By Ryan O'Connell
The Linda Vaden Goad Authors and Artists series, hosted by Arts & Ideas, gave two FSU professors an opportunity to talk about their most recent projects March 29.
The first speaker was English Professor Rachel Trousdale who gave an overview of her newest book, “Humor, Empathy, & Community in Twentieth-Century American Poetry,” describing its origin and content.
Trousdale began by explaining when she finished writing her first book on two European authors, she felt like she “never wanted to see either one of them again” by the end of it, and wanted her next project to be different.
“What I really wanted was to have a project where when I was done with it, I wasn’t going to be ready to wash my hands of the people I was writing about,” she said.
Trousdale went on to say she developed the idea to research humor while reading W. H. Auden, and how his use of humor made her curious to learn more about what makes it “a very efficient mode of communication.”
She briefly explained some of the concepts core to the book, such as several competing theories of why
people laugh, as well as how humor interacts with empathy and community.
Trousdale then spoke more about the central argument in her book, explaining how poetry has been used as a vessel for humor in the past to reshape feelings of belonging.
“American poets over the last hundred years or so are extremely interested in the ways humor can broaden and narrow and redefine our sense of community,” she said.
Trousdale then briefly mentioned W. H. Auden and Marianne Moore, two poets she discussed in her book, and how they handled poetic humor. She then moved on to a modern poet she personally knows, Cathy Park Hong.
She spoke about the playful poetry present in Park Hong’s book “Dance Dance Revolution,” dissecting the comedy and criticism present in its fictional language, and how it was used to break barriers in the world it’s present in.
Trousdale ended her presentation by reinforcing the link between humor and the individual, and what it can do for reshaping interpretations.
“Laughter can make us reassess the boundaries between high and low, between self and other, and thereby offer us a new way to understand and demarcate our own communities, whether those communities are social or poetic,” she said.
The next speaker, Audrey Kali, teaches in the Department of Communication, Media, and Performance, and discussed the journey of both her documentary and development as a vegan.
Kali began by explaining how she started the project almost 10 years ago, when she felt like she was losing direction in her life.
“I have no idea what I want to do,” she said. “And so my daughter, she said [...] ‘Mom, why don’t you do something that you care about or you’re really interested in?’And I said, ‘Oh, animals!’”
She said she began reading in the field of animal studies shortly after, and it was “learning something all over again.” She then started studying the rhetoric of animal rights.
“I went off the deep end. I went off the end where I became a vegan. I watched PETA videos, and I thought, ‘I can’t participate in this any longer,’” she said.
Kali said she became myopic afterward, and had developed an orientation of self-righteousness, also becoming reviewer of the Journal of Critical Animal Studies.
She described a paper she wrote after joining the journal, “The Factory Formed Animal as Cartoon: Animal Advocacy Campaigns and Animated Anthropomorphism,” and how it analyzed whether the use of cartoon depictions of animals in animal rights’ pleas were undermining the message.
Kali explained when presenting her paper at a conference, she was among other academics who taught in animal studies programs and had hands-on experiences with the treatment and slaughter of animals, and it helped her recognize restrictions on her views.
“At this conference, my eyes were opened to how closed off I was being because at this conference, there were people who taught in animal studies programs. They worked with research on cattle,” she said.
She said this conference helped her understand there was more to learn. She specifically wanted to know more about the treatment of animals in slaughterhouses in their final moments.
“I began to understand that the exploration of this topic involves asking a lot of questions that are unpleasant,” she said.
Kali said she began to learn more about all the conflicts on the subject of humane slaughter, and began to discover she wanted to create a documentary about the inner workings of slaughterhouses, and how the farmers fit into the system.
She then explained as the project grew, the answer she expected began to dissolve and the production team grew, making the documentary a bigger undertaking.
Kali said as the movie became larger in scope, it required more funding. While some of it came in grants, she was told the project would need to be restructured almost entirely.
“In order to get more money, the film had to change. And the LEF Moving Image Foundation said, ‘Nobody wants to see an investigative piece. People want to see a personal journey film,’” she said.
Kali said she initially didn’t want to be in front of the camera, but eventually relented and became more integral to the documentary, before sharing some clips from the final version. She added the film will be screened for the first time ever April 21 in the Dwight Performing Arts Center.