Announcement: Lauren Gutterman gives talk on lesbian sexuality in postwar America this Monday

This coming Monday, February 23Lauren Gutterman will give a lecture here in the Department of American Studies at UT. Gutterman is a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Society of Fellows and an Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan. Her talk is titled, “Her Neighbor’s Wife: Lesbian Sexuality, Marriage, and the Household in Postwar America,” and it will take place at 4:30pm in Burdine 436A.

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Here’s what Gutterman has to say about her upcoming talk:

Most scholarship on lesbian history in the postwar United States has focused on unmarried women and portrayed the urban gay bar as the center of lesbian life. While there is ample evidence that married men were able to engage in homosexual sex in this period, historians have tended to assume that married women had little opportunity to act on their same-sex desires. This presentation will demonstrate that wives could and did engage in lesbian affairs at midcentury by making use of the seemingly straight spaces within which their lives were circumscribed, and by negotiating unconventional arrangements with their husbands. Ultimately, this talk argues that the spaces, routines, and structures of heterosexual normalcy enabled married women’s same-sex affairs. In the broadest terms, it demonstrates the potential for queerness within the very heart of the normal.

Announcement: Ramzi Fawaz gives lecture on queer artistic responses to the AIDS crisis

This coming Monday, Ramzi Fawaz will give a talk called, “The Visceral States of America: Queer Cultural Production and the Digestive Life of AIDS.” Fawaz visited UT last year and we sat down and interviewed him right here on AMS::ATX. Fawaz is Assistant Professor in the Department of English at The University of Wisconsin in Madison. The talk will take place at 4:30pm on Monday, February 16, in Burdine 436A.

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Fawaz sent us the following description of his talk:

This talk explores how queer cultural producers in the late 1980s deployed viscerally charged language around the digestive dysfunctions of AIDS to galvanize a political response to the disease and its social effects. I coin the phrase “the digestive politics and poetics of AIDS” to describe writers’ and artists’ use of metaphors that linked the digestive dysfunctions associated with HIV/AIDS to a political aversion, or disgust, for the state of American politics at the height of the AIDS epidemic. Specifically, I develop a close reading of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America that examines how the play’s linguistic and performative engagement with alimentary processes (ingestion, defecation, and excretion) worked to rearticulate public culture’s disgust with the dying bodies of AIDS victims to a disgust with government neglect. I argue that the play’s affective investment in the gut as a site for intuiting one’s response to American political life helped imagine a new form of liberal politics attuned to bodily vulnerability, disease, and disability as the wellspring for new kinds of ethical responses to both the biomedical and social consequences of AIDS. Ultimately, I show how this project resonated with an array of contemporaneous queer literary, artistic, and visual responses to the AIDS crisis that collectively forged a powerful visceral rhetoric intended to have political results.

“I cherish my bile duct almost as much as any other organ. I take good care of it. I make sure it gets its daily vitamins and antioxidants and invigorating exposure to news of … everyone working for the Bush family.”

– Tony Kushner, speech to the graduating class of Bard College (2005)

Announcement: Stephen Vider gives talk on “queering domesticity” this Monday

Our series of talks continue in the Department of American Studies here at UT with a talk by Stephen Vider titled, “Interior Relations: Queering Domesticity and Belonging After World War II.” Vider is the Cassius Marcellus Clay Fellow in the History of Sexuality at Yale University, and he recently won the Crompton-Noll Award from the GL/Q Caucus of the Modern Language Association for best essay in lesbian, gay, and queer studies for his article, “‘Oh Hell, May, Why Don’t You People Have a Cookbook?’: Camp Humor and Gay Domesticity,” which appeared in the December 2013 issue of American Quarterly. Vider’s talk will take place on Monday, February 9 at 4:30pm in Burdine 436A.

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Vider had the following to saw about his upcoming talk:

In the decades after World War II, gay men were typically represented as quintessential outsiders to the American home – a view reinforced by historians both of the home and family, and of LGBT culture. This talk examines the various ways gay men challenged and adapted conventional domestic practices to reshape norms of intimate, communal, and national belonging, from 1945 to the present. From “homosexual marriages” in the 1950s, to gay communes in the 1970s, gay domesticity emerged as a central site of a broader tension between cultural integration and resistance, revealing the normative constraints and creative possibilities of home-making and affiliation.

Announcement: Patrick Jagoda to deliver talk, “On Difficulty in Video Games: Mechanics, Interpretation, Affect”

We’re excited to announce the first in a series of four talks here in the Department of American Studies at UT Austin. Patrick Jagoda, Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the University of Chicago, Co-editor of Critical Inquiry and Co-founder of Game Changer Chicago Design Lab, will be giving a talk called, “On Difficulty in Video Games: Mechanics, Interpretation, Affect” at 4:30pm on Monday, February 2, in Burdine 436A. Jagoda has been with us this year at UT as a Harrington Fellow, and we sat down with him a while back for an interview, which you can check out here.

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Here’s a description of the talk from Jagoda:

In a 1978 essay, literary critic George Steiner observes that a sense of difficulty in poetry became a major aspect of aesthetic experience in the late nineteenth century and extended, by the twentieth century, to new forms of visual and aural expression. This talk takes up videogames as a crucial medium for making sense of aesthetic difficulty in our time. As a way of mapping the cultural stakes of videogames to the early twenty-first century, I examine three types of challenge that games generate: mechanical, interpretive, and affective difficulty. All three forms of difficulty demand continued analysis, but I argue especially for the importance of attending to the third category of demanding affects and emotions. New media scholarship is already becoming more adept at accounting for elements such as aesthetics, interactivity, software, platforms, and media history. It has not yet done justice, however, to the complicated ways that digital media, and games in particular, generate and alter affects. This talk posits that the types of experiences that register as difficult within cultural consciousness, as they do in a variety of unique ways in the context of gameplay, can help animate the values of contemporary American media and their effects on the sensorium. A fuller sense of affect in videogames is necessary to better understand the ways that games serve as unique ideological forms — and might also structure, limit, and even enable more complex practices of play in the United States.

Announcement: Rebecca Solnit speaks at UT tomorrow!

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We’re thrilled to announce that the Department of American Studies will present a talk by Rebecca Solnit tomorrow (Thursday, November 13) at 7:00 in the Prothro Theater at the Harry Ransom Center on campus at UT. Solnit will discuss her new collection of essays, “The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness.” Books will be available for purchase, and a brief book signing will follow the talk. Support for this event was provided by the Austin Center for Photography, the Harry Ransom Center, the Department of Art and Art History, the Department of English, and the Humanities Institute through the Sterling Clark Holloway Centennial Lectureship in Liberal Arts.

Hope to see y’all there!

Grad and Faculty Research: UT AMS at ASA!

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It’s that time of year again–time for the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, which will be held from November 6-9 in Los Angeles. This year’s theme is “The Fun and the Fury: New Dialectics of Pleasure and Pain in the Post-American Century,” and the program features a number of UT AMS folks. Here’s a snapshot of what grad students and faculty from UT American Studies will be presenting at this year’s conference:

THURSDAY, November 6

Anne Gessler, “Second Lines, Creative Economies, and Gentrification: Music Cooperatives in Post-Katrina New Orleans” (Thu. Nov. 6, 4:00-5:45pm, San Pedro). Part of a panel called, “Alternative Economies of Pleasure in Contemporary Southern Working-Class Cultures.” Gessler’s paper examines the ways in which New Orleans’ black, working-class participatory culture uses music and performance as tools of social critique: second lines parades, for example, have become forums for protesting gentrification of black residents’ communities. Specifically, she will argue that contemporary cooperatives have used their city’s long tradition of innovative, egalitarian cultural production to empower working-class New Orleans citizens to alleviate the effects of structural inequality and poverty.

FRIDAY, November 7

Julia Mickenberg, “Child Savers and Child Saviors: Horror, Hope, and the Russian Famine of 1921” (Fri. Nov. 7, 8:00-9:45am, Santa Anita). Part of a panel called, “Other World(s): Childhood, Nation, and the Price of Feeling Good.” Dr. Mickenberg’s paper considers the way in which the Russian child became a focal point for humanitarian relief efforts (typically gendered as feminine) and thus offered a socially acceptable vehicle for American women to enter Soviet Russia, through agencies like the American Friends Service Committee. Alongside widely disseminated images of starving Russian children were tales of rosy-cheeked, self-governing, artistic, and socially engaged children to whom the Soviet Union’s bright future belonged; “child savers” in Russia were thus, in part, motivated by the notion that the Russian child rescued from starvation might go on to become a child savior.

Jennifer Kelly, “Blueprinting Post-Return: Tourism, Pedagogy, and the Work of Imagination in Palestine” (Fri. Nov. 7, 2:00-3:45pm, San Anita). Part of a panel called, “Political Imaginings of Palestine Beyond the Here and Now.” Kelly will explore the collaboration between the Israeli organization Zochrot and the Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, a Palestinian organization in the West Bank, as they respectively and collectively use tourism to expose Israel’s displacement of Palestinians and imagine futures of decolonized space in Israel/Palestine.

Andrew Hamsher, “Controlling Fantasyland: Surveilance and Freedom in Transmedia Storyworlds” (Fri. Nov. 7, 4:00-5:45pm, Santa Monica B). Part of a panel called “We’re Listening: Surveillance Technologies and Non-Private Publics.” Hamsher’s paper explores how entertainment conglomerates are seeking to exploit the proliferation of branded storyworlds to dramatically expand and normalize datavalliance practices.  He focuses on Disney World’s new billion-dollar MyMagic+ initiative.

SATURDAY, November 8

Elizabeth Engelhardt, “Appalachian Food Studies: A Tale of Belgian Waffles and Cast Iron Fried Chicken” (Sat. Nov. 8, 8:00-9:45am, San Gabriel). Part of a panel called, “The Invention of Authenticity: Troubling Narratives of the “Real” Southern Foodways.” Dr. Engelhardt will discuss the impossibility of “Appalachian Chicken and Waffles” as well as the usefulness of such an impossible term.

Kerry Knerr, “Institutionalizing the Bon Vivant: Reading Empire through Jerry Thomas’s Cocktails” (Sat. Nov. 8, 10:00-11:45am, San Gabriel). Part of a panel called, “Commerce of Pleasure.” Knerr will consider early cocktails, mainly punch, as a form that moves through various European colonial contexts. In her paper, she offers a close reading of a particular punch from Jerry Thomas’s How To Mix Drinks: Or, The Bon Vivant’s Companion (1862) to demonstrate its imperial inheritance through to the American context.

Elissa Underwood, “Food” (Sat. Nov. 8, 2:00-3:45pm, Beaudry A). Part of a Critical Prison Studies Caucus panel called “Keywords in Critical Prison Studies I.” Using a lively format of words and visuals, the panelists will explore sixteen terms – some ordinary, some unexpected – related to critical prison studies.

Announcement: Reading Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”

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On Wednesday, October 29, AMS core faculty Dr. Nicole M. Guidotti-Hernandez and Dr. Mark Smith are participating in a round table of historians and literary scholars celebrating the 75th anniversary of The Grapes of Wrath by reflecting “on the context and controversies surrounding the book’s representation of poverty and dispossession in the United States during the Dust Bowl Era.” The event is at 3:30 PM in Garfield 4.100. We hope to see you there.