I am very belated in posting a response to the Writing and Society session at the University of Western Sydney last Friday on "The Uses of Blogging". Luckily, Judith Ridge at Misrule has posted a lovely long account of the session, and Pavlov's Cat has commented, too. It was a most enjoyable afternoon; and as Dr Cat says, a pleasure to sit behind the seminar table with a friend. Well, I guess that's not such a novelty: I do get to do that with the medievalists, on occasion. But great, all the same, to see Kerryn in such excellent form - even while she was busy incubating a ghastly virus that attacked her a day or so later. We also got to hang out in gorgeous Potts Point, with views of The Opera House and The Bridge from the hotel's wonderful rooftop garden (if you ever get the chance to stay here, do!); and eat meal after meal of delicious, fresh and delightful food. I also met up with two friends: first for dinner at Darling Harbour, where we were sat and watched a spectacular Sydney storm. It was like watching a dishwasher in action through the plate glass of the restaurant over this small area enclosed by glass buildings: sound and fury and foam and light; and then the sparkling rinse of rain on the water. And second for Saturday breakfast in Potts Point. Stewed rhubarb two mornings in a row: bliss!
Some of the most interesting and thoughtful questions to come up in discussion, though, concerned the problem of blogs and their ilk in educational contexts: if students are encouraged to write and post in pedagogical contexts, how do they learn the difference between that kind of writing and more formal contexts?
We were also asked to talk about blogging and being ‘public intellectuals’. I admit I haven't really thought of myself as such, but over the last few months I have been doing a little more reviewing and writing for the newspaper.
Since coming back from Sydney, I’ve written an op-ed piece that I think will appear in the Sunday Age tomorrow, on the pink consumerism associated with breast cancer awareness in October. In the essay I am very critical of the idea of ‘shopping for the cure’, the direct association of femininity with consumerism, and especially the shopping for clothes and jewellery, and the very girlish model of femininity that has become so pervasive in our culture. Of course there are some wonderful projects and images of women associated with breast cancer fund-raising, and I tried to acknowledge those in the essay. But I find, now, I am quite nervous about the possible reactions. I’m not sure I have a thick enough skin to be a ‘public intellectual’.
Still… on Thursday night I went to a lecture by Brian Castro, who talked passionately about the need to voice criticisms of an Australian society that was becoming increasingly market- and consumer- driven. So I felt emboldened and encouraged to write as I had done.
On the other hand, I have found, even in the context of my very good health news (and thanks to all who have sent their congratulations and cheers), that I still do sometimes get overtired and overwhelmed. Sometimes I feel being sick has made me more resilient and stronger at the core; sometimes I feel it’s made me define real limits to what I can do. Perhaps it’s time to pull my head in a bit now and get down to some work.