Academic publishing can be fickle: academics write essays, send them out, and then wait for anonymous reviewers to evaluate whether or not our work is worthy. Some journals have ridiculously low acceptance rates; I recently read an interview with a journal editor who worried his acceptance rate of 9% was too high. This makes it all the more remarkable that undergraduate Rhetoric and Professional Writing student Jessica Needham has had an essay she wrote on Game of Thrones accepted for publication by Femspec. In the interview below Jessica talks about her essay, the process, and her time at UWaterloo more broadly.–JLH
JLH: Dr. Andrew Deman suggested I contact you about an essay you wrote for a class which has been accepted for publication. Congratulations! Can you tell us a bit about the class and your essay?
JN: The essay was originally for Visual Rhetoric ENGL 392B, which looks at visual media from a rhetorical perspective. I approached Professor Deman with the idea of writing about Game of Thrones and its rather sexist imagery of naked women. I was told I could pursue the topic if I could prove it instead of simply addressing what was already obvious.
I began to apply the course theorists–including Kress, a heavy dose of Mulvey’s scopophilia and male gaze, along with first hand research where I sat for days watching Game of Thrones sex scenes for various criteria.
Who knew watching fantasy sex scenes for days on end would end up being so taxing!
From there the essay has morphed into a monster of its own, addressing televised nudity, “sexposition” (using naked women in scenes where heavy exposition is given), and purposeful misogynistic filming techniques. I like to think of it as a critique of how we use woman’s bodies in visual media by using Game of Thrones as an interesting case study.
JLH: What made you decide to submit it for publication? How much guidance did you have and how have you found the process?
JN: I owe the success of this entire process to the guidance of Professor Deman. He has been an invaluable teacher and motivator throughout. I never would have thought of my paper for the American Literature and Culture award, nevermind publication, especially with such unorthodox material without him.
The entire process has been incredibly long but if nothing else it has inspired me that any undergrad student with enough passion and the right guidance can pursue publication, even when your thesis is rather out of the ordinary!
JLH: You’ve been active at UWaterloo more broadly, writing for the student newspaper and participating in international exchanges. What do you think these experiences have given you?
JN: To tackle being on exchange first and foremost, I remember sitting in a hostel in Munich trying to battle their usage time limits, sweating and swearing as my minutes ticked down and my edits threatened to be lost forever. If nothing else, travelling made me appreciate a stable internet connection.
But in all seriousness, going on exchange and then backpacking Europe alone for three months gave me an appreciation of just how large the world is and how little I know of it. It inspired a lust for travel and a curiosity that lends well to research.
As for Imprint, Imprint has been invaluable in my development as a writer. They have been a great sounding board for ideas and have been kind enough to let me drone on about my issues with media from the validity of fan fiction to LGBT representation in children’s media. I couldn’t ask for a better place to ritualistically sacrifice my free time.
Image: Jessica visiting Game of Thrones filming sites in Dubrovnik.