Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Little Less Conversation, a Little More Brussels

It's a toss-up which is harder to blog with: my iPhone or this wacky Belgian keyboard. So I'll just say for now that the conference is really excellent and is helping me clarify many of my ideas about pastoral, its relation to ecopoetics, and the cage match I've been wanting to stage between nature writing and postmodernism. Being at the conference feels like being inside a giant brain thinking hard about all th same stuff I've been preoccupied with for years. When typing gets easier (probably won!t happen before I come home) I'll share some of the notes I've taken on the panels I've attended. My own paper will be presented tomorrow morning. However, to tide you over, here are some brief observations:

- European academics are mad for PowerPoint. This can be useful, as when complex bits of text or chunks of poems need to be presented to the audience, but just as often it seems pointless or distracting.

- I'm noticing a divide between the diehard nature poets and the theory-heads, but for the most part people are amiable about it. This morning the poet Judith McCombs gave a talk prefaced by the remark that, "If you can't do theory, you tell stories." Hmm.

- People still use psychoanalytic implements (Kristeva, Lacan) to construct their arguments--why does this now strike me as quaint?

- The part of Brussels I'm in (I believe it's called the Uccle, but that probably just means "center," though as far as I can tell we're nowhere near the center) is quite dull, but there are lots of little boutiques and shops. Glanced into a butcher shop: meat seems much, much more expensive when it's priced by the kilogram.

- My French is good enough to shop with but not good enough to talk about anything remotely substantive. Quel dommage.

- Purchased a copy of <> on the theory that reading a book I know very well might help rectify this problem, or at least make it possible for me to hold cunning dialogues with les dragons.

- Differences in accent can produce surprising effects. For example, one scholar's Singaporean accent made "nature" sound like "Nietzsche." This produced such fascinating phrases as, "the escape from culture into Nietzsche."

- Jet lag doesn't affect me very much traveling westward, but we'll see the damage done when I fly home again.

That's it for now. I might try for some pictures, eventually.

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