On Becoming a Scholar-Fan

As my final for one of my M.A. classes, I opted to do a research project about cosplay. During my research project, I found Tanya Cochran’s dissertation “Toward a Rhetoric of Scholar-Fandom” and it spoke to me.

In her prologue, she shares her personal history and development as a fan and a scholar, which I found particularly helpful to better understand myself:

Can an academic feel “at home”? I mean, feel so at home that there is no distinction in her mind between public and private, no difference between what she does and who she is, even if what she does is write and teach in academia and who she is is a Christian, a woman, a scholar, a feminist, and a fan? (11)

I share all of Dr. Cochran’s labeled identities, though I would add medievalist and cosplayer to the mix. What does it mean to be all of these things and is there a way to synthesize these facets of myself in order to better understand myself as a whole, singular identity, rather than the sum of parts?

As I move forward as a cosplayer and an academic, I’m going to look for ways to meld the two since I am but one person with many varied interests. I want to feel at home as any of my identities in all of my interests. I hope to share my work as a scholar-fan, applying my academic skills to my fandom life.

I’m still working my way through her dissertation because, as a burgeoning scholar-fan, I want to read the whole thing. I’m still thinking about the ways that I can speak authoritatively as a negotiator between was Jacqueline Jones Royster calls “contact zones.” And, perhaps most excitingly, I’m looking forward to the ways I will participate in fandom as an academic and in academia as a fan.

Works Cited
Cochran, Tanya R., “Toward a Rhetoric of Scholar-Fandom.” Dissertation, Georgia State University, 2009.
Royster, Jacqueline Jones. “When the First Voice You Hear Is Not Your Own.” The Norton Book of Composition Studies. Ed. Susan Miller. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2009. 1117-1127. Print.

One Month Left

There are only four weeks left in the semester and I’m starting to feel the crunch. I’ve yet to begin the final project for my Linguistics course. There’s a rather large pile of articles and books for me to read, which will support the yet-to-be-started final project for my Rhetoric and Composition course. Next week, I’ll receive the prompts for the final essays in my Critical Theory course. Meanwhile, I haven’t worked on my AEME assignments since January and I’ve done very little sewing aside from a half-finished corset and 15 hours of hand beading trim for a dress.

My midterm essays for my critical theory class were returned this week. I wrote about reader-response theory for one and Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilych for the other. They received an A and A-, respectively. While I’m more than content with my grades, I do wonder about the purpose of an A-. What does that minus sign signify?

Over the past two weeks, I also presented at two academic conferences. I took a shortened version of my analysis of the Pardoner from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales to CSU Long Beach. The next week, I cut down my paper on Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room for presentation at CSU Northridge, my home school. Both conferences were vastly enjoyable for me and I look forward to future conference presentations.

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I’ll be presenting an original research project (the aforementioned rhet/comp final project) this summer at Anime Expo‘s Anime and Manga Studies Symposium. I have my primary argument and a stockpile of articles, books, and dissertations to read. I just need to find the time to read them, write my analysis, and prepare the web portion before it’s due in May. Oh, and prepare the AX presentation component (but I’m going to worry about that part after the semester ends).

There are four weeks left in the semester. Wish me luck.

Getting Grammatical

If I haven’t already mentioned it, I’m taking a class on Rhetoric and Composition Theory for my Masters. We’re looking at the conversation between historical rhetorical studies and composition studies, which are both entirely out of my comfort zone. My emphasis is literature (specifically, medieval) so forging my way through rhetoric and composition isn’t exactly easy. To be honest, reading composition theory can sometimes more challenging than reading literary theory (but only sometimes).

This week, my professor paired Patrick Hartwell’s 1985 “Grammar, Grammars, and the Teaching of Grammar” with our readings on Renaissance rhetoric. While I haven’t yet drawn the connection between the two, I was intrigued by Hartwell’s article (and way more than Peter Ramus and Francis Bacon combined).

Since I’m also taking a course on linguistics right now, this article spoke to the ideas of that course, not only in the “Grammar 1” and “Grammar 2” sections, but also in the general idea that formal grammar education is less helpful than we think it. I loved Hartwell’s point about “redefining error,” since I think that’s indicative of most grammatical issues. Most of the time, I can’t recite specific grammar rules because I never really learned them explicitly. I learned through acquisition and internalization. Besides, my linguistics professor says that prescriptive rules aren’t really worth their weight and I’m inclined to agree.

While I’m sure that I did receive formal training, I never did sentence diagramming or the likes. Sure, maybe my writing is weaker because of it but I don’t feel that I’m a poorer writer as a result of never diagramming. Maybe I can’t toss out the terminology but I can pretty much work out how a sentence works without having that terminology. And is that a bad thing, really?

Ideally, I would hope that my students can likewise internalize grammar rather than recite by rote. As my I prepare lesson plans for a beginning composition class full of non-native English speakers, I’m hesitant to use rigid rules or complex worksheets. If I can’t explain it in my own terminology and have to rely entirely on unfamiliar words, I can’t help them learn. And I want to help them learn. I don’t really have a good idea for how to do just that, so I’m definitely welcoming suggestions.

On Being “Smart Enough”

I’m a graduate student and usually that just means I’m pursuing an additional degree specialization beyond a standard B.A. But some days it means that I’m reanalyzing my view of myself and adjusting my expectations of my intelligence in accordance with my peers.

I’m in my second of four semesters pursuing a Masters of English Literature at a local state university. With three grad level courses per semester, my academic muscles get the practice they’ve been sorely lacking since I finished undergrad. I’m pursuing research opportunities, teaching supplemental composition classes, and reading an endless list of CFPs.

But more than that, I’m dismantling the idea that I am “not-(       )-enough.” A few weeks ago, I submitted an abstract to a nearby academic conference. The paper I proposed is one that I wrote three years ago and, more likely than not, need to rewrite in the time preceding the conference. I received an invitation to present at this conference yesterday morning and I was floored. It’s not that I expected to be accepted, but that I expected to not be accepted. I was viewing myself as clearly not-(articulate, intelligent, accomplished, etc.)-enough to be accepted to an academic conference. Except that I am.

I’m just beginning to come to terms with what graduate school means about my identity. I’m still navigating the reality of the fact that, not only did I get into a graduate program (technically two, if you count the acceptance to Claremont Graduate University that I turned down two years ago), but I am capable of living a life of academic rigor. And not every day is an easy day. But today, with my first invitation to present at an academic conference, I feel like I am meant for this.

Some days are better than others and I know that there will be days where I feel overwhelmed, unimportant, and unworthy. On those days where I begin to think that I am not-enough, I hope that I can also remember the ways in which I am.