MA Advanced Project Update: Kristina Dufel

Kristina is in her fifth semester and is enrolled in the Advanced Project course, ENG 591. Here, she discusses her inspirations and the development of her project.

The most enriching aspect of this program is how much I’ve grown as a reader, writer, and thinker. The faculty members are all so incredibly brilliant, and their passion for literature and writing is invigorating. It just seems like the faculty really excel at fueling discussion here. The other enriching factor is how difficult this program has been to complete. I really did not expect to have to think so hard and write and read so much, but I am the better for it.

My Advanced Project took a while to come together. Initially I was exploring a project that was completely different than the one I’m doing now. I thought I wanted to explore Amazon Kindle self-publishing writing communities, and, while I still find the topic interesting, it was outside the scope of anything I would be capable of completing for an Advanced Project. I just knew that that wasn’t really what I wanted to write about, but I couldn’t think of what I did want to write about.

However, in Dr. Palecanda’s Lit theory class in Fall 2012, I wrote a paper about the TV show Glee, and I realized that, since that paper, I was still watching the show and thinking of extensions and new developments of my argument. I thought, hey, why not? It’s important to pick a topic that you find really interesting for the advanced project because you spend a lot of time on it, and, at the time, I thought I would never get sick of talking about Glee.

For my Advanced Project, I’m analyzing the television show Glee with a focus on how the show participates in the construction of ideology, similar to how Althusser suggests ideological state apparatuses perform. I extend Althusser’s theories and combine them with Mary Louise Pratt’s concept of contact zones, which are essentially spaces where dominant and marginalized cultures clash or interact, to suggest that television performs as an ideological contact zone where ideologies clash and interact, resulting in shifts in ideology. My focus is on hetereonormativity, which is the ideology that perpetuates heterosexuality as the norm in our culture and is usually an ideology integrated with our perceptions of gender norms.

Looking at instances of “coming out” on Glee, I suggest that heteronormative ideologies are being mediated, and audiences are exposed to more queer understandings of sexuality, meaning that they are able to perceive sexuality outside of a binary system of straight/ gay, as well as identify the imbalanced social hierarchy created by heteronormativity. Specifically, I am suggesting that it is difficult to find queer readings in ideological contact zones like television, but a consideration of television’s complex narrative structures (i.e. acknowledgement of plot lines that arc not only episodes or even seasons, but the entire series) allow for more potential to find queer readings on television.

As far as work for the project, I’ve done a pretty substantial amount of research into the areas of study that intersect in my paper, mostly the big ideological theorists like Althusser and queer television studies. The other big part of this project has been thinking. You wouldn’t believe how much I just think about this topic or how much I talk about it with other people. Remember when I said I didn’t think I would ever get sick of talking about Glee? I was wrong. Obviously, I’ve also watched a lot of episode, of which I am also beginning to get a little tired of. I can’t imagine if I had decided to focus on something I didn’t enjoy as much. I probably would have snapped my Kindle in half by now.

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