I am back from my travels and from this year's Screen conference. I should probably say from the start that my presence at the conference was not as a presenter but as the recipient of this year's Screen award. The award is for my essay on the prestige film due out in the Autumn issue; needless to say I am both excited and flattered by the honor.
Luckily, attending as observer allowed for a more relaxed experience of a conference I have always enjoyed. Screen is much smaller than SCMS, and the circle of academics seems close-knit without being too chummy. This year's theme, Queer Screen Studies, was remarkable in the impact on the conference program: usually you see 20 or 30 percent of the papers on the topic, but this time it was more like 80 to 90 percent. The topic touched a hunger for a queer studies conference (word has it one is in the works in a nearby institution) and the result was a more subcultural feel and a palpable excitement to the procedings. The plenary conversation between Richard Dyer and B. Ruby Rich managed to be one of those rare conference moments of summing the issues presented in the panel and taking their insights in new direction.
The papers were a mix of quality, naturally, but in general seemed more rigorous than the grab bag of SCMS. I was particularly impressed by a panel (with George Chauncey, Juan Suarez, and Ron Gregg) relating the aesthetic form of the New York underground to its social history. Also, a strong panel on film form held a valuable paper by Tom Brown on spectacle and classicism. Even in a smaller conference, alas, one cannot attend all of the promising papers, especially when the setting (Glasgow) offers its own distractions.