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Penn State, Day 2

Sunday night, or Monday morning more precisely, we came back to Jenny's after shooting pool until about 1, and I proceeded to work over the paper I was delivering Tuesday morning. Two things of note: I had had a fair amount of beer, and I hadn't really slept more than about 2 or 3 hours the night before. I stayed up til about 5 or 5:30, and got up around 9:30 on Monday morning, although to describe my state of being as "up" is probably hyperbole.

Anyhow, I missed the session on "Virtual Burke, Visual Burke," one of the ones that I'd really hoped to catch. And then, because the next session began at 10:15, I missed "Burke Embodied," which I also really wanted to see. Who's a crappy conference attendee? Yeah, that'd be me.

I did make it over to the Inn in time for my free lunch, though, although I don't remember being able to eat all that much. The lunchtime speaker was Cary Nelson, who was "Leveraging a Career with Kenneth Burke." I didn't take notes, but the cheesecake was very good. The session ended with a little Q&A, which included a slightly embarrassing question by someone who had just found George Lakoff's new book and wondered if he wasn't just recycling Burke. Embarrassing because this fellow seemed not to realize who Lakoff was, or that his ideas have been circulating for quite some time, or that there might be some relation between L's earlier work on conceptual metaphors and terministic screens. Hell, for all I know, someone's already written that paper. I don't mean to dwell on it, but it was a little odd.

Oh, and then I skipped the next session. But to make up for it, I did go to the special collections room during the reception, and look around. Jack Selzer's students have been doing all sorts of archival work on Burke, and the results were really impressive. I'm not just saying that. Each project was laid out in a display case, and they were almost to a person really interesting. Made me wish I'd gone to the session.

I made it to the afternoon keynote, which was Ed Schiappa's "The Texts We Make: Revisiting the Textual Analysis/Audience Research Dichotomy in Popular Culture Criticism." Yeah, it made me tired just typing the abstract title. As we decided whether or not to go to the talk (which was really pretty good, I thought), I had cause to reflect on whether or not, in the end, the texts we take are equal to the texts we make. And I offered up $20 to anyone willing to raise their hand and ask whether or not it was true. No one took me up on it.

Anyway, Ed's talk was a good one, and not just because he and I were making very similar arguments in our papers, although that helped. I heard later about people not liking it, and my impression was that they were missing the point in exactly the way that Ed was trying to explain that critics were missing the point. But oh well. His talk was about how pop culture critics, in the guise of representing the texts they analyze, are basically making conjectures about audience, and that those conjectures would be better made if supported by research into actual audiences. I'm not really doing the argument justice because I don't have the handout nearby and that where I took notes. I think that the detractors thought the paper was about Ed's "subject" when in fact it was about his method, and from that perspective, I thought it was good.

The closing event of the day was a picnic and awards ceremony, which we held at an alternate location (Mad Mex's, I think). We had a couple of drinks, and turned in early, not the least reason for which was that Dan, John, and I were doing our panel at 8:30 the next morning.

And thank goodness we did. I printed out my paper on Monday, and mentioned to Jodie and John the fact that I had to resolve my sleeping situation (since I wasn't doing well on Jenny's couch). Anyhow, Jodie had a spare futon bed at her place, and offered it. So I went "back" to her place, and read over my paper for the first time, whereupon I discovered that I'm a much less talented writer when I'm drunk than I supposed I was (while I was drunk, to be fair). I ended up rewriting the last five or so pages, and Jodie got back just as I was hitting the end of it. She managed to persuade me that it actually wasn't the worst paper ever written, and so I only stayed up until around 2:00 or so to finish it.

That was Monday.