Teaching a Mystery: Preserving a Space for Spookiness in the Writing Classroom

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Northeast Modern Language Association
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The act of writing has frequently been associated with mysterious forces. Norman Mailer called writing "the spooky art," an activity that lures its practitioners into a netherworld of creative, unconscious, and inherently shadowy influences. This fantastic conception of writing has a prestigious pedigree, from the haunted writers of Stephen King's novels, to Yeats' fascination with spirit-writing, and down to the roots of urban, literate civilization, which has always been closely involved with reverence for sacred texts written by divinely inspired amanuenses of the gods. To this day, it is not uncommon to see even the most business-like of professional writers cultivate a superstitious regimen of rituals and routines calculated to propitiate the muses, to open the golden door, and to channel the netherworld's sacred intoxication.
It goes without saying that the spookiness of writing is not prevalently featured in the undergraduate composition curriculum, which focuses on demystifying the act of writing by anatomizing it down into a prefabricated set of steps known as "the writing process." The 600-page McGraw-Hill writer's handbook that my students use features a very detailed index, but it contains no entries for Inspiration, Muses, or the Unconscious. Spookiness is not efficient, not quantifiable, and impossible to standardize, but writing can never be completely exorcised of its ghostly component; even the most technical and deliberate kind of writing constitutes, to some extent, an upsurge of creative energies. This panel seeks papers on how writing instructors can balance an emphasis on scaffolding and process-work with a cultivation of the more holistic and intuitional aspects of "the spooky art."
Please submit 300-word abstracts to Dr. Randy Laist at rlaist@goodwin.edu by September 30, 2013.

Deadline: September 30, 2013
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45th Annual Convention, Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
April 3-6, 2014
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Host: Susquehanna University

The 2014 NeMLA convention continues the Association's tradition of sharing innovative scholarship in an engaging and generative location. This capitol city set on the Susquehanna River is known for its vibrant restaurant scene, historical sites, the National Civil War museum, and nearby Amish Country, antique shops and Hershey Park. NeMLA has arranged low hotel rates of $104-$124.

The 2014 event will include guest speakers, literary readings, professional events, and workshops. A reading by George Saunders will open the Convention. His 2013 collection of short fiction, The Tenth of December, has been acclaimed by the New York Times as "the best book you'll read this year." The Keynote speaker will be David Staller of Project Shaw.

Interested participants may submit abstracts to more than one NeMLA session; however, panelists can only present one paper (panel or seminar). Convention participants may present a paper at a panel and also present at a creative session or participate in a roundtable. http://www.nemla.org/convention/2014/cfp.html