The two following abstracts were written by an ENG669 student in 2012, and was accepted at the Southwest/Texas Popular & American Culture Associations 34th Annual Conference “Celebrating Popular/American Cultures in a Global Context”

Presenter: Joseph Wright

Paper Topic area: Experimental Writing and Aesthetics

Presentation Title: This Lyric Forever Error: Kathleen Fraser's Experimental Poetry

Abstract: Kathleen Fraser’s experimental language poetry, as well as her chosen poetic themes, have proved crucial in the development and expansion of poetic genre for women. The epic, lyric, and narrative forms were all the canonical literary tools and genres formed by and readily available to European white males. Consequently, these genres were restrictive and degrading to minority and female poets because of constant comparison to white masculine standards. In the first half of the 20th century, women such as Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, Christina Rossetti, and H.D. worked to expand genre and create a voice for women in these traditional Eurocentric male-dominated forms. These women recognized the necessity of forming a new poetic voice for women to use in order to break into the poetic front and, at last, have their unique voice and experience appreciated. Kathleen Fraser advocated for a new effort in the second half of the 20th century that began with the understanding that women needed a new genre, and through subject matter needed to form that genre as a traditional feminized one. In accordance with her creed, Fraser wrote in the emerging experimental/language style and often dealt with the complications of being female as her subject matter. In addition to her poetry, Fraser’s role in HOW(ever), the female-exclusive literary magazine of the late 80’s and early 90’s, was essential in the development of genre in women’s writing. By examining biographical and historical information and implementing a close reading of her poetry, we discover how Fraser used experimental poetry as a means of breaking free from traditional poetic genre and creating a new space that was distinctly feminine. By understanding the ways in which Fraser evolved despite a tumultuous and masculinized poetic realm, a greater understanding of how the female poet functioned in experimental poetics during the second half of the twentieth century can be gained.


Accepted by the U Georgia Graduate Student Conference on the bizarre and the real.


Nick Winstead

North Carolina State University

MA American and British Literature Candidate

“I Think You and I Are Destined to do This Forever:” Iago, the Joker, and the Necessity of Comedic Evil.

“Why so serious” may have become a catch phrase out of the film The Dark Knight, but its roots and sadistically comedic bent can be traced back as far back as Iago, the chief antagonist of Shakespeare’s Othello. While Iago is not the earliest or darkest villain in literature or pop culture, he and the Joker represent aspects of a duality that delves into the use of humor, specifically perverse and dark humor, as a form of evil.  The effects of this comedic evil are used as attempts to wear down and specifically corrupt their respective counterparts, Othello and Batman. In this mentioned duality, Iago presents a more humanized, realistic version of comedic evil, while the Joker embodies the more bizarre, but in ways still believable, form of that evil. By extension, associates such as Cassio, Roderigo, Emilia, and Harley Quinn become instruments of varying levels of willingness in the games these two adversaries play with the objects of their ruin. In examining these two adversaries through close reading of texts such as the seminal Batman stories The Killing Joke, “A Death in the Family”, Christopher Nolan’s film The Dark Knight, as well as Shakespeare’s Othello, I will demonstrate the Joker’s destructive, bizarre props and moral war against Batman and his associates as a natural product of the clever and darkly comedic wordplay and use of props and people by Iago in his campaign against Othello.  By extension, I will explore the necessity of comedic evil as it pertains to the bounds of fiction and how, by extension, these elements play themselves out in the modern world of crime and horror.   


This abstract was written by a Fall 2011 ENG669 student and was accepted at the same U GA conference as above:

Author: Christopher Brean Murray (Chris is now PhD candidate in creative writing and literature at University of Houston)
Institution: North Carolina State University


Title: Gogol’s Masks: Decoding the Bizarre in “The Nose” and “The Overcoat”


While the tales of Nikolai Gogol—particularly “The Nose” and “The Overcoat”—strike some readers as bizarre or merely humorous, and while they have been read by others as realistic critiques of Russian bureaucracy, they are, I propose, complex works of fiction, often more tragic than comic, which not only depict the bewildering adventures of their characters, but which explore deep human anxieties about alienation, powerlessness, and
the fallibility of the human body. These stories also raise important philosophical questions about the nature of objective truth and, consequently, about the validity of the convention of omniscient narration in fiction. As strange as it is that “The Nose” is about a barber who finds such an appendage in a loaf of bread and another man who wakes to find that his nose (the same one) has transformed into a State Councilor, when the character missing the nose declares, “my…nose, which is the same as myself,” we see that the story uses imagination to explore profound human anxieties about identity and about its characters’ futile attempts to remedy their spiritual crises. Gogol’s stories often present absurd and/or bizarre situations, yet, while the details Gogol provides sometimes lead nowhere in terms of plot development, they reveal the author’s skepticism about the
ability of human beings to access or grasp “reality” or find meaning in life’s misfortunes. A close examination of Gogol’s literary techniques reveals his tales, often hailed as comic masterpieces or critiques of bureaucracy, to be wildly imaginative explorations of human frailty that complicate the notion of objective truth and critique the convention of omniscient narration in fiction.