Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Upcoming conference plans: Life Writing and R. Gibbons

I plan to attend several conferences this spring and summer. I am particularly excited about one upcoming event in August: ESSE-9 in Aarhus (just down the road from where I work). ESSE is the European Society for the Study of English and they meet every two years for a large conference with 50+ seminars and workshops. They also let in American Studies people, esp. if one can maintain a British accent for upward of 20 minutes...

I have proposed a paper for a seminar on Life Writing, a hot topic in literary studies right now:
The purpose of this seminar is to define and exemplify the increasingly popular genre 'life writing' in academic terms. In order to move beyond the stereotype of mass-market biographies we need critical discussion of different forms and definitions of life writing. We welcome papers seeking to identify and explain the contours and interfaces between producers, subjects and consumers of life writing; between memory and writing; between emotion and narration; fact, fiction and documentary styles; between personal and cultural history and between new textual technologies, e.g. on the Web, and the life of a text.
Here is my paper proposal:

The Survival of a Dissident Poet: Life Writing before and after the Web – the Case of Robert Gibbons

Robert Gibbons’ volume of poetry
Beyond Time – New and Selected Work 1977 - 2007 forms a rare vantage point for discussion of the themes proposed for this seminar on life writing. Over four decades Gibbons has remained an unincorporated, strongly political, and consistently dissident voice in the American landscape of little magazines and independent publication. Unaffiliated with any formal movement or coterie Gibbons has instead focused on developing his personal poetics of nonconformity, specializing in the hybrid form of the prose poem.

While being forced early on to depend on the acceptance of journal editors to find publication outlets, Gibbons has latterly begun utilizing Internet and web-based publication options to a much larger extent. His spontaneous composition ideals make his output, not least in the form of
a web log, ideally suited for a quick turn-around in terms of publication.

His confessions and reportage from a place-bound life on the streets of his favorite cities and among clean, well-lighted book-stacks balance carefully between the personal and the political, detailing the vagaries of having a compulsion to write for dear life while simultaneously being compelled to work for a living.

I aim to situate Gibbons’ dual practice of web as well as journal and book publications in the ever expanding spectrum of forms of mediated life writing.

I hope to do the multifaceted work Robert Gibbons is producing right now justice. His current daily log of poems is developing into a fine body of texts - hopefully ready to become a book in their second incarnation in a few months' time... A snippet from today's poem (with Robert's permission, I hope):

I don’t know where compassion stands among the grand list of Buddhist virtues, but the cold this morning placed me right there among the lowliest of the low, where poets belong. Spare change, madam, trickle down unemployment compensation, mister?

Right now I await acceptance of the paper proposal - hopefully within 3 weeks...


Lilly said...

HA HA HA @ They also let in American Studies people, esp. if one can maintain a British accent for upward of 20 minutes...! Perhaps Alan can give you some tutorials and teach you how to rrrrrroll your r's like a real Scot ;-)!

Lilly said...

[He does a damn good Sean Connery impersonation, by the way ;-)]