Jackson Bliss Joining Creative Writing Program in Fall 2019
Dr. Jackson Bliss will be joining the English Department in Fall 2019 as an assistant professor in the Creative Writing program. He was kind enough to answer some questions to introduce himself to the department. Please join us in welcoming Jackson to BGSU!
What do you anticipate will be the biggest change in your move to BGSU as a new faculty
Readjusting to a real winter again after being babied by LA's perpetual spring, having to drive again for the first time in twenty years (only mildly terrifying!), not being able to eat bibimbop, pad see ew, or udon whenever I damn well please, returning to my Midwestern roots again (which I've missed so much), having my own office, experiencing four seasons again, and being able to focus exclusively on teaching creative writing and literature, all those things will be life-changing for me!
What are your goals as a faculty member and new member of the Creative Writing Program and English Department?
To kick ass, but let me be more specific: in the publishing front, I'm hoping to publish a memoir, a short story collection, and a novel over the next four to five years. Hopefully, I'll have more news on that soon.
In the teaching front, I want to support, nourish, encourage, and challenge my students to embrace the beauty, the burden, the responsibility, and the power of language. Whether it's learning the cultural, racial, and historical context of a WWII novel written by a Japanese American author during the Internment and then doing a close reading of the text itself or paying close attention to the construction of the Other inside a graduate workshop student manuscript, my pedagogical goals are pretty much the same: asking students to approach a text on its own terms, but also asking them to understand the unique context, dialogue, and discourse of that text, to analyze its cultural, aesthetic, political, racial, formal, generic, and historical meanings, and consider the consequences of that text both inside academia, and more importantly, inside the world at large. When students do these things, they're always more informed writers, practitioners, critics, and global citizens, which honestly I expect from them.
Last thing, it's extremely important to me to work with students (formally or informally) to prepare them for the post-BFA and post-MFA worlds so that they have a realistic expectation of the academic and non-academic job market. I don't want them to be shellshocked the way I was. At the end of the day, I'm looking forward to kicking it with my colleagues and my students and co-evolving with them inside and outside the classroom. For the record, some of my favorite people in the whole world are writers and students (past, present, and future). Students, in particular, give me life and hopefully, I give them perspective.
What type of research do you hope to conduct once you arrive at BGSU?
Oh god, this is gonna be so boring. [Editor's note: It isn't!] Here goes: I'm really interested in Diasporic modes of cultural storytelling. I've been working on an experimental memoir for six years now called DREAM POP ORIGAMI that's based partially on the impossibility and the necessity of creating a patchwork identity out of my own cultural and racial fragmentation as a mixed-race, hapa writer, and interdisciplinary scholar whose writing tends to straddle and subvert genres, aesthetics, voices, and racial/cultural spheres.
Another research interest of mine that keeps popping up in my (non) fiction: I've always been fascinated with Asian and Japanese (American) subcultures. Whether it's studying variants of Gothic Lolita identity in Asia, the gender codes of androgynous Visual Kei, the advent of k-pop in the Western hemisphere (which has been around forever in South Korea), the cultural subversion of Japanese hip-hop, or the performative imitation of cholo culture, I'm particularly interested in ways that Asian (American) subcultures subvert modes of storytelling of the self, challenging and pushing back on the cultural frameworks we're not supposed to change (but must).
How do you balance teaching, research, and service responsibilities?
Ask me again in a year. I'm just hoping I don't start showing up to all my classes in Adidas track suits and begin sleeping regularly in my office.
What lessons would you share with graduate students about your own work and career
Honestly, I have no lessons about my own work (because, well, that sounds lofty and self-important), but I do have plenty things to talk about concerning my own career trajectory because I think they're typical and informative of the MFA era in general, some of which I bring up either in workshop or during office hours. Beyond that, I'm hoping to teach a professional development class at some point for second-year MFA students that will be largely informed by own professional trajectory (and those of my many talented writing friends who teach creative writing and/or make a living in the industry in a number of different ways).
Beyond that, I guess I would like my students to know that I agonize over my own creative writing pedagogy because it's so damn important to me (and to them). Here's an old craft essay I wrote many years ago about what I think about as a professor of creative writing (though I have since then abolished using the Iowa Model in my own workshops).
Here's my literary/speculative fiction hypertext, DUKKHA, MY LOVE that I published in 2017, that tells you something about my own flirtations with genre (turn the volume on!)
And here's a recent personal essay/work of cultural criticism that will give graduate students and faculty an idea of how and why I take the power of language and the power of storytelling, so seriously.
What else should English Department members know?
That I can't wait to meet them, pick their brains for new books to read, and eventually judge them for their dance moves at the first faculty party.
What are you reading right now (for work and/or for fun) that you would recommend?
I just started reading Esmé Weijung Wang's THE COLLECTED SCHIZOPHRENIAS, that won Greywolf's Nonfiction Prize last year, and it's absolutely amazing. She's so incredibly talented, courageous, and smart. It's such a powerful and inspiring work of creative nonfiction. I'm definitely going to find a way to include it in my reading list this year, so get ready, students!