Blog Post

Introduction--Liz Alexander

Hello everyone, 

I just typed out a really long introduction, accidentally clicked off of the page, and lost all of that text. Ironic for someone who just wrote that they know how to use the internet. I'll keep it shorter and sweeter this time, since most of that information will come out anyway over the course of interacting with all of you!

I'm a first-year Ph.D. student in the English department at Cornell University, and my interests are in nineteenth century African American literature, particularly slave narratives. My previous work on enslavement and the digital used the concept of code as a way of thinking through trauma, as well as in delivery (it was a multi-media website). I don't know how this will change as I move forward in my program, but concepts such as virtuality and posthumanism stand out to me as points of interest.

I am also part of a video game working group titled the_critical_is, in which we play video games and blog about them. We started out focusing exclusively on games that represented enslavement (i.e. Assassin's Creed: Freedom's Cry) but have since expanded our game repertoire and our theoretical concerns. I am still largely focused on these questions of representing enslavement, but others in the group write/will be writing about gaming history and culture at large, or on games that don't represent enslavement. The blogging part of our journey has just begun, but check us out at gaming.thecritical.is. 

Lastly, I am interested in community outreach. I volunteered at a coding workshop with Black Girls Code! this past summer, and even though I don't know how to code (yet!) I want to find ways to stay involved in teaching young black girls or any underrepresented group how to code. Even if they don't end up in STEM fields, as is the aim of BGC, I think that having the knowledge necessary to manipulate and use digital media to your advantage in whatever field you're in is important--hence why I am here, naturally--and I want to find ways to keep doing that outreach work.

That's part of me, in a nutshell! If any of these things click with you please reach out to me! I'm on Twitter @_superluminal and I'd love to start meeting people.

Liz 

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2 comments

Hi Meghan!

About my work, you can actually go to the site! It currently lives at www.myweakframe.com. The project started out as a long critical essay about traumatic experiences and enslavement, but I quickly realized that I didn't have anything theoretical to say that Harriet Jacobs (the woman who wrote the narrative) wasn't in some way saying herself. I was also becoming interested in posthumanism and embodiment, and I think that it was thinking about a formerly enslaved person as posthuman, at least in the context of this narrative, made me question how she was rethinking embodiment, which led to the idea of code. Its digital-ness was important not only because of the theoretical questions I was asking, but because I was trying to get at something that would have been really hard and confusing to write in an essay. Plus, I had a lot of visual components (video, a 3D map, pictures, etc.) that wouldn't translate onto paper. At the same time I had to put a lot of care into how I was representing enslavement, as it is a topic that is still difficult to write and talk about in general. To be fair, I think there's a lot of care and precision that should go into digital work in general, so that it is not being done for the sake of doing digital work. 

What kind of folk songs are you looking into? In a class I took on mourning in black literature we look at a lot of southern white folk songs from around the Appalachian area and found interesting continuties between those songs and spirituals, so there definitely seems to be something there. 

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Hi Liz! Your work sounds really interesting! I'm interested in African American literature and am looking specifically at music as a form of "telling" or "retelling" slave experience. I'm thinking about folklore and folk songs as evolutions of slave songs, and how that sort of oral development can reflect various parts of slave culture. I would love to hear more about your previous digital project, as well as some more details about your work on representing enslavement. It sounds like a great area of research and I would really like to hear your insights! 

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