Wednesday, April 13, 2016

OU-C faculty member Tony Vinci earns ‘Best Paper’ award at International Popular Culture Conference in Seattle

By student public relations writer Madison Corbin

OU-C Assistant Professor of English Tony Vinci, Ph.D., attended the International Popular Culture Conference in Seattle, Wash., to present his paper, “Mourning the Human: Working Through Trauma and the Posthuman Body in Lev Grossman’s The Magicians Trilogy.” For this presentation, Vinci won the “Best Paper” Award at the conference.

“I feel really proud,” said Vinci. “In the paper, I'm trying to offer new intellectual and social coordinates from which to read the literatures of the fantastic, how they work to destabilize our assumptions about everything from ecology to trauma.” Vinci was awarded by a committee of popular culture scholars who read and critique each piece at the conference. His work was selected on the bases of content, style and significance.

Vinci has attended Popular Culture conferences intermittently over the last 10 years. He praises the event for its versatility, stating, “The sheer scope of topics discussed is both strange and inspiring.”

The International Popular Culture conference began in 1979 in partnership between the Popular Culture Association and the American Culture Association. The national conference boasts over 2,000 participants and expands into seven regional organizations. It produces two scholarly journals, The Journal of Popular Culture and The Journal of American Culture, and provides recognition for its most accomplished contributors with a series of awards, including that which Vinci received.

This was Vinci’s first time presenting at the conference. “I’ve always been obsessed with studying the contemporary primarily because I despise the notion that stories exist for entertainment,” said Vinci. “The world and its stories are not here simply to delight us—they have work to do, and so do we.”

Vinci submitted a brief abstract of the paper on which he presented last month, and was selected by a panel of scholars in his field to present. “This paper in particular deals with a lot of different topics: trauma, the representation of female bodies in literature, magic, etc.,” said Vinci. “You have to read up on all the current theories on each of these topics . . . you employ them in a new way to try to create an original and useful piece of scholarship.” He poses that the purpose of storytelling is to challenge its consumers’ conceptions and to spur a reimagining of the world they know. “Many of us have never been taught to ‘read’ contemporary popular stories as sources of meaning,” he said. “So, they too frequently get marginalized as easily consumable commodities.”

Vinci’s paper examines Lev Grossman’s The Magicians trilogy (2009-2014) with an emphasis on the “meta-cultural human identity” that his studies show is prevalent in many works of young adult fantasy. His abstract argues that the author’s experimental writing “demonstrates how the very concept of the distinct human body can prohibit the processes of mourning and working through trauma while accessing and reclaiming traces of trauma’s impossible histories that operate beyond the boundaries of the human.”

According to Vinci, a conference paper is typically about 20 pages, and post-conference, is expanded into a 20- to 35-page piece for publication. He also plans to implement the study into his work with students here at Ohio University Chillicothe. “After winning this award, I feel empowered to incorporate fantasy literature into more of my classes and scholarship,” he said. “For example, I'll be teaching a class next semester on magic and fantasy in young adult literature.”

Vinci cites the quality of the event and the acquisition of cutting edge knowledge as his motivation for attending, stating, “I go to receive feedback, learn about what other scholars in the field are experimenting with, network and look for cool new topics or approaches to share with students.” However, Vinci’s chief objective upon returning from the experience is grander than tangible pieces of information and innovative methodologies.

“I’m trying to model a type of lifestyle here for my classes. I’m trying to say, ‘hey, every time you write an essay, you should be trying to transform the world.’”

Vinci recognizes OU-C for an atmosphere conducive to academic strives. “OU-C has been very supportive of my work. The administration, colleagues, and students have all showed an active interest in my scholarship and continue to encourage me to experiment with my teaching,” he said. “For that, I'm really grateful.”

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