EuroSlayage or “Sometimes Being a Nerd With Your Friend Results in a PhD”

In 2009 I attended and presented at my first ever academic conference. My very good friend and co-bartender Ian Klein had suggested we co-write a paper about Firefly’s Shepherd Book and issues of fundamentalism, atonement and atheism for an academic conference on popular culture. When I said yes, I had no idea it would become a tradition for Ian and I to travel down to Alburqueque for the next few years to present papers on topics ranging from Joss Whedon to Walt Disney, Harry Potter to Toni Morrison. Nor did I know that it would launch me into doctoral research or eventually reunite the two of us in London 7 years later.

PresentationThat first conference, as I listened to professors, graduate students, and authors critique pop culture texts and artefacts, engaging what they love through analysis, I looked around and thought, “I think I’ve found my people.” It wasn’t just a venue for my favorite kinds of conversations, it was the moment I decided that academia was where I could be most creative, the moment I chose to pursue a doctoral degree and a careeer teaching in higher education. Coming from a journeywoman, interdisciplinary bartender, pastor, theatre dramaturg, that was a massive paradigm shift. Three years later, it was with Ian in Alburqueque that I opened the email telling me I’d been accepted as a doctoral student at the University of St Andrews. Ian was the first to know and the first to celebrate with me.

Therefore, last year, when Ian and I began discussing whether it was feasible to meet up in London 2016 for the very first European Slayage conference on the Whedonverses, I was profoundly aware of what a signficant bookend the experience would be, taking place in the last months of my doctoral research, reuniting with the friend whose invitiation to collaborate had opened doors he had no idea would have such an impact.

Clv1Ni6WAAAwuU6And last week, we did it! After spending a few days with me in Edinburgh, and scooting around London a bit, Ian and I attended “Euroslayage,” four days of reunions with buddies and scholars we’ve met through various conferences over the years, new friends made, and panel after panel engaging the works of Joss Whedon through endlessly diverse theoretical, educational and interpretive perspectives.

I was thrilled, and not surprised in the least, that Ian’s conference paper was voted best in the conference, meaning he’ll be back as a featured speaker at the next biennial conference. And I was humbled and very grateful to be one of three student award recipients, especially as this was my first Slayage conference and I wasn’t entirely sure how my theological and comparative film reading would fit within wider Whedon scholarship. But of course, Whedon scholars are nothing if not welcoming, collaborative and creative, and I was fortunate to present my work on a panel with Dr. Rhonda V. Wilcox, co-founder and editor of the Journal of Whedon Studies, and Dr. Brenna Wardell from the University of Northern Alabama. All three of our papers considered Whedon’s second MCU film “Avengers: Age of Ultron” through issues of hero archetypes, nationalism, and violence in ways that intersected and paralleled in surprising and informative ways. It was unquestionably, the best conference panel I’ve ever particiapted in.

So here’s a few slides from my paper presentation. I will definitely be back at the 2018 conference. Maybe it will be time to go full circle and talk Firefly once again.

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Posted on Mon, Jul 18th, 2016 at 7:43 pm
Filed under Film, intertextuality, Pop Culture, St Andrews, theology.

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