gillpolack (gillpolack) wrote,

Something's really bugging me tonight.

I'm back (finally) where I ought to have been and am engaged in research. Sounds good. It would be good...except...*

I notice that the treatment of novels - the methods used to analyse them and the very words used to describe them - changes according to whether the work is seen as a Special Literary Work of Genius or whether it's a a novel or whether it's a simple genre work. The tone of the text changes to match the type of text being discussed. The final summaries don't bring these disparities of analysis into account, but assume that they're entirely properly analytical ways of handling the subject of study.

The various tools for analysis in each case are perfectly fine. The problem is that apples are being mixed with oranges being mixed with baskets of fruit without us being told first "Look, they're fruit. This is how they're the same - now let's look at differences." No, it's worse than that. We're told that the big baskets are dull and that the apples are mass-produced and for mass audiences and that the oranges are delicate one-off subtle blends of flavour and scent and special petalness.

This may well be true, but it needs to be demonstrated. You know - evidence, examples, clear explanations. Pronouncing postmodernism and declaring metafiction and citing Barthes and Derrida isn't enough. Switching approaches without evidence and explanation of the different approaches is not a demonstration of difference in types of text, it's a demonstration of a scholarly belief in difference.

I might be tempted to think that this particular scholar has no understanding of how genres work or how writers work with and within genre constraints and where they break them and how they play with them and what these add up to for the best genre writers** and how these compare with the oranges. And you can't do this wild leaping between different types of analysis without admitting that some writers happen to do the PoMometasignifier thing from within the constraints of genre.***

In other words, one academic writer needs to sort out their premises.

And that was me having a temper tantrum. Ahem. I will return to the book and finish taking notes and move on. There is really a lot of good stuff in the book - it's just that the shifting sands made it hard for me to negotiate. It would have made several really wonderful essays.

*Today is elliptical therefore today I use ellipses. It makes sense to me. Other days I get dumped by life and things come to a full stop, so I use periods. When I feel punny, I find that comma comma comma comma comma chameleon picture, and send it to someone.

**Who are mostly baskets but who might be apples, depending on where the analysis is shifting from and to**** - this confusion is another reason why shifting ground without clear reasoning is really not a thing of wisdom.

***This paragraph is an example of writing so pretentious it needs translating into French to make sense. That's a critique of quite another scholarly work. The only thing it had in common with the one I'm currently finishing is a fascination with Derrida.

****I needed to footnote a footnote! By the end of the book, one of the apples and a whole basket of strange fruit turned out to be oranges, of the very wondrous special petal variety. No explanation was given as to how they modified their basic characteristics nor why most genre (but not this one set) was inferior. It was like a symphony by Victor Borge.

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