Earlier this month, I packed a suitcase and headed to Cincinnati, OH, for the 2017 Midwest Modern Language Association Convention. There, two of my fellow UI students and I gave a panel discussion entitled “Wonder Woman Unleashed: A Hero for Our Times” as part of an undergraduate symposium.
If you’ve been reading my blog since freshman year (or maybe even before! go you!), you may remember that I took a course about superheroes in the fall and one specifically about Wonder Woman in the spring. I know those sound like easy classes, but they kICKED MY BUTT MULTIPLE TIMES OVER because they’re all about seeing parallels between modern superheroes and figures from Greco-Roman mythology and so we read a lot of ancient works of literature.
Anyway, the prof who taught it approached me and two other students about collaborating on a huge paper together with the goal of publication and/or presenting it at a conference. That was in May 2016, I think, so that moment at the MMLA convention was roughly eighteen months in the making. It’s still hard to believe that it’s over now because for most of my time as a college student, it has loomed over my head.
I’m not going to post my part of the paper here today in case I decide to seek out a more formal venue for publication, but here are synopses of each section of our project:
I kicked off the panel with “Wonder Woman: Feminist Past, Present, & Future,” an overview of the character’s creation, her influence on pop culture, and what meaning may be taken from her comics in days to come.
“Wonder Woman and the Convergence of Heroism, Feminism, & Gender” was a suuuuper long paper… I think it took up 30 of the 75 minutes allotted to us?! It was written by a Classics major and you could tell; I fucking love myths but felt like I needed to brush up on them ASAP after hearing her speak because she went into SO much depth about the ways in which Wonder Woman does or doesn’t adhere to conventions of the classical Greek or Roman hero.
Finally, “Wonder Woman From Greek Myth to 21st-Century Blockbuster: The Evolution of the Superhero Canon” focused mainly on the monomyth, AKA the hero’s journey, as described by Joseph Campbell in his famous The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Aaaaa I need to get around to finally reading that book!
I know I said this earlier but like, I still can’t BELIEVE this really happened. It was wild, sitting up at this table in the front of a room, looking out at the audience. It wasn’t a huge room – there were maybe twenty-five people there total – but just the fact that people willingly came to our panel blew my mind. They wanted to hear what we had to say! They considered us at least semi-knowledgeable! They even raised their hands during Q&A!
Wild, I know.
I’m so grateful for this opportunity. I told my professor that over and over before, during, and after the convention and made sure to write a thank-you note later on because, like… without a doubt, she’s the most supportive teacher I’ve had here. (And I’ve had mostly great teachers!) She challenges her students but encourages us to have fun, too, and loves when we teach her new things just as much as she loves teaching us.
P.S. Penguin had a free book table at the convention. Guess who loaded up on novels?
P.P.S. The hotel where we stayed and where the convention was also held was the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza, which didn’t mean anything to me until A) I stepped inside and noticed how swanky it was (!!!) and B) noticed that something seemed familiar. Multiple somethings, actually. And very familiar. Turns out it (along with other places in and around the city) served as one of the filming locations for Carol – one of my favorite movies! I’ve watched that film over and over, so it was overwhelming and more than a little bizarre to eat breakfast in the room where the opening/closing scenes with Carol & Therese were shot. OHH MY POOR LITTLE GAY HEART.