Between Bodies: Cultural Entrenchment and Enchantment in
Carmen Maria Machado's Her Body and Other Parties
I completed my paper on Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties for Professor Bill Jonhson Gonzalez’s CES 410 class in spring 2019. The paper analyzes two short stories from the collection based around the themes of cultural entrenchment, the peculiar, and body horror. This paper was first revised for the Midwestern Conference on Language, Literature and Media that was to be held at Northern Illinois University in April 2020. After being accepted, I asked Professor Gonzalez if he could read through the paper again and share some comments on revising. Most of my revisions are in part because of his guidance.
I had completed the paper in rather a rush on the first go-around -- true to my nature, I ended up getting lost in the research weeds and tried to pull together too many contrasting ideas. Initially, the paper included reference to Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory of heteroglossia alongside themes of cultural entrenchment and fantasy. This did not work so well, perhaps since I still have a loose handle on the term and have difficulty applying to a literary analysis. In my revision I ended up cutting out mention of heteroglossia altogether (to my chagrin, it was not consistently used throughout the paper and barely made an appearance after the introduction). I also reorganized the paper as to keep the analysis of each short story separate. Beforehand, I had jumped between stories, which Professor Gonzalez and I both agreed was too jarring of a transition. This was not so much rewriting paragraphs but rather rearranging them. Also, I noticed that I tend to write a bit too cryptic, thinking that a reader will be able to infer meaning or supposing that the language carries more weight. It mostly reads like a half-assed analysis and it is presumptuous to assume my readers are mind-readers. If I simply pushed these analyses a step further, they would be complete. So, I mostly worked on finishing my thoughts to make my meaning clearer.
I was extremely excited for the conference because it seemed to fit perfectly with the kind of criticism and research I foresaw for my own academic career. With the COVID-19 pandemic, though, the conference was cancelled. Participants were welcome to upload videos of themselves reading their work for the conference to share on social media. I am really focused on accessibility in academia and hybridizing literature and popular media studies, so what better way to experiment than to share a public YouTube video of my research? I do not find it belittling to self-promote, or even self-advertise, my own research because I would rather have it available to the public sphere than published in expensive, exclusive, academic journals or available only to conference attendees. Like yeesh my friends couldn’t even hear me read because it was a $45 entrance fee!
I shared the video on my public social media and with the conference organizers, who shared it on the conference page, as well. I was surprised by the positive reception, including a shout-out from Machado on Twitter, as well (which is about the height of my academic career). I’m sure her current popularity helped, but it was nice to hear from others who watched the video and are not directly involved with academia.