Occultism area entitled “Esotericism, Magic, and Occultism on Television,” where I will be presenting my paper “Charting the ‘Third Way’: Feminist Reimaginations of Patriarchal Religious Structures in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.” In this paper, I argue that the Satanic Church of Night in the series acts as a dark double for the actual Catholic Church, pointing to its flaws, particularly in its treatment of women. Working off of Per Faxneld’s book Satanic Feminism, I also examine how the show engages in counter-mythology, focusing on the dynamic character of Lilith. Ultimately, I argue that the series illuminates a “third way” (an allusion to Sabrina’s declaration in the second episode of the series, in which she rejects “the path of light” (Catholicism) and “the path of night” (Satanism)) of being in which women reimagine the religious structures around them to account for female power, and even reconsider the religious figure they worship.
I also have the honor of participating in two roundtables the following day. First, I will be participating in a roundtable titled “Stranger Than Angels: Esoteric, Magical, and Occult Worldviews in the New Golden Age of Television.” Later, I will be moderating another roundtable, this one called “Doctored Paradigms Stranger Than Truth? The Infinite Magical Marvels of the Superhero Genre, or, Should We Learn to Stop Worrying and Love SHAZAM?” Both sessions promise to be exciting and engaging discussions about the current state of popular entertainment and its investments in esotericism and occultism.
I have always been drawn to tales of horror and mystery. I watched every Halloween movie on Disney Channel and Cartoon Network each year as a child. I implored my grandma to tell me ghost stories as we sat on the swing outside at twilight. In fifth grade, I read “The Tell-Tale Heart” for fun and declared that Edgar Allan Poe was my favorite author; he still is one of my favorites, and I still read his stories before bed from time to time. Even now, as an adult, I’d like to think that the world is stranger than most would believe.
With all of this said, you can understand why I spent my formative years as a writer trying over and over to write horror stories, testing them on classmates at lunch time, revising them everyday. I didn’t start writing down any of these stories until I was in high school, at which point I realized I was too eager to reveal big twists and clever turns to tell a great horror story. I always ruined them by giving up secrets too soon. Eventually, I decided that I was better suited to read horror and mystery and gave up on writing in the genres I so loved.
It wasn’t until last fall, my senior year of undergraduate studies, that I dipped my toes back into that murky water in a creative writing class. I was also working on my thesis at the time and, as a result, I was constantly looking at daily, mundane forms of communication and expression as possible forms to appropriate in my own writing. It was then, around this time last year, that I came up with the basis for this piece: a horror story told through browsing history. Very rarely have I been so miraculously inspired; I wrote the bulk of “Case File #3689” in a single night, hunched over my computer, taking notes on my own browsing history in order to create the fictional character’s search history, and slowly creating the mysterious figure at the heart of this tale: JW.
In our class workshop, many asked who–or what–JW was. If you’re looking for an answer here, I’m afraid I’ve since learned to keep my secrets locked up tight. Several classmates tried to convince me to “finish” the piece, to reveal JW’s identity, to show what happens after Harkness’s last email, to play things through, but that’s not what this story is about. More than that, that’s not the scope of this story. Readers are stuck in the machine, only able to see what is revealed through that medium; what goes beyond the computer, you can only guess at. While that might sound like a cop-out, I urge you to see the mystery of this story as openness and freedom for each reader to make their own meaning. The beauty of this story, to me, is in its consciousness of its existence as text, as something to be interpreted and reinterpreted through whatever lens or context the reader sees it through. Let your eyes adjust to the darkness of this piece and find your own ending in the shadows and figures that arise. Forget about me, the author, and figure out, on your own, what this story means to you. I’m willing to bet that your answers are way cooler than mine.
Find the full story in Vice-Versa.
“The gospel of Angels in America is not to change the world, but to change the people in it; this is where “The Great Work Begins” and where the text reaches beyond the generation of its origin and into present and future generations (Kushner 290).”
Although there is much I could say about the critical merits of Angels in America (as made clear by my recently published article), I’d like to take a moment here to focus on my personal connection to the play. Before 2018, I had never heard of Tony Kushner or Angels. I had heard of queer theory in passing, as some distant concept, but I knew nothing more than the first few sentences of its Wikipedia entry will tell you. Although I had decided, in January 2018, that I would study English in graduate school, I didn’t feel a strong connection to any one theoretical pursuit. That’s when I stumbled upon Angels in America.
Angels in America changed the trajectory of my life. It was my gateway into queer literature (which I was desperate for after coming out in October 2017) and the work that set me on the path to queer theory. More than that, Angels spoke to a part of me–a large part–that was terrified and lost in a world that felt increasingly violent, tumultuous, and unsustainable. It offered me, as it has offered so many others over the past few decades, genuine hope against all odds. It showed me that those who suffer can still survive, can still thrive, can still find happiness. Most importantly, it revealed to me characters capable of change–slow change, perhaps, and incremental, but change nonetheless–for the better. Today, in a country that faces dangerous polarization, that vision is extremely significant.
In writing this article, I was not only applying Kushner’s 1990s messages to the present national context, I was reminding myself to see hope where only despair seemed to exist. It was a constant battle to keep moving–through the article and through life itself–as the news grew bleaker. By the end of 2018, I found myself relating to Harper as I never had before, and I believe that her hopelessness (near the beginning of the play) is a feeling many today can relate to. But it is still Prior, the bleeding heart at the center of the maelstrom, that I find myself drawn to. When he blesses the audience with “More Life,” there is a fierce hope in his words, a sense of defiance against helplessness, and it is that feeling that I reminded myself to fight to maintain. Ultimately, I believe that Kushner himself, through the play, tries to instill within us the courage to continue the fight for hope. It is with this in mind that I finish this article:
“…there will always be times of great terror, of disillusionment, of hopelessness, and Angels in America will continue to give voice to those times, as it does now. Texts may rise and fall in popularity, but the message of Angels in America endures: “More Life” (Kushner 290).”
Full article may be found in Mānoa Horizons.
I am so pleased to announce that “Case File #3689”–a piece of ergodic fiction that combines emails, internet history, and an FBI agent’s report–has been selected for publication by Vice-Versa, a University of Hawai’i ezine. The piece will be published in the 2019 issue, themed “Otherworld/Underworld,” and can be expected this September.