Thanks to Cassandra and Sophie and any other Rice students who read this blog and submitted to the symposium! We have enough papers! Dances of joy joy joy!
And now for arranging these papers into coherent panels. I’ve been looking forward to this. Anything involving categorizing, sorting, or Excel spreadsheets thrills the burgeoning OCD patient in me. And yet, while some papers fit nicely into little groups of three, others seem horribly resistant to fitting anywhere. After many rearrangements and reconsidersations, I’m still left with a strange collection of papers that do not fit together in any way imaginable. I find myself trying to find some absurd connection between syphilis, Republican platform hearings, Communist Hungary, Foucault, and children addicted to stimulants. All of these elements could probably be arranged into some sort of dirty joke, but dirty jokes as panel titles… well, now that’s just unprofessional.
Andy and I briefly entertained the idea of completely ignoring the paper titles and arranging people into panels based on their personal attributes– kind of a meta exercise on the conference theme, which is how we police (through science and the humanities) what it means to be normal or abnormal. This schema would make the panel we’ve tentatively arranged on queer studies mean something completely different.* We could have a panel for people who are abnormally tall. A panel for people who were cool in high school. A panel for people who very unwisely pop the collars of their polo shirts. But this, of course, would get us in a lot of trouble.
And then I considered randomly grouping the straggler papers under themes such as “People Who Submitted to This Conference and Were Accepted,” or “Residuum: What’s Left Over.” During the question and answer session, panelists could discuss why their papers just didn’t fit in. Why they are ABNORMAL. Freaks.
I am sure all of this will eventually sort itself out. And if all else fails, I am comforted by the knowledge that I’m not alone in this debacle. I have attended and participated in many a panel that had absolutely no organizational logic. I presented a paper on Emily Bronte and authorship as part of a panel entitled “Heathcliff on the Holodeck.” The gentleman after me presented on e-books, or something similar. Our papers were so different from one another that they repelled like magnets. Of course, this was largely due to the fact that I submitted a paper far afield from the conference theme, and I was accepted. They had to squeeze me in somewhere.
And so we’ll squeeze everyone in somewhere. I just pity the person squeezed in next to syphilis.
*Notably, as we were testing out a few different formulations of the queer studies panel, we would write in the names of different conference participants and follow them with a question mark. This, combined with the fact that we had short-handed the panel title to “Queer,” resulted in a post-it with the words “Queer: Jane? Joe?”