MyAmericanFuture

MyAmericanFuture
MyAmericanFuture

Friday, February 22, 2013

February 22, 2013: AmericanStudiers to Watch, Part Five

[One of my ongoing resolutions is to attend more conferences—for lots of reasons, but especially to connect with my fellow scholars. This week, I’ll be briefly highlighting some impressive AmericanStudiers I’ve recently had the chance to meet and see in action, both at November’s American Studies Association conference and at January’s Modern Language Association one. Would love to hear your suggestions for other AmericanStudiers to watch, and will compile the ongoing list for the weekend post!]
On three young scholars with whom I was fortunate enough to share a multi-lingual conversation.
At the MLA conference, I gave a talk on a panel organized by the discussion group on Literatures of the U.S. in Languages Other Than English, and its outgoing president Heidi Kim. It was a very positive experience, most especially because of the other three AmericanStudiers on the panel:
1)      Audrey Wu Clark, an Assistant Professor of English at the U.S. Naval Academy, presented on the complex roles of English, Chinese, and hybrid combinations of both in short stories by one of my favorite American authors, Sui Sin Far. Her readings of the individual stories were nuanced and compelling, but she also did a great job framing broader historical, cultural, ethnic, and linguistic contexts for those works and Far’s unique and impressive career.
2)      Osvaldo Oyola, a graduate student in English at SUNY Binghamton, spoke on English, Spanish, Spanglish, Dork, and the many other languages and dialects at the heart of Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2008). As befitting Díaz’s novel, his talk was funny and irreverent, but without losing sight of the significant, complex, and vital themes to which the book and its languages connect. I’m excited to see where he takes his dissertation, of which this talk will be a part.
3)      Melissa Dennihy, a graduate student in English at the CUNY Graduate Center, paralleled Osvaldo’s talk (as I did Audrey’s) with a broader engagement with multilingual novels and themes in 21st century American literature. She pointed me to a number of books I need to read—I’m especially interested in Fae Myenne Ng’s Bone (1993), with its protagonist who works as a public school translator—but also and more importantly did a great job identifying the stakes of these literary and linguistic questions for our most crucial issues of national identity, community, and future.
Three great talks, and one more reminder why I need to get to more conferences!
Crowd-sourced post this weekend,
Ben
PS. So who are some AmericanStudiers to watch whom you’d highlight? Share ‘em for that post please!

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