Thursday, 25 March 2010

On not being Nikki Stafford

I was lucky enough to meet Nikki in Arkadelphia nearly two years ago. She gave an immensely entertaining and thought-inducing after dinner speech (standing next to the left-over buffet, without a microphone and with utterly compelling energy) and we were staying in the same, beautiful, guest house. At night we and some of the other keynotes would sit and chat. I’d drink lots of beer (that I’d had to drive a 2-hour round trip to get because Arkadelphia is in a dry county – an academic conference in a dry county??), while Nikki didn’t. She would scream like a little girl at the creepie crawlies (they WERE quite big) and the conversations would swirl and eddy in the way that they do. The Arkansas heat and humidity was intense; the conversations lovely and the whole experience delightful.

Since then, I have not finished the book I was so proudly telling everyone would be finished by Christmas (2008!!) and have managed a couple of articles. Nikki has produced hundreds of blogs of exceptional insight, knowledge, wit and perspicuity, has been on radio, TV, in the papers, has written, what, at least one, maybe two books, edited scores more and still had time to offer me help with some of my work.

The reason for writing this is that we are giving a paper at the forthcoming Whedon conference in Florida. We are still not entirely sure what it will be (Nikki, come ON!!) but it will address in some fashion hierarchies of value – Lit over film over TV; period TV drama over contemporary; hour-long plays over series; ‘realism’ over fantasy etc. – which inevitably includes the value placed on a blog, versus a conference paper; a popular book versus an academic one.

I know exactly where I’d place Nikki in a straight race for most significance in a hierarchy of value of her work and mine.


  1. No worries, Prof P. Very few of us ARE Nikki Stafford. And the ones who are don't seem at all concerned with not being themselves, so SOMEone has to do it. Her productivity is a wonder to behold - no need to measure yourself up against that standard. (pssst - I have it on good authority that she does steroids. Explains her rants about Nikki and Paolo. No, you don't have to understand that - just go with me on this one)

    Now get crackin' and do some of that writing. Right after the next pint. Or two. Cheers!

  2. I'm with you on academic conference in a dry county... really?

    That's a major FAIL.

  3. If you admit to hierarchies of value, are you then admiting to Eliot's Tradition. How fine can anyone dice categories of Television, Film and Literature (the stuff in books and not on-line). Does something acheive better placement in the hierarchy if it mentions categories yet higher. Is Buffy better than Coronation Street, because Buffy makes references to existential angst, invokes archetypes, and its language has double meaning?

    But no matter what, the main criterion for ranking is "just how difficult is that damn stuff?" Television is easy; Beckett is hard. Therefore Beckett is ranked at the top of the hierarchy. I think its still comes down to just that, whether you take your rules of what counts in the Canon from Eliot, Bloom, Pound, Leavis, or Terry Eagleton. We all have personal canons, our favorites, and especially those texts we tell others are very subtle in meaning. Afterall, we worked on them, and, by God, we should be rewarded for championing them. How rewarding to say, I have championed X, and if you want to understand X then read my book; I am the expert.

    In the end what are fashions of hierarchies then self-fashioning (ugh, that miserable phrase from years ago). Someone like John Fiske might say each class has its own canon of texts, and each is invested these texts as they express class ideology. So be it, but in a very general sense, we are the hierarchies, and in a capitalist economy, the hierarchy is a part of our surplus, be it wealth, power, cache.

    But what then has hierarchies to do with aesthetics?

  4. Since then, I have not finished the book I was so proudly telling everyone would be finished by Christmas (2008!!)

    What you have to do now is send out cryptic messages to people and make them hunt for the parts of the book you have finished. It can be a game! This should buy you tons of time and provide plenty of opportunities to insult them:

    "Listen, I'm sorry if you're unable to locate chapter 3...but cheer up, your failure to find it shows you clearly aren't ready to read it."

    "...That doesn't make me feel better at all."

  5. There you have it, Prof P. You've been Joaned.

  6. :D That's the best! I am going to work this into everyday conversation

    "...and there you have it, Nana, you've been Joaned!"

  7. Being Joaned is pretty much my motivation to blog every day. ;D

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