Zoe McCormack

MA in Modernities Research Blog



Textualities 2017: A Reflection

After weeks of making slides and reading flashcards, the Textualities Conference took place last Friday, the 10th of March 2017. After the amazing first three panels (and lunch!), it was my turn to present, and I was beyond nervous! Although my thesis is going to look at the doubling of women in the gothic film more generally, my presentation focused on ‘The Double in Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan‘. I decided that my thesis topic was just too big for me to cramp into 6 minutes and 40 seconds. Instead, my presentation looked at one film that I plan to use in my thesis to show how both narrative and cinematic techniques contribute to a doubling and separating of women into either virginal innocent or sexual deviant. The narrative techniques that I examined in the presentation were the mother/daughter relationship, and Black Swan’s inter-textuality with both Carrie and Swan Lake. In terms of cinematic technique, I looked at costume design, casting, and the use of mirrors. You can check out my presentation slides below: by emaze

I can’t lie, I was initially petrified about the notion of presenting in public – especially using PechaKucha. The format of PechaKucha is 20 slides at 20 seconds each. However, on the day, it was actually fine and the PechaKucha layout actually helped me be more concise when getting my points across.

How I will always feel about PechaKucha…

The Q&A followed directly after my presentation. This was the part I was dreading the most to be honest…I was plagued with doubts as to whether I’d be able to answer any question at all! I was, of course, wrong to be so apprehensive. The questions were really helpful to get me to think about my own research and to help understand my classmates topics more. I was also lucky to be in an ‘all-female power panel’ that included close friends, so that definitely helped calm the nerves!

How I thought we looked during the Q&A [Credit: Columbia Pictures]
How we actually looked during the Q&A [Credit: Textualities Facebook]
Aside from my own presentation, I also chaired the first panel and live blogged the second. You can check out my blog for Panel 2 HERE. We also had to live tweet during the event, which I actually really enjoyed. It was a cool way to give/receive feedback and encouragement to/from everyone and to spread word about our conference.

An example of some of my live tweets from the day

Despite my initial nerves the Textualities Mini-Conference was my highlight of the MA program (so far!). I felt that it really brought all the MA programs together and made us closer as a group. The topics were so diverse: everything from Joyce to Keane to John Huston to Grail Quests to Fascism was covered and there genuinely wasn’t a dull moment throughout the entire day! As well as this, it was a great opportunity to talk about a topic that I was passionate about while gaining some really useful advice and feedback. All in all, a great day was had. There’s still no love lost between me and Pecha Kucha though!

#Textualities2017: Panel 2

Haley kicked off panel 2 by introducing each speaker by their name and presentation title.

Up first is Annie Curran. Annie’s presentation is entitled ‘The Star Director: How John Huston’s Image is Challenged in Fiction’. Annie’s presentation begins strong by giving a short introduction to John Huston and his work. The visuals in Annie’s presentation are really cool and relevant to her topic. Annie makes the interesting point that John Huston was actually turned into a fictitious character in literature. The authors who wrote this work about Huston are writers who dabbled in screen-writing. Annie states that Huston’s image revolved around him as a hard-drinking and hard-working Irish-American. Huston is depicted in literature as constructing his Irishness. Only one of the texts in question is set in Ireland. Annie points out that Huston’s masculinity is the most cultivated aspect of his personality.Huston therefore makes his demons part of his charm. Not all the literature surrounding Huston is negative. Annie is interested in these topics as it is a way of combining all of her interests which include Classical Hollywood and Irish Film. Annie finishes her presentation by questioning whether or not John Huston’s star has faded.

After Annie’s very visual and interesting presentation on the star image of John Huston, we now have Carmel Tobin who will be looking at Freud and his analysis of dreams. Carmel is interested in this as it is one of the first things she looked at as part of her MA in Modernities. Carmel credits her interest in Freud with an attendance of a research seminar on Freud and the Humanities. Carmel is giving a very concise contextualization of Freud’s main analysis of dreams and cleverly links dreams to literature and film. Carmel makes the connection between Freud’s analysis and the art form of surrealism. Carmel is now discussing Freud’s interest in dreams and the power of memory. Carmel is now discussing how thoughts in dreams are represented in images.Carmel points out that Freud accepts that we all dream and understand these dreams. Carmel connects Freud’s theory with Alice in Wonderland, which is super interesting! The images that Carmel is using in her presentation are used very well and point to aspects of Freud’s theory. Carmel does question Freud’s role in literature. Carmel concludes her presentation by stating that she wishes to connect Freud’s theory with women’s literature in her thesis.

Up next is Luke Pyke-Terrett, who is presenting on the history and influence of the Holy Grail from ancient east Africa to contemporary Britain. Luke first looks at the motif of the grail quest and its beginnings in Welsh folklore. Luke goes on to trace the first scholars framework of the grail quest. Luke’s slides have great images, from images of Welsh cauldrons to paintings of the crucifixion. Luke is now discussing the importance of the Fisher King, who is a physically injured king. Luke is now discussing the spear of destiny which is a counter point to the grail itself. Luke is outlining how the symbolism attached to the spear is masculine and damaging – it is a phallic object. Luke is now explaining Tolkien’s revision of this myth in his Middle Earth fiction in the the 20th century. Luke states that the Arkenstone in The Hobbit is connected to this notion of the grail quest. Luke is now presenting on Eliot’s The Wasteland and how Eliot also uses the Fisher King, who acts as the instigator of the entire quest. Luke concludes by mentioning Neil Gaimon and the Monty Python films as being modern interpreters of this grail myth.

The Q&A has begun. Carmel and Annie are asked the first two questions – Carmel’s refers to the texts she will be using and Annie is asked about her use of film and literature for her thesis. The next question is for Luke and is about possibly using Conrad’s Heart of Darkness as a possible thesis text. There’s some great questions being asked in this Q&A about the use of sources. Some really interesting questions and advice from the audience for our Panel 2 presenters.

Well done to all our speakers! Now for some coffee!

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