Session II – Panel A

SESSION II, March 1, 11:00-12:30PM

Panel A: Performing the Burst
Moderator: María Luisa Lopez
Room: University College 224A

 James Southworth (Western) – Madonna’s Greatest Philosophical Hits

Madonna’s deep philosophical insights have tended to be overshadowed by her catchy melodies and innovative dance moves. In this paper, I will present Madonna’s philosophical genius with painstaking exegetical analysis of her texts. In Frozen, Madonna presents a scathing attack of the classical empiricism held by such philosophical luminaries as Locke and Hume. Does this mean we should read Madonna as a rationalist philosopher? I argue not. Madonna, always the maverick, refuses to buy into the traditional philosophical dichotomy between empiricism and rationalism. Instead, she develops a view that is closely aligned with William James’ radical empiricism. This results in her rejection of the long-held philosophical assumption of a cognitive distinction between feeling and thought. Moving onto Material Girl, I will argue that Madonna’s legendary commitment to materialism goes much deeper than the hedonistic pleasures of conspicuous consumption. Indeed, it is ultimately rooted in a thoroughgoing metaphysical materialism. But if “we are living in a material world” how are we to reconcile the theistic themes that are developed in such masterful works as Like A Prayer? Is this inconsistency simply a result of the continual rebranding of her image? I argue that it is not; that Madonna is ultimately a systematic and consistent thinker, right up there with Buddy Holly and the dude from the Counting Crows.

James Southworth is a PhD Candidate in the philosophy department at the University of Western Ontario. He is currently writing his thesis on William James’ theory of emotion, but still finds the time to think deeply about Madonna’s back catalogue.

Mark Plum (University of Iowa) – Discourse Analysis and the Seinfeld phenomena

This paper uses the concepts of Discourse Analysis to attempt to explain, using specific examples, how during the 1990’s Seinfeld came to be considered not only one of the best television shows ever, but also a vehicle by which American culture was both reflected and created through humor.  The paper will draw heavily from Michel Foucault’s work, primarily but not limited to The Discourse on Language. Foucault’s work will be used to discuss, among other things, the importance of an accepted discourse on given areas within a culture, results when these discourse are violated, the idea of language taboos, and the reality of proscription.  Foucault’s theories will be extended to analyze how Seinfeld exploited the cultural discourse on race and sexuality for the purposes of humor.  The paper will also draw to a lesser extent from the General Theory of Verbal Humor developed by Attardo and Raskin (1991).  Some specific Discourse Analysis concepts which will be elaborated upon will be Indexicality, Turn-taking, Non-verbal elements, and Para-verbal elements.  GTVH concepts which will be drawn upon include Jabs, Strands, Repetition, Stacks and Intertextuality.  This last concept will be explored with special emphasis, as I theorize that Seinfeld assumed from its viewers a fairly high level of familiarity with American culture in order to create much of its humor.  The paper concludes by examining the limitations of Discourse Analysis in explaining the Seinfeld phenomena.

This abstract is being submitted by Mark Plum, a graduate student in Spanish Linguistics at the University of Iowa.  I am in my second year of study with a particular interest in Sociolinguistics and how Extra-Linguistic factors combine with Sociolinguistic factors to affect communication and relationship structures.

Kara Stone (York University) – Public Feelings and Tig Notaro Live

Public affectivity drives Tig Notaro’s stand up comedy performace “Live”. Having just been diagnosed with cancer a few days before, she transforms the dominantly masculine comedy bar into a space of collective emotions. The audience expected a normal stand up routine, but instead Notaro refused, saying

“I just can’t do silly jokes right now” and lead them through her troubles with pneumonia, her mother dying, a break up, and then cancer. Though open and honest, she exercised power and control over the space, calling out a man for laughing too much at a “wrong time”, saying “I’m not that happy and comfortable”. She communicates her emotions and trauma on her own terms. She brings her individual experience into public space, which can then be transferred into the collective, creating an incredible relational response from the audience. This stand up performance offers a different way of looking at illness, positioning it more in the current and present, rather than constantly referencing to future events, like “getting better”, overcoming, or dying. She rejects the victimization that accompanies illness and works to claim agency and challenge notions of sickness and disease. Notaro blurs the everyday, insidious struggles of cancer with the public traumatic and catastrophic events, creating a new way of viewing “battling” disease. Basing from feminist affect theorists such as Lauren Berlant, Ann Cvetkovich and Jasbir Puar, Notaro’s performace reflects an “affective turn”; a way of relating and communicating Notaro’s emotions and life–‐maintenance, yet also seeing the desire to return to a normalized linearity of story–‐telling. Notaro uses humour in an affective sense; she recognizes the heavy and dark emotions she is experiencing yet her use of humour does not dismiss these feelings. Instead, she uses it as a way of communication and intelligibility.

Kara Stone is a student at York University, achieving an MA in Communication and Culture. She previously completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Production. Her work is within feminist filmmaking with a focus on gendered perspectives of affect, spirituality, mental illness and embodiment.

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