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There's a concept in literary analysis known as "Death of the Author," which states that once the written work is finished, it is an entity completely independent of the person who made it and outside the influence of their intentions for it. This is meant to account for input made unconsciously, and for the interaction between the work and how it is experienced by its audience.

I confess in most literary forms I'm a bit skeptical of this theory. While I can certainly attest firsthand that writers don't always have a grand plan for every little thing they put into their pieces, I think that without the author's intentions you wouldn't have the characters, the stories, and the depth that are so appealing to you. So such interpretations tend not to resonate with me. I just can't get into it when it so obviously comes much more from the audience than from anything actually coming from the piece itself.

Death of the Author is basically the justification for a lot of fan fiction, but it's the biggest reasons I can't seem to get into fan fiction that wanders too far from the style and characters as presented in the original. Yes, yes, those two male characters are glancing meaningfully at each other, but saying it's because of unresolved sexual tension between two people who have never indicated any history of homosexuality and would have to be totally repressed not to acknowledge it at all I think says more about what you want to see than what they're demonstrating. Not that there's anything wrong with wanting to see that. I just don't know if you can justify as having any kind of character honesty or narrative integrity. Sure, you can definitely write a meaningful story where the way a character lives their life (in any manner, not just sexually) changes, but such changes always have major repercussions. In fan fiction, usually the consequences of whatever reinterpretation is used is not explored to a realistic degree and while I make no value judgement about enjoying stories of that kind, I don't think they are the highest possible achievement on an artistic level.

And yes, I do get how that sort of fan fiction is often a way for people to represent things that they don't get to see in any mainstream media. Queer people especially. Representation is important, and I certainly don't fault anyone for finding some way to depict themselves or their feelings when they can't get it anywhere else. But I kind of wonder if, in a perfect world, it wouldn't be better to just make original stories that do that representing. Not because of any issue of what's right and what's wrong. I just think it might result in stories with better narrative integrity. Of course, we don't live in a perfect world, so until we do let people do what they need to. Still-- not that it matters, but since I'm talking about it --that's the reason I don't find it enjoyable to read.

As I said, in a perfect word I think artists should work hard to make new art that includes more diversity. God knows I, for example, write too much about white people. My two most major works at the moment take place in 1880s London and 1930s Connecticut, for Christ's sake. And I shouldn't let myself settle for that. A lot of people use "that's just not how I see the story" as a justification for why they don't include anything other than white cis het people in their work. And you know, I sympathize. I generally do believe that stories that are carried out according to the vision you are most passionate about. I think the REAL way to deal with that issue is to pose the question of "Why don't stories about more diverse people ever occur to me?" Well, accept that it's because we're all unconsciously racist and sexist and try to do better! So, we must ask, "What stories can I write about with authentic engagement that WOULD be best expressed by diverse characters?" And if you can't think of any way to do that, well, your racism and sexism isn't so unconscious anymore, is it?

I mean to make more of an effort in this way. Mrs. Hawking sequels can certainly accommodate a move in this direction, though it might be tougher for the Fairfield universe. Still, I mean to think up stories in which I have a genuine investment in telling that aren't just about the same old white folks. (That idea where Lillian Holland breaks out of the asylum, changes her name, and moves to Chicago to run a speakeasy jazz club is a definite possibility...)

As a final word on Death of the Author in its most literary sense-- yes, generally it doesn't really click with me when it comes to analysis literature. But the one exception to this is theater, interestingly enough. Weird that MY primary medium is the one thing that I am able to escape from it, given that it's so strong in me even when I don't want it to be. But perhaps because it is a living and highly interpretive medium, I actively prefer when stagings take the material is as many new and un-thought-of directions as possible. I mean, why do the same play over and over again, unless you're going to present it in new and different ways? In that respect, I almost actively prefer it.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 10th, 2013 03:14 pm (UTC)
DUDE can Lillian have an affair with Josephine Baker on her US tour?
Oct. 10th, 2013 06:13 pm (UTC)
Oct. 13th, 2013 11:54 am (UTC)
RE need for new art that includes more diversite: OR one can create high-grade fanfiction with alternate lenses and/or gender/race/class/whatever-bending and do it so well that people forget it's fanfiction and see it as new art (see: Wide Sargasso Sea, Ros&Guil are dead, most of Shakespeare). What you do is you say "this is a re-telling of [whatever] where it takes place in India in the year 2080 and these characters are gay." As I see it, whether a piece is drawing heavily upon other stories (serial numbers or no) does not necessarily have much of anything to do with the problem. The problem is that even new 'original' stories are still about the same limited class of people and re-hash the same (often harmful) tropes. (I have a lot of feelings about the cult of originality. Most of them are angry.)

Edited at 2013-10-13 11:56 am (UTC)
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

About Me

My name is Phoebe. I'm Boston area theater professional and English professor focused in writing, acting, directing, and modeling. I'm known for having lots of interests, lots of opinions about those interests, and a very high estimation of the value thereof. This blog is for talking about whatever's on my mind, from my daily life to my activities to musing on any number of abstract topics. Thanks for taking the time to read.

My productions:

Upcoming Productions:

MRS. HAWKING part 2 and 3

at the Watch City Steampunk Festival 2016

presented by The Chameleon's Dish

Vivat Regina
by Phoebe Roberts

at 2PM


Base Instruments
by Phoebe Roberts

at 6PM

Saturday, May 13th 2017
at 274 Moody Street, Waltham, MA

Other Achievements:

"The Tailor at Loring's End" screenplay
Quarter Finalist in the Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Competition 2013

"Adonis" screenplay
Top Ten Percent in the Bluecat Screenwriting Contest 2015

Latest Month

April 2017


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