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Joon Oluchi Lee

Joon Oluchi Lee is Associate Professor of Literary Arts and Studies at Rhode Island School of Design. He is the author of two books of fiction, 94 (Publication Studio Portland, 2015) and Lace Sick Bag (Publication Studio Portland, 2013). His essays, including “The Joy of the Castrated Boy” (Social Text, F/W 2005), have appeared in various academic and alternative publications. His writing and textual performances can be found on Twitter @girlscallmurder, girlscallmurder.com, and lipstickeater.blogspot.com.

“Mary Gaitskill, a Melon Baller, and a George Michael Song”
One of the idiomatic quirks of Mary Gaitskill’s fiction is the moment in which the first person narrator or a character describes an existent pop song without giving its lyrics nor naming the song or singer. This description marks the narrative along a pop cultural continuum while at the same time giving a weird kind of reverberation to both the speaking character and the narrative voice in general. As a writer of fiction, I'm interested in taking apart these descriptions as you would a small but highly functional and complicated machine in order to think about how we can use pop cultural material like pop songs in a way that is not just citational, but a weird, rigorous ventriloquism by which the ethos of the singer (Boy George? Jody Watley?) can saturate the novelistic voice.

“Throwing Voices”Throwing the voice is a ventriloquist’s trick. Cast it off and it comes back strange, remade, another’s.  This panel will collectively propose that this is in fact the condition of all voices. Voices are not singular, essential, and unitary but are shot through with the voice of the other, from the ones that schooled it to the ones that surround, mediate, and remake it. Voices are blood and guts made machine, instrumentalized matter suffused with other voices and other states and structures of being. We investigate some of these, from cross-racial ventriloquism to Black Pentacostal resonances to healing erotic raptures to ventriloquial reverberations of fictional voice. Hilarie Ashton reads the liminal sonic grammar of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer,” particularly in its recent iteration as an acoustic tribute to victims of the Paris terror attacks, as a rapturous playing with power and authority in several registers, affirming camp and sexual innuendo as part of its healing power. Ashon Crawley attends to the Black Pentacostal intensities of the Hammond B-3 organ as it resonates otherwise, activating vibrations of spirit, breath, and voice that verge on the mysterious beyond of undetected worlds. Joon Oluchi Lee contrapuntally explores the novelistic voice of Mary Gaitskill and the pop musical voice as she deploys it in order to think about her ventriloquizing of pop as a sort of fictional reverb. Eric Lott takes up the racialized ventriloquism of the Black backup singer, who enables the white male lead singer’s voice by throwing it off, breaking and entering it, thereby producing its truth. In one way or another these presentations see the pop voice as supplement of the other—other states, cultural others, other machines.

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