This blog is essentially me detoxing from academia. I recently graduated with a master’s in English and before that I earned a bachelor’s in English and European History.
So, basically, I wrote a lot of literary analysis papers and I also got tired of writing literary analysis on other people’s terms. I enjoyed my time in grad school and still love to learn (and write literary analysis), but I no longer want to write about texts and themes chosen for me on someone else’s time table.
Currently I am working part-time at a library and doing freelance technical writing on the side. My new-found freedom from syllabi, midterms, and annotated bibliographies is lovely. I had forgotten what free time was–but I’m also not 100% sure what to do with it.
One way I have kept myself occupied is by studying topics I didn’t have the time to learn more about when I was in school. During my stay in the academic world, I became fascinated with narratology and narrative structure. I didn’t know it at the time, but my interest was piqued by an undergraduate paper I wrote about the narrative choices in Pat Barker’s Regeneration. I thought the novel’s point of view shifts were a rhetorical reflection of the book’s excellent, thought-provoking content, but the idea of actually studying narrative beyond that one project still didn’t occur to me until nearly a year later when I was a first year graduate student in a class about adaptation theory.
We spent a lot of time studying what other people thought about why we adapt “classic” texts over and over again and how we discuss this process, but what really interested me was the actual way we go about it and the specific narrative choices adaption creators make. Though my class spent a lot of time debating the merits/problems with strict adherence to source material–a worthwhile debate, for sure–I was more interested in exploring why some people, when working on a new version of, say, Hamlet orSherlock Holmes eliminate a secondary character or add a subplot or create an entirely new plot for the character. In fact, my research paper for that class examined the specific techniques authors use to establish credibility in their own versions of non-canonical Dracula adaptations. I didn’t care about whether or not these people should do those things so much as why they were doing and what effect it created.
Now that I am no longer a student, I figured a blog would be a good way to ponder these questions without pestering the living hell out of my poor family and friends who already have to listen to me wonder about these sorts of things.
I’ve also long been a lover of serialized television shows and have recently started applying the questions I had about literary adaptations to television shows in general. Don’t get me wrong–I like a lot of procedural shows. There’s something comforting in knowing I can just drop in and visit with these characters for an episode or two and everything gets solved by the end, but I also like the increasing emphasis on serialized storytelling in television, the sort of long-form narrative that is more akin to what you find in a novel or even a short story collection.
With these serialized shows, there sometimes is an issue of why something is being changed in relation to its source material, but there still remains a lot to explore in what showrunners are doing with original storylines–Do they write a scene a certain way to make disturbing content more palatable to viewers? Are they using this character to keep viewers in the loop of what is going on? Have they completely forgotten an entire subplot or is it being kept on the sideline for a reason? Is this scene intended to depict a historical reality of the setting or a deflection from what really would have happened? And perhaps most importantly, are these decisions effective?
My initial plan for this blog, which may certainly change, is to blog about television shows, movies, novels, and other forms of narrative and examine why the creator of this particular text is doing whatever he/she is doing within the text. I am probably going to write about a lot of tv shows because, well, because I can and I like television and I find it particularly intriguing in this regard. But I don’t plan to limit myself to it. My choices will range from old favorites to things I don’t particularly enjoy to unfamiliar ones I’ve not yet sampled. I have a pretty broad taste that encompasses classics and not-so classics, masterpieces and guilty pleasures.
There will probably be a lot of historical drama/fiction because it is something I enjoy in general and also because I think the hurdles of creating a realistic storyline set in a distant (or not so distant) time that contemporary audiences can understand provides a lot of material for me to work with beyond the normal choices related to basic plot and character development.
Also, though this blog may have its roots in my research interests and formal class projects, I don’t plan on writing it like a dry academic paper. This is much more like the informal conversations I had before and after class with my fellow students, professors, and friends.
In any event, thanks for stopping by! I’m looking forward to discussing narrative logic with you.