I forgot to mention, in Part 1 of this series of posts on the Walker Percy conference at Loyola University in New Orleans, that Eldest Daughter was presenting a paper at the conference. I will not tell you which paper she presented, but it was good and it had nothing to do with French medieval poetry, the ostensible subject of her dissertation that she is supposed to be writing. Walker Percy is simply more compelling right now than French medieval poetry, a truth universally acknowledged, is it not?
For those of you who, like me, have never attended an academic conference, the format is quite simple. The presenters, mostly professors of something or another at some university or another, get up in groups of three or four and they read their papers. That’s right, they read to the audience, just as librarians read picture books to first graders in story time, except mostly there are no pictures, and then they take questions. Some of these academics are better storytellers and readers than others, but I will say that I learned something from almost every paper I heard read, except when I got lost in the cosmos of academia and erudition. (I heard and made lots of “lost” jokes at this conference.)
Here are some really, truly, actual sample titles of papers from Still Lost in the Cosmos: Walker Percy & the 21st Century:
Alienation, Dislocation and Restoration: Percy’s Semiotic Psychology
The Semiotics of Shame and the Christian Meta-narrative in Percy’s Lost in the Cosmos (I can’t tell you about these first two because I refused to attend session or panel in which one of the papers to be presented used the word “semiotics” or meta-narrative”. I have my limits. See Part 1 of this series.)
Falling into Transcendence: Walker Percy’s Demoniac Self, the Erotic and the Lust for God
Walker Percy’s Semiotics of Self: A Case Study: C.S. Peirce and the Problem of Reentry (Two colons! But pardon my ignorance, who is C.S. Peirce, and does he really place the “e” before the “i” in his last name?)
Deceit, Desire, and the Self-Help Book: Rereading Lost in the Cosmos as a novel in light of Rene Girard’s Mimetic Theory (Ditto Rene Girard?)
The Mishmash Theory of Man
Where are the Hittites? Tracing Walker Percy’s Theology of the Jews
A Moveable Piece: Stefan Zweig and Walker Percy’s Problem of Artist-Writer Reentry (And who is Stefan Zweig? I’m starting to feel like a low-information conference attendee.)
Revealing the Transcendent Third: Walker’s Percy’s Trinitarian Imagination
Starting Over: Amnesia, Escape, and Redemption in Lost in the Cosmos and in Percy’s Novels
Lost in the Cosmos and Gulliver’s Travels: Christian Satire in the Anglo-American Tradition
Walker Percy, Herman Melville, and Moby Dick, the (Second-to) Last Self-Help Book: An Intertextual Study of the Self (Ah, at last, Melville, Moby Dick, and Gulliver I know. I went to these two presentations, wanting to feel as if I had at least something in my brain besides mush, the mishmash theory of me.)
The Dialectic of Belief: Participation and Uncertainty in Walker Percy’s Lost in the Cosmos
To begin with, I learned from just reading these titles that an academic conference requires colons. Without colons, the professors would find it impossible to give titles to their papers. However, my favorite title of a paper presented at the conference had no colons at all. It was a joke. Really, the paper was titled: “I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, ‘Where’s the self-help section?’ She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.” It may have been my favorite, or at least second favorite, part of the entire conference.
So, the presenting of papers began on Friday afternoon in various conference rooms in the library at Loyola. I like libraries, and it was a very nice library. As we entered, to our left, was a statue of St. Ignatius of Loyola. He was wearing a purple T-shirt.
“Outside the front steps of the Monroe Library stands a life-size bronze statute of St. Ignatius de Loyola, a diminutive ex-soldier, courtier, and our patron saint.
Our students have named the statue Iggy, and occasionally loan him hats and T-shirts to promote various campus events and or decorate him with Mardi Gras beads during carnival season.”
I don’t think the purple shirt had anything to do with Walker Percy, but he might have appreciated the local color. The first panel I attended was transcendence, amnesia, and the paper with the joke title. I took notes. However, my notes may or may not have been recognizable as related to the topics being discussed. In my mind, My Self, the notes I took make perfect sense and are semiotically and integrally related to the papers that I heard. However, an impartial judge, if such a judge were to exist, might beg to differ. Perhaps St. Ignatius in his purple t-shirt will deign to judge in Part 3 of this series, Digression, Catastrophe, and Narcotic Refuge: Are the Existentialists Really Epicurians?