Welcome to the second interview in this series, where we’re checking in with the contributors to Pop Culture Matters: Proceedings of the 39th Conference of the Northeast Popular Culture Association.
This second interview is with Caroline Kidd; writer, reader, frequent user of CAPS LOCK. Her article is titled: “Bod’s Estrangement and Identity: The Chronotope of The Graveyard Book”.
How did you find yourself studying pop culture?
I began my study with pop culture as a graduate student at Texas State University somewhat accidentally. I’ve always loved pop culture but didn’t realize that the intersectionality between literary theory and pop culture existed until I was in a Master’s program. One of my first graduate school professors allowed us to choose a text to analyze up against the theory we had been studying. This was the first opportunity I had to bring pop culture into the academic space. I quickly realized my penchant and passion for both.
How did the idea for this essay manifest?
My essay was actually the final paper that I submitted for the aforementioned critical theory class. We were allowed to choose a favorite novel to analyze up against some of the literary theory we had been exposed to that semester. The book I chose was “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman, and although we had read an expansive amount of Mikhail Bakhtin that semester, I had become fascinated with his idea of the “chronotope“.
Before reading Bakhtin, I had often thought that one of my favorite things in fiction was how each story or novel has the ability to ground itself in a specific (fictive or real) place and how once the author began a story in this place, it took on a life of its own. Bakhtin presented me with a literary theory that articulated and analyzed all of my favorite things about fiction. Once I started reading about it, I knew I had to write about it too.
“The Graveyard Book” was another easy choice to make. I’ve always loved Neil Gaiman and admired his work. Most people default to reading his adult fiction, like American Gods, which is incredible. But I was obtaining a masters degree with a specialization in children’s literature, so why not write about one of your favorite children’s literature novels? My professor loved the strange pairing of a Russian formalist with a children’s fiction novel and so I wrote the essay.
How would you explain the article’s contribution to pop culture studies (or other relevant fields) and it’s main point(s)?
Gaiman is a huge name in pop culture and while scholarship is beginning to develop around his name, his work isn’t yet hyper-analyzed or canonical, although I predict it will be. Getting in on the ground floor is part of what makes writing about Gaiman’s work so fun. I hope that other scholars find the idea of liminality within the chronotope as helpful and interesting as I did. As pop culture studies continue to become more normalized and hopefully pervades academia, I hope that journal articles like my own will serve as a small platform to further expand bigger ideas and theoretical concepts within the field.
I also enjoy the fact that writing about pop culture in general truly broadens my audience. It not only touches those in academia who crave the analysis and theory, it also touches those outside of it who love Gaiman and his creativity. Narrowing the high/low culture audience gap will only benefit those inside academia and outside of it.
How did you find yourself presenting at NEPCA?
I discovered NEPCA when applying for my first conference presentation as a graduate student. I did not know much about conferences, except that they were highly encouraged by my department and a great place for graduate students to present their writing and network. The piece I already had written for the critical theory class fit well into the conference theme, so I wrote up an abstract and applied. The people and culture of NEPCA were exactly what they advertised to be: kind, welcoming, attentive and helpful- precisely what every graduate student presenting at their first conference hopes for.
What additional work (if any) have you done on this subject matter?
Most of my thesis research, which I concluded in May of 2018, circulated around the topics of identity and liminality in children’s literature, how one shapes the other and the differing ways that authors utilize them. While Gaiman’s use of chronotope and liminality were the inception of this idea, my research eventually branched out and evolved into studying and comparing authors such as Nnedi Okorafor and Terry Pratchett. It was fascinating to discover these two vastly different authors writing within the same genre using two fundamental concepts of identity and liminality in not only differing, but at times, opposing ways.
What current projects or research are you pursuing?
I’ve recently become obsessed with Patrick Rothfuss and his Kingkiller Chronicles series (I know, I’m late to the party). While rereading his books, I’m always taking down notes about literary criticism and theory that he operates within, but usually defies. I’m excited to start submitting some of this writing for publication because I think Rothfuss is another great pop culture figure and academia could stand to read a few articles written about the Edema Ruh.
You can catch up with Caroline Kidd on Instagram.
Check out the first interview with Anthony G. Cirilla.