Monday, February 15, 2010

No interiority, no inwardness

I'm busting my ovaries over here to write a 30-page essay for pre-circulation for a seminar I'm participating in a few months from now, but for which I have a very urgent deadline. At the moment, however, it's shaping up as a catalogue of things I have no interest in--things I'm not doing and don't want to argue. A hate list, basically.

Among the things I currently hate:
Genre theory
Narratives of origin (specifically, of genres)
I hate all those things, but I REALLY hate interiority. Please please no one write about Renaissance interiority again, ever.*

Thanks. Knew you'd be there for me.

*Same goes for inwardness.


T.E. said...

Ugh, I hate genre theory, too. And I seem to remember a plague of interiority in grad school. You have my sympathies.

Anonymous said...

What if we want to write about how much we hate interiority and its effects? Is that still ok?

meg said...

Genre theory still interests me (sorry), but I have never gotten the so-what of interiority. I promise not to write about it vis-à-vis the Renaissance, the Middle Ages, the Long 18th Century, or postapocalyptic Alpha-Centauri.

Doctor Cleveland said...

I think arguments about interiority are better when they're kept on the inside.

Flavia said...

Anon: hey, that's what I'm doing. So have at it.

Meg: eh, actual genre theorists are okay--since in my experience they tend to emphasize the provisionality of their descriptions, and take them as a starting place, etc. It can be useful.

My problem is with people who are obsessed with genre classification: the project of labeling things as either-this-or-that, and then closing down discussion: it's this genre, because it does A, B, and C. It's not properly that genre, because it doesn't do A or B, although it sorta does C. And well of course the text makes those moves, because they're conventional for the genre. The End.

Makes me want to kill someone.

moria said...

Hey! No hating on genre theory!

... Says the girl who's thinking of structuring a whole writing course around Northrop Frye. Critically, but with no apologies.

meg said...

Agreed about this type of genre theory. In fact, I have little patience with any classifying/taxonomizing that does not then deliver payoff -- it's like chopping up the mirepoix and then not cooking anything with it.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad that hating on interiority is still ok because a significant portion of my book is about that, and I wouldn't want to end up on the wrong side of the ferule.

Anonymous said...

In biblical studies, James Muilenburg hated on our genre theorists (of the kind you describe in your comment) in 1968. The result was a field-wide great leap forward in literary criticism in biblical studies (such that we are now only about 25 years behind secular literary criticism, instead of the usual 70-odd years that we lag behind our ancillary disciplines like archaeology or social science).

So, you go and hate on them genre theorists! Anything might happen as a result.

Flavia said...

Anon: I don't know you (or at least, I don't know that I know you), but you have my blessing, and I eagerly await your book.

(And if you title it, "Against Interiority: For Flavia," I'll know to pick it up.)

Horace said...

So wait...Is it ok to do genre theory and interiority in periods other than the Renaissance. Because my current project is kinda about genres of interiority (howzat for a double whammy?), but the material is from our own lifetimes.

Dr. Virago said...

Damn. All my work involves giving funky names to sub-genres that only I see. ("I see sub-genres!") Seriously. Read the first paragraph of my book.

But it's not quite the same thing as old-fashioned genre theory. I don't know how anyone could do that with medieval lit, anyhow, since it seems like *everything* is a mashup. And half the genre designators we have are wrong-headed, anachronistic, or misapplied in some way.

As for interiority, yeah, I don't do that, so at least I'm still half in your graces.

Flavia said...

Side note: HOW IS IT POSSIBLE that I wound up assigning my grad students, for this week, an essay BY MY ADVISOR that I forgot was all about generic categories in an author/set of works that my current project tangentially involves?

I'll stop shouting now. But dude, synchronicity.

Renaissance Girl said...

Heh. I'm teaching a graduate genre theory course right now. I'm not yet sick of it. BUT my thesis is that texts resist generic categorization and therefore theorization in generic terms. Can we still be friends?

i said...

I'm on the genre theory train here. In fact, I'm delighted (and relieved) to hear there are some other Frye-lovers out there. I teach an intro to lit course that I structure according to Frye's comedy, romance, tragedy, satire. I think it works well in the classroom. They have a hard time doing the reading, but when we discuss the material, it allows us to bring in movie narratives and analyse how they work as well. We spent the past two weeks reading Menander and Wilde, but I also found myself talking speculating that the tricky servant has morphed into the "buddy" figure in contemporary romcoms, noting that "Knocked Up" demonstrates that the side characters tend to be more interesting than the couple (a point made by Frye), and, when a student mentioned "Dirty Dancing," having the class go through a checklist of generic comedic traits it shows. Dance at the end? Check. Class difference keeps couple apart? Check. Surly, rich father who is won over? Check. Dad stands in the way of the relationship because of mistaken identity/character? Check.

But yes, I think getting worked up about how to categorize a narrative is silly. Categorizing is the least interesting use of genre theory. But I do find it a good way of thinking about how narrative is constructed, and what its effects are on the audience.