It’s hard to believe that August has begun. In many ways, I think that fall will be a vacation from summer.
Lately I’ve been pondering what I’ll be writing my dissertation on. I’m just entering my second year and still have at least three more classes to take, so I do have time to decide. I won’t be locked into anything for while, probably about a year. And yet, I see two very distinct possible threads that I might pursue, threads that may, indeed, be dissertation-worthy. My current scholarly obsession is Pentecostal rhetoric, and I’ve been sort of fixated on Aimee Semple McPherson, a preacher in the 20s and 30s and founder of the Foursquare church. I’m currently writing a book chapter (a draft of which is due in less than two weeks). My problem, as always, is that I feel like I can’t stop reading, I can’t stop collecting, I can’t stop taking notes.
And then there’s the other thread — the disability studies/autism thread. I think that the recent proliferation of media-driven constructions of autism needs rhetorical scrutiny. And reading disability studies theory, from a humanities standpoint, allows me to talk about social constructivism until I’m blue in the face and have unknowingly bored everyone around me.
I have personal connections to each thread, obviously. My parents left the Catholic Church when I was in kindergarten. I was mostly raised in pentecostal churches (though I don’t attend any more), and attending a Presbyterian college was an interesting transition (and resulted in another of my obsessions, John Calvin). I really enjoy dissecting these various theological frameworks and trying to understand what makes them tick, what makes their audiences tick.
There’s a lot of overlap between pentecostal/charismatic churches and faith-healing. That’s what led me to McPherson, especially, and I think she’d be interesting to examine from a dual feminist rhetorical/disability studies standpoint, especially since she was one of the first radio evangelists in the U.S. (second to Billy Sunday). But I’ve yet to find overlap between McPherson and autism… and I hate the idea of dumping one interest for the other. My only thought thus far is to explore faith-healing generally…but I hate “generally.” I’m more in favor of “super specific.”
In any event, it is August, and I’m writing a book chapter on McPherson, and I just submitted a webtext on autism and embodied authorship to an online publication. I’m tired and I can’t wait to go apple-picking next month.