College to host 3rd pop culture conference
By Gordon Dritschilo
Staff Writer | April 02,2014
Doom, gloom and terror are coming to the College of St. Joseph.
The college hosts its third annual pop culture conference April 11-12. This year’s theme is “American Horror from the Great Depression to the Great Recession,” with academics from as far away as the University of South Carolina presenting papers on the topic.
The panel talks, which take place from 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. April 12 are free and open to the public, and meals are included with a $25 registration fee.
The first conference was on the image of the barbarian in popular culture. The second centered on the works of early 20th-century horror writer H.P. Lovecraft.
Organizer Jonas Prida, an English professor at CSJ, said the third conference does not stray far from the second in its topic, largely because of the feedback organizers got last year.
“Several of the presenters had a good experience and said we should change it into a conference that looks at horror stuff every year,” he said. “Instead of exactly replicating the Lovecraft conference because we thought it would be hard to sustain that, we thought we’d try to hit that 80-year period from the end of Lovecraft to now.”
The conference dovetails with the college’s launch of horroruniversity.net, a website dedicated to academic discussions of the horror genre.
Prida said he does not know if they will continue to run a horror-centered conference, but will try it for now.
Other ideas, he said, are to have one of the next conferences focus on a science-fiction theme or perhaps on a medium rather than a genre.
The conference is open to the public, though the talks will vary in their accessibility. Last year, a survey of Lovecraft’s influence on horror comics was easy to follow, while other presentations were dense and highly esoteric to the nonacademic.
“I would say this time around it’s probably more accessible than it was last year,” Prida said. “I didn’t choose the panels that way — that’s how the panels came out.”
Scott West’s discussion of horror comics coming of age in the 1960s should be easy enough to follow, Prida said, as should a talk by Leah Lapszynski of Northeastern University titled “‘I Gave Him Life: The Denigration of Self from Frankenstein to Re-Animator & Beyond.”
“Even if you don’t know film theory, you’re going to get to see some splatter,” Prida said.
Marcello Ricciardi’s talk comparing dream-centric works of Lovecraft and John Milton, on the other hand, is among the talks that Prida said promise to be “slogs for the best of us.”
“It’s going to be a smart presentation, but if you’re not an expert on either of those fields, that might be the time to check out,” he said.
Prida said he also expects significant interest — at least among female students — in a talk on V.C. Andrews’ “Flowers in the Attic.”
“Young women read it,” he said. “As soon as I mention it in class, that gender division is there.”
About 20 people attended last year’s conference, roughly split between presenters and observers, and Prida characterized that as a success he hopes to build on.
“It was, frankly, more than we were expecting,” he said. “The only other one we’d done is the year before that, when we had one person from the outside world. Ideally, we’d love to get more. If we can hit the 10 (spectators) mark, not including our students, that would be great.”