Another thought that’s been nagging at me – GoT makes me want to re-read Chaucer and Mallory and see if maybe what moves them to write is the sense of cultural anxiety that Cawelti discusses…chivalry comes about not as an edict from God but as a set of laws designed to prevent constant rape and burning and pillaging and duplicity and murder that threatened to end society. The Roman sense of order came about brutally, and the Britons were left (when they left) with that sense of violence (punishment is probably better) as driver of social order in an animalistic sense, one that heavily armored knights took up with a vengeance. The senses of honor and duty had disappeared, unfortunately…
Bernard Cornwell’s work points to this as well, I think…
I just finished The Intuitionist, and, uh, wow…
Some quick notes to help me remember it:
- one could easily read this metaphorically – elevators, science, technology, industry lifting up members of a minority, or providing them the means to lift themselves
- it also functions as noir, with wannabe mob figures and a plucky heroine
- both of these are far too easy of reads, however, and ones I hope to pluck at…
The meme that I wrote about last time has actually been around for a while, something I’d like to explore…off the top of my head the most obvious practitioners of this lineage are Stephen R. Donaldson with his Unbeliever series and Gene Wolfe with his Torturer (which admittedly combines sci-fi and fantasy, although my guess is that Martin read this series). Martin doesn’t claim these two as direct influences, but what they do with fantasy set the stage for his work – I doubt we could move directly from Aragorn to Ned Stark without them, or else GoT would be a much different series, with Ned Stark riding triumphantly down from the north, or Robb riding in to rescue his dad and sisters before they are thrown to the narrative winds.
And I have no idea where Tyrion fits in all this – Silverberg?
In so many ways (including not having the damned thing finished) GoT is about the reader-writer relationship, in the peculiar form dictated by the generic constraints and opportunities of fantasy. Martin spends a lot of time messing with us, in obvious ways (the execution of Ned Stark) and not-so-obvious (Danys transformation from scared girl to liberator to petty tyrant to dragon rider returning to her Dothraki roots). Jamie Lannister almost unwillingly takes on the code of honor that he mocked in Ned Stark; Catelyn Stark becomes a sadistic tyrant of a ghoul; Dondarrion goes from meting out justice to some strange form of warlord-ship; the Hound may have joined a monastery, although his helm has been taken up.
The ‘things are never as they’re seen’ meme is an old one, but in my mind Martin takes this meme to levels that threaten his relationship with his readers in ways that fantasy writers rarely approach. I hope to write more on this as I keep thinking about the books.
Africa and bibliotherapy – an idea worth pursuing?
Is it cliche to simply say that service learning reinforces existing power relations unless done properly? One of my colleagues is doing a marvelous project with writing and veterans, and in my mind that is the sort of writing that does *not* reinforce the notion that hey, all of us smart college-edjumacated dudes and dudettes have all the answers. How to support him in that process is another story, but what he’s doing speaks to all of the advantages of community partnerships with us academic types – 1) situated writing, 2) liberating (in an individual sense) power of one’s own voice, and 3) creating a supportive environment.
My ideal in my service learning course is to design an environment like the one that my colleague has created. That ideal would involve helping students find a community they want to immerse themselves in, and then setting up a structure that would enable them to succeed. For FYC folks, perhaps video and audio might be useful, as they start to work through mechanical issues. For my far more advanced pro writing 2 writers (who are often graduating seniors), in finding this community they might have difficulty not jumping immediately into their professional community, and while that community might well find some value in writing about their own difficulties, they’re certainly not marginalized.
In any sense (and the actual identity of the class probably lies somewhere in between), setting up some sort of structure that helps them find a writing group could be powerful, even if it’s not an easy task. Asking anyone to set up a community is way beyond the dictates of any class, even if we sometimes underestimate the power of having a facilitator who is also wise in the ways of writing, editing (in its mechanical sense), and encouraging other writers, but stepping into an existing community is probably way too intimidating.
Windup Girl‘s lethal prostitute assassin is actually a stock scifi character, as I’m reminded by reading Emma Bull’s Bone Dance, even to the point where the strange creatures are the products of military experiments.