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Revelation

November 19, 2008

Last night I was able to attend what was dubbed a Transnational Panel hosted by a professor at West Chester University. Presenting in the panel were three professors–a British man who focuses on postcolonial literature, an American woman who focuses on 19th century American women authors, and a woman of Korean descent who focuses on critical pedagogy and gender studies–who have formed a group of transnational scholars on our campus in an effort to move our academic discourse beyond nationalistic literary boundaries that have long dominated our discipline. The three papers presented were, all in different ways, enlightening and informative. Had I gotten nothing out of the panel beyond the information found in the papers then it would have been well worth my attendance. However, I had a bit of a scholarly revelation during the presentation.

My scholarly interests are pretty varied. Right now, I imagine that my focus is late-20th century American literature. It’s where I feel most at home but that’s not to say that I don’t want to branch out. I have a great deal of interest in postcolonial studies, African American literature, and gender studies but I worry that I will be unable to contribute in these other fields because I am so terribly regular.

Here’s where my revelation comes in. Last night, the aforementioned professor of Korean descent presented a project she has been working on that explores representation of Chinese women in American society. My initial reaction was to question why she wasn’t working through Korean culture instead of Chinese culture but I quickly realized that I was being incredibly racist. There is no reason why her ethnicity should determine whom she studies and I was just being ridiculous. After my initial shock at my surreptitious racism, I realized that my scholarship, too, had been liberated! Just because I’m straight doesn’t mean I have no place adopting Queer Theory, or that because I’m a white male I can’t add to the conversation about black women writing in America. I can perform the scholarship that I want. I’m excited.

So for now, I’m off to class.

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