Perspectives on Pop Culture and the Arts

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Slayage Conference Report - pt. I

Last weekend I attended the Slayage Conference on the Whedonverses at Gordon College in Barnesville, Georgia. I must say that it was an incredible experience for me, although I felt way out of my league presenting among such a prestigious scholarly crowd. The lectures focused on the works of writer, director, creator, Joss Whedon such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly and Serenity, as well as the comics The Astonishing X-Men and Fray. Since there were over 100 presentations and I attended probably around 25, there is loads to cover here. So, for the sake of time and attention span, I'll mainly cover the lectures that I really enjoyed and have a ton of notes from. Reductive much? Totally.

Day 1 opened with Dr. Michael Adams, a philologist and author of (among several others) Slayer Slang, presented 'The Matrix of Motives in Slayer Style.' He discussed the language in the Buffyverse and the use of 'clipped' versus 'full phrasal' idioms, such as 'wig' versus 'wig out'. He proposed that the determining factors for why a character would use one rather than the other were mainly dependent on familiarity and social distinction as opposed to just being jargony hipsters. He also suggested that this use of dialog could also be seen as a form of socio-linguistic competition as shown clearly in the scene where Faith is prodding Buffy about her past with Angel,

Buffy: What do you know about Angel?
Faith: (faces her, copping an attitude) Just what your friends tell me: big love, big loss. You oughta deal and move on, but you're not.
Buffy: (steps closer) I got an idea: how about from now on, we don't hear from you on Angel or anything else in my life. Which, by the way, is my life.
Faith: What are you getting so strung out for, B?

Faith challenges Buffy by using the clipped phrase, 'you oughta deal' (rather than a full phrasal line like 'you oughta deal with it'), which raises Buffy's hackles since they are not on familiar terms with this subject and Faith is getting pushy. Buffy then starts to get in her face about it and Faith feigns submission by backing off a bit and then calling her 'B' rather than Buffy.

Another point that Adams touched on was the fact that theory is basically a shortened or condensed form of the artistic knowledge and information. Theory becomes problematic and redundant when it approaches the extent of the art in that it is no longer shorter than the piece it is explaining. (It's like reading a synopsis that is longer than the actual piece allegedly being summarized) He also argued that 'Good Art' tends to resist theory because to theorize it properly, you would tend to exceed the length of the source.
And Buffy the Vampire Slayer is like this of course.

More to come!

[Link to Big Monkey, Helpy Chalk's blog post on this presentation]

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