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Fall 2013 CURRENTS

“Doing Feminist Translation as Local and Transnational Activism: The Turkish Translation and Reception of Virgin: The Untouched History”

Emek Ergun, Ph.D. student, Language Literacy and Culture, Fall 2013 Dresher Center Graduate Residential Fellow

My dissertation, “Doing Feminist Translation as Local and Transnational Activism: The Turkish Translation and Reception of Virgin: The Untouched History” explores the ways in which the feminist virginity knowledges of an American book, Virgin, traveled through my politically engaged translation. At the Brownbag, I take up the question: How did the feminist readers in Turkey relate to a feminist book that was “originally” written for and about Western women and western virginities? That is, how did they manage to build bridges between the virginity stories of the west and their own geopolitically grounded virginity realities? My reader-reception analysis suggests that readers partly achieved this bridging through a universalizing gesture that allowed them to imagine a common ground of virginity oppression and resistance across histories and cultures. At the same time, they recognized the differences among women and their gender realities. It is my (tentative) contention that such a complex bridging gesture of “differential universalization” offers both promising trajectories and cautionary tales of transnational feminist politics.

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“Improving the Art of Paper War: The Literary Gambols of Francis Hopkinson”

Kevin Wisniewski, Ph.D. student, Language Literacy and Culture

Poet, author and satirist.  Signer of the Declaration of Independence.  First American composer.  Co-editor of Pennsylvania Magazine. Scientist and inventor.  Federal Judge.  And designer of the American flag, the Great Seal of the United States, the U.S. Treasury Seal, and colonial currency.  These activities represent only a few of Francis Hopkinson’s accomplishments.  But Hopkinson (1737-1791) has somehow escaped recognition from the public as well as in-depth scholarly inquiry from historians and literary critics.  This paper seeks to explain his absence in these spheres and to re-position him historically by investigating a few of his “literary gambols” and experiments, including his satire of newspaper quarrels, “A Plan for the Improvement of the Art of Paper War” (1786).  Targeted questions include the following: How does Hopkinson’s work correspond or clash with genres of humor and satire and political writings and propaganda of his age?  What was the eighteenth-century dialogue or scrutiny surrounding the role and visuality and textuality of the printed word and the process of reading?  Lastly, anonymous authorship and the use of pseudonyms were common in the eighteenth century, but how do we read Hopkinson’s abundant use of pseudonyms, especially those that “attack” his own work and published in politically-opposed newspapers?

Grin and Bear It: Humor as an Economy of Being

Kara Hunt, Post-doctoral Fellow,

The political and philosophical treatment of humor, as a matter of both function and prospect, has been restricted to empirical analyses. That is, in prioritizing the affective characteristics of humor in isolation much of the scholarship on the subject takes for granted its epistemic qualities. It is my position that the cognitive processes that inform and underscore humor are structural in nature and therefore have a profound connection to modern conceptualizations of human being. In considering a “sense” of humor as an economy of being through which jokes are exchanged as a matter of ontological security I argue, that certain bodies are restricted from presence via jest. To demonstrate this position, I will analyze the historical progression of humor alongside popular and accessible jokes about race, gender, and class in the immediate contemporary.

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Beyond Representation: Approaching Violence and the Visual

Rebecca Adelman, Assistant Professor, Media & Communications Studies

For most scholars of the visual it is axiomatic that traumatic experiences—war, terrorist attacks, and other forms of violence—might resist visual representation or appear obliquely or incompletely. This does not mean, however, that these phenomena cannot be given a visible shape.  Rather, that shape might be a shell, an outline, a reflection, an aurora, or a negative of itself, less apparent in a visual artifact than in its social, cultural, and political echoes, resonances, and functions.  And so I want to think about how we might capture, account for, and analyze the visual cultures orbiting around these objects. In this presentation, I’ll consider two methodological and conceptual interventions that I’ve been endeavoring to develop in my recent work.  The first, which forms the foundation of my forthcoming book, Beyond the Checkpoint: Visual Practices in America’s Global War on Terror (University of Massachusetts Press, 2014), is a turn toward the study of individual and institutional visual practices rather than textual analysis of visual objects.  This wider view facilitates an exploration of who is using the visual, how, for what purposes, and with what material consequences.  Building from, rather than lamenting, the notion that war might not be fully representable, this method transforms that impossibility from a constraint into an essential element of knowledge production about how, precisely, visual cultures of militarized violence organize themselves.  The second, which I am exploring in a series of collaborations with Wendy Kozol (Oberlin College), is what we describe as an “asymptotic approach” to the study of images—and related practices of image production and consumption—that get close to the scene of war or violence, but never actually or fully depict it.  We adopt the notion of the asymptote from geometry, where it is employed to describe a line that a curve approaches as it moves toward infinity, and use the figure of the asymptote to model the relationship between the truths of war and images that purport to document them.  Rather than casting images that do not provide graphic documentary records of war as failures, we argue that instead they visualize unrepresentability itself, providing a record of the dynamic relation between events and images, and querying what kinds of spectatorship are possible in the gap that separates them.  Ultimately, this scholarship is intended as a response to the cultural, political, and ethical exigencies that arise as militarized violence and visual technologies commingle in increasingly intimate ways.