Alumna Hilarie Ashton on the CAAS Conference in Ottawa

Draper alumna Hilarie Ashton (January 2011) attended the annual conference of the Canadian Association of American Studies in Ottawa last weekend where she presented a paper. She wrote about her experience at the conference, which you can read belo. Congrats, Hilarie!

This weekend, I attended the annual conference of the Canadian Association of American Studies (CAAS) in Ottawa, Ontario. The conference, sponsored by Carleton University’s Centre for Research in American Studies, took as its theme the aesthetics of renewal, an idea that caught and kept my attention from the abstract submission stage through the conference itself. I came away from the plenaries and sessions more interested than ever in the place of American Studies on the world stage and the intersections and interactions that it can have with other disciplines (in particular national, ethnic, and cultural studies).

The paper I presented is entitled “The Doppelganger Artist: Reuse and/or Originality in Postmodernity and Popular Music.” Based on the interesting ways in which it fit with the other papers on the panel, I’m planning to expand it for publication. My basic argument is that the phenomenon I’m calling the “entertainment doppelganger,” or artist who creates a persona or a work by adopting elements of another artist’s persona or work, is especially affected by the postmodern era (or whatever might be developing in its place). I argued that these doppelgangers’ almost plagiarism, while nothing new, historically, is abetted by our era’s free flowing Internet, new media, Twitterpated atmosphere (one of which, it must be said, I am a rather ardent fan). The panel that featured my paper was on remixed music, and there was so much synergy between my paper and the one that preceded it, on Girl Talk and other mashup artists, that I couldn’t help but refer to it during my presentation.

Other highlights: a panel entitled “What Do Things Want” that combined papers on kitsch and flea market culture; the politics of photography (subjects including vinyl records and a typed reproduction of On The Road); and the intersections between fashion and (Judeo-Christian) religion. I also highly enjoyed two of the several keynotes: one by Drs. Linda and Michael Hutcheon (she, University Professor in the Department of English and the Centre for Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto, and he, Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto) on opera, and one by Anthony Stewart, a professor of English at Dalhousie University, on the New Black American in Colson Whitehead and in the lyrics of the band Fishbone.

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