The Summer Writer’s Workshop Blog collects essays from members of the PCA/ACA Summer Writer’s Workshop reflecting on their experiences at the event. If you’re interested in participating in a future Summer Writer’s Workshop, email our VP of Curriculum and Instruction, Elwood Watson, at Aloofbooks@aol.com
PCA/ACA Summer Writer’s Workshop, from The Nihilist Void
by John Marmysz
In late June, my wife and I attended the first ever Summer Writer’s Workshop hosted by the Popular Culture Association and the American Culture Association. It was a great experience being in New York City and meeting a friendly group of scholars working in various areas of popular culture studies. I hope that the PCA/ACA decides to host many more of these sorts of events in the future.
The workshop was organized and led by Rosemarie Conforti, from Southern Connecticut University, and Joe Hancock, from Drexel University; both of whom did an outstanding job of putting together a series of meetings and visits that allowed participants to become immersed in the culture and the excitement of the City. Over the course of the week we had the opportunity to experience the offerings of New York while still having ample time to write, talk and debate. The participants were of diverse ages, interests and backgrounds, but what united us all was an enthusiatic concern with the study of popular culture and a desire to develop and work on our own particular writing projects. One of the true joys of the workshop was hearing about the various subjects being explored by the attendees, which ranged from research on video games and detective fiction to investigations into fashion and fat studies. It was inspiring – and eye-opening – to learn just how diverse the nature of popular culture studies is. The whole experience gave me hope that the image of college professors as stuffy, boring and arrogant is now a fading myth. I myself was filled with a renewed sense of confidence in, and passion for, my own somewhat unusual area of research.
My goal was to develop ideas for an essay on the nihilistic themes in the films of Darren Aronofsky. What initially attracted me to this workshop was the opportunity to spend time immersed in the atmosphere of New York City, which serves as the backdrop for many of this director’s most important films like PI and Black Swan. In Aronofsky’s work, the streets and subways of NYC often serve as visual metaphors for the human mind; and they are normally depicted as dark, mysterious and threatening. As we began wandering about, however, the actual streets of the City seemed anything but threatening and dark. The initial impression that I had was of a place bustling with activity, wealth and friendly people. This did not appear to be the hard-boiled, crime-ridden New York of days gone by! Yet, the more that we walked around, and the closer that I scrutinized my surroundings, the more I came to appreciate the significance of Aronofsky’s imagery.