VSW Day Five: Final Reflection

This has been a very productive and inspiring week. Coming in, I was simply hoping to have some focused time to get me back into the habit of writing and to experiment with some of the more experimental DH methods of research and presentation that I don’t always have the space for. I also have always been drawn to cultural criticism, and was interested in the connecting points I could find between my own historical work and the work of cultural critics. Looking back, I got all of this and was able to push my thinking in new directions both in terms of what to write about, how to engage with multimedia possibilities for publication, and the kinds of non-scholarly writing opportunities that might exist to push my writing and connect me with new communities.

I found the work of the other students in the class inspiring. Everyone came from such different backgrounds and modes of practice, yet there were always connections between how we approached our work. I was also pleased to be among a group that worked from a place that centered ethics and social justice as a centerpiece of good writing about art and culture. I have a notebook full of phrases, ideas, and keywords that I plan to return back to as I continue working. In addition, the experience to talk with so many working critics was invaluable. They all brought unique insights and pathways into cultural criticism, and provided some excellent tips and strategies for breaking through the moments where you panic or get stuck. What has stuck with me: write what you care about, take the time to focus on details, and then explain to your audience why it matters in a larger context. Bonus points if you can do this in creative or multimedia ways that engage your audience and draw them into your process.

Moving forward, I am going to continue thinking through the possibilities for annotating and multimedia approaches to Cajun identity. Because I am dealing so much with audio and visual material, it is a natural fit for me highlight those in interesting ways as a kind of alternative way into my dissertation. I am also very interested in the possibilities for podcasting, and might try to connect with other music scholars to discuss possibilities for what this could look like. I also began a piece on our second to last day on what I’m calling the “shifting intimacies” of virtual performance that I plan to keep working on, and perhaps force myself to keep writing short critiques of contemporary culture to hone those skills. I find the tension between scholarly and critical writing productive, and something I would like to integrate better as I work on my dissertation.

If I were to critique this course I would say only two things, and both of them have to do with my desire to get to know my fellow classmates better. First, I wish there was more peer critique baked into the course. I don’t know if this would look like a buddy system, following the work of another classmate through the course, or choosing a different classmate each day. Similarly, I wish we had used kind of platform like Slack to have informal discussions throughout the day. It was nice to see everyone during the daily Zoom meetings, but I found myself wanting a little more optional connection during the day. I also wonder if there would have been potential to work on something collaboratively, bringing all of our skills and ideas to the table, although this might have been too much in an already jam-packed week.

Overall, I am so glad I participated in this course, and feel I have a new set of skills, language, and possibilities to develop. Thanks to Michael Kramer, all of our guests, and my fellow classmates for making me feel a little less socially isolated and very inspired during these strange times.

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Jessica Does History