Mobirise

Invited Talks
and
Presentations

Invited Lectures

"Cultural Appropriation and the Literary Imagination." Harvard University, March 2020.

 

Event sponsored by the Twentieth Century and Contemporary Literature Colloquium at Harvard University.

"Twitter Literature: Practices and Methods of Using Twitter Data in Literary Research." Northeastern University, November 2018.

 

Event sponsored by the Digital Scholarship Group at Northeastern University.

"Collaboration through Praxis." Regional DH Symposium. University of Virginia, March 2018.

 

Event sponsored by the University of Virginia Scholars' Lab.

"Human Machines and Mechanical Humans: Approaching Robotics through the Humanities." TEDxCharlottesville, November 2017.

 

Event sponsored by TEDx Charlottesville. Talk published online.

"How to Survive and Thrive in Graduate School." English Department Professionalization Initiative. University of Dallas, October 2017.

 

Event funded by the University of Dallas English Department.

"Highbrow or Lowbrow? Considering the Gothic and Digital Literature." Washington and Lee University, March 2017.

 

Event funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. For a reflection of the talk, visit the Digital Humanities @ Washington & Lee Blog Page.

Conference Presentations

"Project Twitter Literature: Scraping, Analyzing, & Archiving Twitter Data in Literary Research." DH2020. Virtual Event, July 2020.

 

Project Twitter Literature (TwitLit), seeks to address a growing gap in the literary-historical record by establishing a consistent, rigorous, and ethical method for scraping and cleaning up Twitter data for the use of humanities scholars. In particular, my project explores the growing community of amateur writers who are using Twitter as a means of publication and dissemination for their literary output. There are three parts to my project: the research findings related to the global literary community on Twitter, the tools and resources developed as part of the project and made openly available to other scholars, and partnership with a university library to ensure the long-term preservation of the collected data. Information relating to the data collection process and research findings – including detailed instructions, the Python scripts used to collect Twitter data, and a list of resources – are free and openly accessible on the project’s website (www.twit-lit.com) and GitHub repository (https://github.com/TwitLit/TwitLitSource). Other scholars are invited to use these scripts and other resources to collect their own Twitter data. Full talk available on the Humanities Commons website.

"Enhancing Community through Open DH Website Design." Project Collaborator: Rennie Mapp. DH2020. Virtual Event, July 2020. 

 

Our lightning talk offers solutions to the need for communication about Digital Humanities (DH) projects and undertakings on university campuses, particularly through the development of institutional DH websites. By an “institutional DH website,” we mean a community website, hosted by a given university or institution, that is explicitly devoted to the advancement, support, and promotion of DH work collectively. There is a growing need to understand how we can sustainably create and maintain such sites in a way that meets the diverse needs of DH scholars. More than merely providing a definition of DH and a set of resources for those interested in the field, institutional DH websites can beneficially act as community hubs for DH practitioners by showcasing live projects and encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, an open development process can help scholars and DH staff who face long-standing DH challenges around methodological innovation, data reproducibility, reinvention of the wheel, and the balance of technical and humanistic priorities. In particular, we offer a user-focused development process for DH websites, which emphasizes the identification and enhancement of human networks and communities of practice. At the most basic level, user-focused design starts with a needs assessment of the website’s primary audience and is refined through attention to typical user needs and exemplary uses throughout the project’s lifecycle in order to maintain an active user community. This approach is to be distinguised from the design of institutional DH sites as a means of cataloguing the services or offerings at a specific institution. At the structural level, user-focused design for institutional DH sites foregrounds open access and accessibility by thinking about these concerns throughout the design process (rather than as a last-minute add-on). Presentation available on the Humanities Commons website.

"Virtual Reality & Narrative Storytelling: (Dis)Embodiment in Laurie Anderson & Hsin-Chien Huang's Chalkroom." Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA). Boston U., March 2020.

 

The Taiwanese digital media artist Hsin-Chien Huang has asserted that “the next wave of influence” for Virtual Reality (VR) will be to “directly influence people’s perceptions of themselves” by virtually displacing individuals and providing them with an opportunity to embody another individual’s perspective. This displacement and recreation of the reader/viewer is at the heart of the narrative-based VR installation, Chalkroom, which was collaboratively created by Huang and Laurie Anderson. Chalkroom employs VR as an immersive storytelling platform, and Anderson has described this work as a “narrative” with “many threads.” She writes: “Chalkroom is a virtual reality work in which the reader flies through an enormous structure made of words, drawings and stories.” More specifically, Chalkroom was designed to represent an experience of the Bardo, which is the liminal state between death and rebirth in Tibetan Buddhism. The Bardo forces an individual to suspend the thoughts and feelings borne of their past life before they assume the trappings of the next. Anderson and Huang’s work similarly encourages the reader/viewer to shed their beliefs and assumptions as they listen to and participate in the creation of new stories. In turn, the reader/viewer’s participation in this storytelling process ultimately “frees” him or her, allowing the reader/viewer to, in Huang’s words, look at him- or herself “through the eyes of another creature or of someone of the opposite sex or of someone with a different cultural background.” Using Anderson and Huang’s Chalkroom as exemplary text, my paper will examine how VR technology can be employed as a storytelling platform to create not just a different kind of participatory narrative, but ultimately to create a space of (dis)embodiment that harnesses readers/viewers’ affective responses, enabling them to transcend the network of physical, cultural, and national spaces in which they have dwelt.

"The Ecology of Digital Publishing and Teju Cole's Social Media Fiction." The Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present. University of Maryland, October 2019.

 

Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole has creatively employed social media platforms - including Instagram and Twitter - to create a new genre of fiction that harnesses the power of social media to reach a global audience. These stories include “Hafiz,” a fictional short story about witnessing a stranger’s heart attack; “A Piece of the Wall,” a journalistic piece about Cole’s visit to the Arizona-Mexico border; and “Seven Short Stories about Drones,” a series of tweets that draw upon Modernist literature to expose the U.S.’s drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Through his creation and dissemination of these stories via Twitter and other social media platforms, Cole locates the writer’s ethical duty in the use of social media to facilitate global discussions and spread awareness of new ways of thinking about the world. While scholars such as N. Katherine Hayles, Espen Aarseth, and Marie-Laure Ryan have already begun to examine the kinds of technological literature developing on social media, they approach this literature from narrative, material, and aesthetic perspectives. Yet digital spaces are increasingly used as collaborative publishing platforms that are not bound by economic, national, or linguistic boundaries. The global reach of digital and technological advancements is thus defining an alternative structure of globality that is divorced from national and cultural borders, and this alternative structure of globality has profoundly altered the shape of the reading public along socioeconomic and generational lines. Using Teju Cole’s experimental work as exemplar, my paper will confront how digitally-global spaces (such as those created by social media networks) are transforming the ecologies of the publishing market by challenging traditional notions of “authorship,” transgressing national and political boundaries, and creating spaces for literary global activism.

"The Global Networks of Twitter Literature." Contemporary Literature, Information Technologies, and Participatory Culture Seminar, American Comparative Literature Association. Georgetown University, March 2019.

 

In Twitter and Tear Gas, Zeynep Tufekci argues that Twitter has enabled networks of protest on a global scale previously unseen. Yet these global networks are not just ones of protest; recently, Twitter has increasingly served an international literary community. To measure the change in the global writing network on Twitter, I scraped Twitter using Python scripts and Twarc (developed by DocNow), for hashtags related to the writing community (such as #fictioncommunity). The data I gathered showed that between 2014 and 2017, there was a 600% increase in the use of Twitter as a space for literary engagement; in 2017 alone, over 600,000 tweets were identified as related to the writing community. This data thus indicates a growing literary culture that is fusing literary and social concerns in a public and visible way. My paper seeks to reexamine the circulation and implications of world literature enabled by Twitter as a literary platform. The global reach of Twitter has been augmented by the robust Twitter translation community; Twitter is thus defining an alternative structure of globality that breaks down national and cultural borders. In turn, this alternative globality has profoundly altered the shape of the reading public along socioeconomic and generational lines. Using both aggregated data and readings of particular tweets, my paper calls for sustained scholarly attention to the use of social media as a force that is redefining the global literary community.

Poster Presentation, "Augmenting the University: Using Augmented Reality to Excavate University Spaces." Project collaborators: Monica Blair, Ankita Chakrabarti, Victoria Clark, Tanner Greene, and Spyros Simotas. DH2018. Mexico City, June 2018.

 

Using augmented reality (AR) applications, our project, titled UVA Reveal: Augmenting the University, challenges
the surface of our perceptions of objects and places. Our project specifically uses the University of Virginia (UVA),
a large public state university, as its target. UVA is a southern historic campus with an enrollment of 22,000 students; given its history and recent spotlight in the news, UVA’s campus is ripe for the historical inquiry and narrative intervention that our project proposes. In augmenting UVA’s campus, we hope to expose the historical, cultural,
(inter)national, (trans)sexual, and (dis)ability-related “archeology” of objects, places, and events. A full project description is published in: Digital Humanities 2018, Puentes-Bridges: Book of Abstracts. Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations (June 2018): 600-601.

"Fictionalizing Appropriation: Kamila Shamsie's Ethics of the Other." Appropriation and Its Discontents Seminar, American Comparative Literature Association. UCLA, March 2018.

 

As scholars from Spivak and Said to writers such as Shriver and Fee have shown, the issue of Othering and cultural appropriation is an ethically fraught one, and arguments both for and against it are gaining in strength. Yet Pakistani writer Kamila Shamsie stakes out a middle ground, one that is also rife with ethical implications. Questioning why American writers and intellectuals fail to incorporate Pakistani characters and figures in their works, she states: “The moment you say, a male American writer can’t write about a female Pakistani, you are saying, Don’t tell those stories. Worse, you’re saying, as an American male you can’t understand a Pakistani woman. …She’s other. Leave her and her nation to its Otherness.” Shamsie suggests that exclusive writing within one’s own “group membership” fundamentally rests upon an ethical failing. Indeed, while her novels echo concerns with (post)colonialism and speaking, Shamsie uses the affordances of storytelling as a way of overcoming – or at least mitigating – the Othering that is endemic to the creative act of imaginatively entering the life and being of another. In so doing, Shamsie positions herself between the views of art-as-appropriation and appropriation-as-ethically-irresponsible. Reading Shamsie’s 2014 novel, A God in Every Stone, against questions of (trans)national identity, I examine the ethical implications and repercussions of both the necessity of – and the limits to – the imaginative appropriation of the Other.

"Multimodal Translation: The Ethics of Interpreting W.G. Sebald's Novels." The Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers. University of Dallas, October 2017.

 

With the incorporation of photos in his narrative texts, W.G. Sebald has presented a unique challenge to translators, for his work has fused documentary, memoir and fiction. Sebald himself oversaw the layout of photos within his work, and critics such as Stefanie Harris have emphasized the vital role that these images play by forcing the reader to “ask how [the images] might function with and against the language of the text.” Yet despite this vital role, translators have largely ignored the placement and layout of Sebald’s photos. Scholar Noam M. Elcott has stated: “The nuances of Sebald’s startling layouts (as well as his radical use of languages) virtually have been eliminated in English translation and passed over in silence by critics and scholars.” In other words, because of the inattention that both translators and scholars have paid to images and layout within Sebald’s novels, an integral part of Sebald’s texts has been lost to non-German-reading audiences. I therefore argue that, just as it is incumbent upon the translator to take social, cultural, and political backgrounds into account, so too should translators attend to the modalities of the literary text. Indeed, with the rise of technology and the increasing growth of multimodal literature – literature that incorporates a range of literacies, including linguistic, visual, and topographical – scholars have begun to address the design of such multimodal texts and the ways in which such texts both enable and resist readerly constructions of their storyworlds. Drawing upon these theories of multimodal literature, I use Sebald’s The Emigrants (Die Ausgewanderten) – a novel that exemplifies the difficulties of cross-cultural communication – to argue for modality as both an essential factor in translation and an essential part of translation studies.

"World Wide Writing: Digital Humanities Meets World Literature." Keystone Digital Humanities. University of Pennsylvania, July 2017.

 

Technology has profoundly changed global networks and literary systems. Indeed, writers have begun using technology as an integral part of their storyworlds, thereby transforming both the role of the writer and the role of the reader/user. The twitter fiction and Instagram narratives created by Teju Cole, for instance, are dependent upon collaboration between author and reader for their creation. Indeed, for his twitter story, “Hafiz,” Cole relied upon 31 of his friends to tweet out parts of the story, which he then retweeted in order to compile the story as a whole. Cole states: “‘Hafiz’ was a small attempt to put a number of people into a collaborative situation, to create a ‘we’ out of a story I might simply have published in the conventional way.” Digital spaces are increasingly used as collaborative publishing platforms that are not bound by economic, national, or linguistic boundaries. The global reach of digital and technological advancements is thus defining an alternative structure of globality that is divorced from national and cultural borders, and this alternative structure of globality has profoundly altered the shape of the reading public along socioeconomic and generational lines. Using Teju Cole’s experimental work as exemplar, my paper focuses on how what I am preliminarily calling “born-digitally-global” literature (to riff off of Kirshenbaum and Walkowitz) necessitates a world-wide audience that is defined not by nation but by particular online or digital communities. In so doing, my paper confronts how changes in technological literature are creating an alternative structure of globality that fundamentally relies upon collaboration.

"The Ethics of Storytelling: Transmedial Narratology and Kamila Shamsie's A God in Every Stone." The International Society for the Study of Narrative. Univ. of Kentucky, March 2017.

 

In her seminal work on philosophy and literature, Love’s Knowledge, Martha C. Nussbaum calls for a revitalization of ethical theory in literary studies. While rhetorical narratologists have taken up this challenge by identifying ethics as one of the three kinds of narrative judgment that a reader brings to bear on a text, critics such as Derek Attridge and Margot Norris have used formal elements of narrative and Possible Worlds theory to explore the ethical valences in works by J.M. Coetzee and James Joyce. Yet important as these developments have been, the ethical turn in literary studies has yet to address issues related to the digital turn. As such, I propose to read what is being termed “critical ethical narratology” against transmedial narratology, taking Kamila Shamsie’s A God in Every Stone (2014) as exemplary text. A God recounts the Qissa Khwani Bazaar (the Storytellers Market) massacre that occurred in Peshawar, British India (now Pakistan) on April 23, 1930. The massacre and its aftermath are narrated five times, each from the perspective of a character of widely differing background and personal history. Yet even as the national and gendered positioning of the characters creates misunderstandings and friction as characters cast one another as the “other,” Shamsie supplements the novel with a digital, interactive map that provides a visual means of reimagining and remaking the past and present of Pakistan’s cultural heritage. In so doing, Shamsie implicates the reader as an active participant – engaging him or her in what Marie-Laure Ryan has characterized as both figurative and literal ways of constructing the fictional world – in shaping the parallel stories between peoples, historical times, and fictional realities. By examining narrative perspective and the process of “othering” through the use of digital technology, this paper will trace intersections between transmedial narratology and the emerging ethical narratology in order to develop an ethics of storytelling in a digital age.

"Experimenting with Globally-Digital Spaces." The Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers. The Catholic University of America, October 2016.

 

Even as contemporary fiction in English has proliferated with the rise of digital literature and online publishing platforms, so too has the global turn in literary studies resulted in an explosion of Anglophone texts that jostle for well-deserved albeit limited attention within the academy. Indeed, this global turn is attested to by the recent establishment of prizes for international Anglophone writing, including the Man Booker International Prize, inaugurated in 2005, and the Windham-Campbell Literature Prizes, first awarded in 2011. Although the establishment of such prizes suggests that we can select among these works based upon literary merit or aesthetic values, I propose to read the digital and global trends in literary studies against one another: The resulting collection of texts showcases a contemporary Anglophone literature that is aware of itself as a technological production tied to a particular moment in literary history rather than to a particular locality. More specifically, these texts employ a “both-and” approach, relying upon traditional publishing platforms (no matter how international the dissemination) while including new media elements that extend beyond print to reach the burgeoning generation of digital readers. Such works range from Ruth Ozeki’s online “book trailer” for A Tale for the Time Being to Ali Smith’s incorporation of images and “Google poems” in Artful, from David Mitchell’s creation of a live Twitter account for one of his characters in Slade House to Kamila Shamsie’s use of a digital, interactive map to supplement A God in Every Stone. Even as these texts experiment with new technologies and print platforms, so too do they problematize scholarly conceptions of world literature that rely upon a geographically-locatable origin for its production and circulation. Thus, rather than proposing a theory according to which we should read contemporary literature, my paper offers these “globally-digital” Anglophone texts as representative of the experimental and technological problems and trends raised by contemporary literature.

"Multimodal Worlding and Ruth Ozeki's A Tale for the Time Being." The Novel in or against World Literature: Society for Novel Studies Biennial Conference. Univ. of Pittsburgh, May 2016.

 

In The World, the Text, and the Critic, Edward Said defines a text’s “worldliness” as its existence as a form “always enmeshed in circumstance, time, place, and society,” and he further defines the reader’s positioning of the text within these bounds as an act of “worlding.” While not used as a way of categorizing world literature, Said’s concept of worlding and textual worldliness accords well with César Domínguez, Haun Saussy, and Darío Villanueva’s recent call for a definition of world literature that “answer[s] social and cognitive needs” by taking into account the content in a text – rather than merely its circulation and consumption – whereby it positions itself as a work of global scope. Yet even as they gesture toward the text’s social and cultural engagement as a fundamental feature of world literature, these scholars gloss over the print technologies that are the necessary material platforms upon which every text is constructed. Indeed, current studies of multimodal literature – literature that incorporates a range of literacies, including linguistic, visual, and topographical – has attempted to address both the design of such multimodal texts and the ways in which such texts both enable and resist readerly constructions of their storyworlds. Drawing upon theories of multimodal literature, I argue for a reassessment of world literature that takes into account the material platforms of print through a process that I call “multimodal worlding.” Ultimately, I show how the global reach of a text is dependent upon the material, printed platforms in which its storyworld is manifest. I use Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being as exemplary text, analyzing it in relation to the logical, psychological, ontological, and extensional implications of multimodal worlding.

"Reconstructing Faulkner's World: The Fictional Status of the Chronology and Genealogy in Absalom, Absalom!" Faulkner and Print Culture, The Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference. The University of Mississippi, July 2015.

 

Published in 1936, Absalom, Absalom! is perhaps William Faulkner’s most radical experimentation in the perspectivism of story-telling. Each of the four primary narrators – occasionally supplemented by a fifth, extradiegetic narrative perspective – tells of Thomas Sutpen, reordering and reinterpreting the events of this story to correspond with his or her personal understanding of the South and the Sutpen family. While these narrative perspectives comprise the bulk of the novel, Faulkner also included an appendix to Absalom, Absalom! consisting of a chronology, genealogy, and map. Most scholars have regarded these end materials as “crutches for the reader of a difficult book,” as John E. Bassett has pointed out, and indeed, Peter Brooks has called them “traditional schemata for the ordering of time and experience.” Yet in 1946, Faulkner sent another appendix to his publishers to be included in the Random House reprinting of The Sound and the Fury, writing, “When you reprint The Sound and the Fury, I have a new section to go with it. …When you read it you will see how it is the key to the whole book.” Faulkner regarded his appendix not as a mere crutch for the reader, but as an integral part, a “new section,” of the work itself. This view of his materials in turn suggests that, rather then serving as a means by which the reader can follow the events of the Sutpen story, the appendix of Absalom, Absalom! plays an integral role in the actual telling of the Sutpen story. In this paper, I argue that Faulkner designed the chronology and genealogy not as supplementary documents, but rather, he formally patterned them upon Biblical chronologies and genealogies even as he deliberately introduced textual variations within the end material. This argument has two primary implications: First, that textual discrepancies in Faulkner’s works – particularly those between the text of the novel and the appendices – are often intentional; and second, that these appendices and other so-called extra-textual material – including such items as Faulkner’s map of Yoknapatawpha and Edward Shenton’s original 1955 illustrations of Big Woods, which Faulkner himself critiqued and caused to be revised – are essential extensions of Faulkner’s story-worlds. This paper draws upon archival research from the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia and the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin in order both to examine the original manuscript and typescript copies of the chronology and to reassess the editorial practices surrounding the publication of the appendices of Absalom, Absalom!.

"Articulating a Literary Space: J. M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians as World Literature." Intranational Modernisms Seminar, American Comparative Literature Association. University of Washington, March 2015.

 

In an interview with Tony Morphet, South African writer J. M. Coetzee questioned the relationship between critical discourse and the positioning of a writer within a national space. Indeed, critics have insisted upon reading Coetzee’s work as an allegory for apartheid South Africa (Ann Waldron Neumann) and a historical narrative for the colonization of Africa (David Attwell). Other critics, such as Derek Attridge and T. Kai Easton, have acknowledged the tension that such nationalistic readings develop between Coetzee’s work and his professed global purposes. This tension between critical categories and the writer’s self-professed aims mirrors the theoretical debate between post-coloniality and globalization. Pascale Casanova has redefined this conceptualization by detailing the development of “literary capital” and outlining the struggle of minor literatures by stating that writers working within these spaces are forced either to assimilate themselves “within a dominant literary space” or else differentiate themselves “on the basis of a claim to national identity.” Yet whereas Casanova traces the effects that these restrictions have upon the development of literature within minor literary spaces, Coetzee uses his novel Waiting for the Barbarians to exploit the tension between differentiation and assimilation in order to posit an alternative model for the position and circulation of literature within a global community of writers. In doing so, Coetzee references and rewrites works of the Western canon, thereby deconstructing the center-periphery model governing the global-national discourse. Focusing upon Waiting for the Barbarians, this paper explores intertextuality and the circulation of texts within world literature.

"'The noise of voices': 'Oxen of the Sun' and Information Theory." XXIII North American James Joyce Conference. College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina, June 2013.

 

To account for the stylistic diversity of Ulysses, numerous critics have devised theories regarding the narration of the novel. David Hayman argues for the stylistic unity of Ulysses by positing the presence of an “arranger” with a meta-point-of-view. Hugh Kenner, on the other hand, accounts for the multiplicity of styles by conceiving of two narrators who blend the voices of the characters into their own, famously dubbing this practice the Uncle Charles Principle. More recently, Margot Norris addresses this issue from the stance of Possible Worlds theory, discussing the effect of the “narrative consciousness[es]” on the construction of the fictional world. All of these theories presume the hypothetical presence of some narrating agent or agents, with distinct voices, points of view, and “consciousnesses.” Yet “Oxen of the Sun,” the episode most splintered by shifting narrative positions and radically diverse styles, challenges this concept of narrating agents. Indeed, the stylistic virtuosity of “Oxen” resembles a textual network in cybernetic terms, displaying narrative characteristics of pattern/randomness, signal/noise, entropy/information. While critics such as Louis Armand and Daniel Ferrer have used cybernetics to analyze hypertextuality and the working of the content of the narrative, I examine cybernetics on the narrative level itself. My paper thus assesses the narration of “Oxen” not through a traditional notion of narrator or narrative consciousness, but through cybernetics, informatics, and network theory.

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