I really liked Bea’s point today about (re)learning what objects get to be relevant to academic study — I was thinking about something like that when I was reading In the Shadow of No Towers in the Div School cafe last week. I felt a little self-conscious reading a giant and colorful comic book instead of a more “scholarly” text. One of the morning regulars — a staid-looking older guy — saw me and asked, “are you reading that for a class?” I was immediately defensive (This old guy is so narrow minded! He just doesn’t get it!). I tried to cast my explanation of the book in the most academic light possible, but I didn’t need to — it turned out that he had read Maus when it came out and just thought it was really cool that Spiegelman was assigned reading. We started talking about whether No Towers represents middle America in a way that is problematic or just accurately critical. It ended up being a really great conversation.
This is kind of what I was trying to get at on Tuesday, which I wanted to come back to here in case I was a little too opaque in my presentation. One of the things that I really love about I’m Trying to Reach You (the book I’m writing on) is how it shows the seemingly trivial zone of YouTube procrastination as a place that can be rich with meaning and value. This certainly isn’t to say that whatever you do on YouTube is Art, or that you should put off working on your finals to endlessly click through videos because “that’s what’s really real, bro.” But I think that that it’s important and difficult to remember that, as Patrick pointed out today, ‘ephemera’ can be meaningful, and even if it isn’t, it can still merit consideration and engagement.
Preparing my presentation made me realize just how many YouTube videos I have re-watched, learned from, and been moved by, often while thinking “I shouldn’t be doing this!” I would love to know the videos (or sites, or craigslist poems, or whatever) that you all find yourself returning to and sitting with, so please post them here! Since we’re going into finals week I figured you could all use some distractions that come highly recommended.
I’ll start with the Jeanann Verlee poem that I played during my presentation (I didn’t want to leave “soak up the semen” without context…):