I've just returned from France where I've been at a conference on The Cultural Kernel. For those interested in playful academic writing that draws on collaboration, in this case par excellence, may have a look at a preview of my paper Hard-core Divas Hit the Stone: Sharon, Gertrude, Lynn. I've chosen to pre-publish the piece on the Atlantic Community's site, as there was popular demand for it. Some people can't wait for the print version in the journal Imaginaires, so there.

So I have collaboration on my mind. In respect to the conference I was already grateful to my colleague at Roskilde U. for his generous contribution in terms of wordplay in my essay.
Hartmut Haberland is one of those few people who can actually read, so, when he reads my stuff, which I sometimes share with him because he likes it, he always has an insight that I can use, right then and there. So I give, and he gives back. We are both language enthusiasts, and we are both generous. In the French context, I particularly enjoy taking the idea of generosity at a performative level, so I give the audience in Reims a smash performance that includes an intertwining of embedded roles to play: Gertrude Stein, Lynn Emanuel, Sharon Stone, myself, and Hartmut are all playing the roles of divas who know a thing or two about dramatic grammars.

So I have play on my mind. So far so good, I tell myself, being aware of the fact that even though the conference was over, I was still playing a role - that of a devout church-goer. I find myself standing in the Reims cathedral attending the mass and being moved to tears by the organ and the singing. I like this role, especially as it affords me some counter leeway - I'm not sentimental. I'm pissed at the vicar for dragging it too long and interfering with what I came there for - the silence, or in its absence, the sound of baroque technology.

Next door to the cathedral, however, while playing the role of the champagne connoisseuse, I realize that what I have to say is not heard by the seller. He constantly turns to my husband and inquires: qu'est-ce que vous aimez, monsieur, Pol Roger - a brand I mention as it fits what I can afford - où le Gosset - another brand I want to buy. Le monsieur in this case, couldn't be bothered less about what we bought as he hardly ever drinks. If he does it's coca-cola. Fair enough. Of course, there is always something that can save the damsel in distress who, yet again, has to put up with the French and their stupid assumptions that it must be the man in the house who is always in the know in drinking matters - and all other matters, now that I come to think of it. That something is my credit card. As I swing it, I say, thank you Marx for the illuminations, and enjoy the man's distress: merci beaucoup madame. I'm out of the church so I murmur: up yours.

Next, as I like to keep it simple, I declare my wish to eat raw oysters, uncontaminated by dressing and other such abominations, and drink a lot of champagne at the Grand Café, Le Spécialiste des Moules. But I need to go to the bathroom first. My hands feel dirty after having been coerced into keenly rubbing my plastic money. By the toalette, a cleverer man than the champagne cretin, and one who could obviously identify a diva who was not kidding, pulls himself most courteously aside to let me pass, and starts explaining: "this room, my dear madam, is occupied. The one next to it is not so good, but please, try the third one. You should like that one for sure." My goodness, I was beginning to think that except for a few other people I know, I must be the last person on earth who knows a thing or two about performing good manners in that unmistakably genuine, yet blunt way that combines elementary social intelligence with the aesthetics of being. A votre santé, monsieur!

When in Reims stick with the bathrooms. It is not always shit that goes in and out of them.


Bent said…
I found it a bit striking that Lynn Emanuel's poem divided the audience along gender lines: Most of the male audience members were asking questions trying to get to the 'essence' of her playful meta-poem. They were patently unhappy to contemplate that there might not be such an essence - almost more so than they would have been if they had been French feminists.

Of course, there were also the two young, male lions poised to take over the local Dept., who were so uninterested that they were just talking among themselves through the question period... There are people like that in every conference crowd, not just in French academic circles - though the French specimens do tend to be ruder than most (with the possible exception of Romanian fossilized philologists - none of whom (thankfully!) were present at this event).

It was thus left to the smart women present to suggest that a text might be sufficiently interesting by dint of its playful performativity alone - an idea that it might have done the 'serious' men good to entertain...

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