Friday, Sept 27 | 1:10-2:25 pm

Mediated Identities | Room 201

Bluebeard and the Narrative of Self-Transcendence 

I believe that fiction writing is the guardian of the moral and ethical sense of the community.
         ~ Margaret Atwood, Second Words

The German term, bildungsroman, means "formation novel," or "education novel," and often follows a character’s path on a quest for identity that leads him or her to maturity. These characters sometimes defend fragile new selves with acts of heroism, sometimes with individualism or acts of colossal selfishness.  At the end, a form of selfhood is achieved, the project is “done.” 

As compelling as many such narratives are, I find I’m no longer interested in the narrative of socially isolated selves.  In my reading and writing, I seek a redefinition of the concept of self itself. I seek the novel of self-transcendence, where the social Self emerges to fully embrace the Other in its full humanity. Self-Other, like Buber’s I-Thou, is desirable because of the ugly alternative:  selves who cannot love other selves get stuck inside themselves. 

I want characters to forsake individual “-isms” (especially individualism), to contribute meaningfully to a community, no matter how small, to a “human project” — a project that nurtures growth and redemption for the Other. I seek broader definitions of morality than mere fear of wrongdoing, and ask if the newly hatched Self has been refined through exercises of morality, which I would define as acts of psychological heroism and selflessness. 

Since my current novel in progress, After the Fact of Fire, uses the Bluebeard narrative as subtext, I will examine how Margaret Atwood, Daphne du Maurier, and Charlotte Brontë have employed Bluebeard themes to explore issues of female selfhood.  And I will ask, with reference to my own work: what new uses might still be made of a twice-told tale?

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Loranne Brown, MFA. Loranne’s first novel, The Handless Maiden was published by Doubleday Canada and short-listed for a number of awards. She recently completed her MFA in creative writing at Pacific University near Portland, Oregon.  Her creative thesis—a novel entitled After the Fact of Fire — is based on the 1989 crash of Air Ontario Flight 1363 near Dryden, Ontario. Loranne teaches Professional Writing in the Department of Media + Communication at TWU.


Pixel Recognition: Redefining “Classic” Film Narratives

How does film define one’s identity? In her TED Talk “The Danger of a Single Story”, Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie discusses the dangers that occur when perceptions of a race are propagated by biased western media. She states: “The single story creates stereotypes. The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but they are incomplete...it emphasizes how we are different, rather than how they are similar.” Only telling one side of a story can create false ideas of a community, a race, a people, all which hinder humanity from common understanding.

The same is true for the art of film. Within the American Film Institute’s list of Top 100 films, only one film was directed by an African American director, and that film, Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, ranks at number 96. This presentation discusses how this reality affects African Americans seeking to find identity within society and within this art form. Mainstream Hollywood cinema often portrays African Americans as maids, gangsters, illiterates and criminals. But what if the art of film showed a more complex picture of the African American experience and humanness? The Black Independent Cinema Movement, started in the 1960s and 1970s by a group of radical filmmakers at UCLA, spawned a new crop of artists who longed to create a different narrative and dialogue about what it looks like to be black in America.

This presentation uses the criticism of Manthia Diawara’s Black Independent Cinema, as well as the films of Charles Burnett, Julie Dash, Spike Lee and others, to examine how this movement broadened the narrative of Hollywood cinema, and provided a different framework for viewing African American life. When film narratives become diversified, so do the conversations surrounding cultural identities, which is necessary for contemporary artistic expression and dialogue.

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Avril Z. Speaks has over fifteen years of experience as a filmmaker to include credits as a producer, writer, director, and editor. She earned her M.F.A. in Film Directing from Columbia University in New York City, and her B.A. from the University of Maryland in African American Studies. Currently an instructor at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, CA, she is also pursuing an M.A.T. at Fuller Theological Seminary in Theology and the Arts. She has directed two award-winning feature films, as well as numerous short films. For more information, visit http://about.me/azuspeak.

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