Faculty members present at national Pop Culture Association conference

Fine Arts,

Three faculty members from the School of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences presented recently at the Popular Culture Association (PCA) 48th National Conference, which took place March 28-31, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Drs. Jennifer Swartz-Levine, David Moody and Darlene Hall shared their scholarship on the symbolic impact of popular cultural artifacts ranging from feminist comics to African American comedy to the film “Jaws.”

Dr. Swartz-Levine, dean of the School of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, is an associate professor of English. Her presentation, titled "Bitch is the New Orange: Subversion and Non-Compliance in the Women-in-Prison Comic, Bitch Planet,” served as a continuation of her scholarship in feminist literary studies in comics.

Her paper examines fictional nonconformist women banished to an off-world compliance prison called Bitch Planet, where they are subject to cruel punishment, surveillance and control. When the inmates begin to revolt, they brawl with structures of oppression.

“Whether it is in the jail cells of Bitch Planet proper or back on the home world of Earth, through their shared uprisings these women are attempting to reclaim power as well as dismantle the patriarchal demands to which they are subject,” wrote Dr. Swartz-Levine.

The monthly comic first debuted in 2014. Other scholars found new or untouched angles on decades-old cultural phenomena.

Dr. Moody adapted a chapter of his 2016 book, The Complexity and Progression of Black Representation in Film and Television, published by Lexington Books, a subsidiary of The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc.

His presentation, titled “Queering Masculinity in African American Culture, American Cinema and Television,” examined images of the Black comedic drag queen persona in television and Hollywood film. He calls them a spectacle akin to “minstrel castration” for Black men and comparable to stage characters in early minstrel shows, a legacy of American racism.

“The new Black comedian of the 70s was strikingly different from the old school television humorists from the 60s such as Bill Cosby and Diahann Carroll,” wrote Dr. Moody. “This new wave of Black hilarity on television was provocative, emasculate, and produced a character who was the inspiration behind the popular culture phrase ‘What you see is what you get.’ The character’s name—Geraldine Jones.”

By contrast, Dr. Hall, associate professor of history, presented “The Sea as Setting and Character: The Role of the Ocean in Film.” The British naval history scholar analyzed the calm character of water in films such as “Jaws” and its sequel “Jaws II.”

“The 1975 movie has been analyzed and tied to themes such as reactions to Watergate and socioeconomic issues, but the ocean itself goes unremarked,” she wrote. “Nevertheless, the ocean plays a major role, both as an antagonist and as primary manifestation of mood.”

The Popular Culture Association is a group of over 3,000 scholars and enthusiasts who study popular culture. It is a 501c3 that provides opportunities for publication in top-tier journals, The Journal of American Culture and Journal of Popular Culture.

For more information about LEC’s faculty presence at the PCA conference, contact Dr. Jennifer Swartz-Levine at jswartz@lec.edu or 440-375-7456.

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