Textualities 2017 is UCC’s school of English annual mini-conference where the school’s MA students (that includes me) feature our research presentations to our fellow students and members of the faculty. The mini-conference is organised by us and forms part of our contemporary research, skills, methods and strategies module. Everyone takes responsibility for some aspect of the conference, whether that is, chairing a panel, live blogging, providing technical support, photography, email, print (e.g. posters, invitations etc), setting up the website (https://textualitiesconference17.wordpress.com/), or organising the social media communications. Supervision, direction, advice, guidance, dance lessons (!) and breathing techniques are provided by Dr Donna Alexander and Dr Anne Etienne (many thanks).
6am March 10th, the big day has, finally, arrived.
I get to the venue bright and early to find the tech team Rebecca Murray and Annie curran there to support and organise the more luddite among us, i.e. me!! Rebecca, very patiently, takes me through what buttons to click and, more importantly, what not to press, apparently X’s are to be avoided!!!!! Annie had previously held my hand through getting my presentation url to her. My thanks to a supportive tech team. One of the biggest personal challenges is getting to grips with digital devices, social media, setting up a blog, editing Wikipedia and all that malarkey. Machines and the digital world are alien territory. So here is my big admission: in the Wikipedia assignment and at the conference I am unable to tweet from my phone, this weekend I finally discovered why, I only have web access at home as I am on a pay as you go contract!! It is a world I am chipping away at, just like Andy Dufrense in The Shawshank Redemption.
We present in the pecha kucha format, twenty slides twenty seconds each, and as it is a new experience for most of us, it is fair to say everyone is a little anxious!! My colleagues arrive; new hair do’s, and sharp attire is the order of the day!! Anxiety levels go up another few notches as members of the faculty arrive, big hitters such as: Dr Heather Laird, Dr Donna Alexander, Dr Anne Etienne, Prof Lee Jenkins, Dr Tom Birkett, Prof Graham Allen, Dr Adam Hanna, Dr Cliona O Gallchoir, and Dr Barry Monahan, (if there are big hitters I have failed to mention, please accept my sincere apologies), it all begins to feel very, very real! Thankfully, the anxiety is shared and the great camaraderie helps keep the nerves from getting out of control! I get myself set up, I come armed with a laptop, iPad and mobile, I chance a tweet, (giving up on the mobile I use the other machines!!)
#textualities17 sweaty palms dry mouth 5mins to go! Good luck to everyone!
9.15am and we are off!! Prof Lee Jenkins opens the conference and welcomes all. I am part of the first panel presenting, which is really good for me, it means I can get the most nerve racking part of the day behind me. My panel is comprised of, Daniel Lynch, who takes on the challenge of kicking off proceedings, Cody Jarman, myself, and Amy Nolan. We are supported by a fantastic chair, Zoe McCormack, who does a great job handling the first Q&A session of the day with competence and aplomb. My co-presenters are inspirational, dealing with hard hitting topics on clerical abuse, the minstrel show in Irish history and literary tradition, and female representation in the work of Marina Carr. My presentation is “Death Becomes Her: Ireland’s Funerary Culture and the theme of death in the work of Marina Carr” a link to the visual is here:
I find the Q&A daunting, being asked really perceptive questions, for example, from Prof Graham Allen, “is death gendered?” or Dr Heather Laird, “to what extent do I intend to include analyses on the theatrical form of Carr’s plays?” make my knees go to jelly! Eventually it ends, and we find we are still alive!!
I am now free to focus on live blogging the third panel, excellently and professionally chaired by Josephine Fenton. We receive amazing presentations from, Cian O’Connor, Eimear Sheehy, Louise Mackey and Ellen Reid, followed by a stimulating Q&A, click here for my live blog. https://streamsofunconciousnessfromwestcork.wordpress.com/2017/03/10/ucc-textualities-conference-2017-. My next activity is to chair the fourth panel, a formidably talented quartet of ladies whose presentations I find enthralling. Here are three of culprits, Zoe McCormack, Haley Bonner, and Lauren McAuliffe , the fourth member is Erin Bergin. Connections to their blogs can be found in my ‘blogs I follow’ section. I recommend checking them out.
The day is a revelation. I am impressed, amazed and enormously interested in all the presentations. Discovering the breadth and diversity of the research interests is incredibly stimulating, informative and thought provoking. Topics range from clerical child abuse, famine roads, protest poetry, modernism to fascism, capitalism, theatre, and the Holy Grail to name just a few. I come away armed with a list of works of writers I want to discover at some point in the future when I have more time, writers such as Flannery O’Connor, Caryl Churchill, Zora Neale Hurston, Enda Walsh, Sarah Clancy and Elaine Feeney to name a few examples.
One observation becomes clear, some colleagues have total clarity on their thesis argument and others, like myself, are still finding our way. A particularly stimulating aspect of the conference are the Q&A’s, this is where the faculty members come into their own and a number of my colleagues, particularly come to the fore, most notably, Cody Jarman, Daniel Lynch, Patrick Gibbons, Geoff Gould, Cian O’ Connor, Lena Schulte, Luke Pyke-Terrett and Siobhan Fellon. My personal highlight is Erin Bergin’s proposal, her research intends to focus on the work of John B. Keane and the identity of the Irish migrant; I secretly harbor thoughts of bumping her off and coveting her idea!!!
The day goes without a hitch and is over before we know it. It completely exceeds my expectations on so many fronts, probably because I was in a state of intense focus on the specific tasks that I did not have a chance to consider the bigger potential. I have to admit a great sense of relief but also of achievement. It has been a great learning experience and most importantly a rewarding one.