delirium happy

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Star Wars, fandom, and literary analysis
delirium happy
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I bought the new Star Wars DVD box-set the other day, and have watched the DVDs at a rate of 1 per day since. Amidst much fangirl squee, I actually came to a realisation when watching it: I think I actually understand the point of literary analysis now.

See, when I was at school, studying English literature, it just never clicked for me. I didn't care that Portia was a merciless hypocrite. I didn't care that Moses the raven represented the Russian Orthodox Church. And so on and so forth. Of course, the reason that I didn't care about this sort of thing is that I didn't enjoy reading The Merchant of Venice or Animal Farm. And of course, the reason that I didn't enjoy them was that at every turn, we were constantly analysing, with symbolism and meaning being stuffed down our throats. The main thing that I learned after five years of English literature classes was that literary analysis was a pointless and painful endeavour which served no purpose other than to ruin the enjoyment ofa good book, play or poem.

So what does this have to do with Star Wars? As I sat watching it, for the 974th time, I found myself thinking various thoughts, such as the following: "Isn't the redemption and death of Annakin Skywalker remarkably similar to Christian traditions, in which ones sins are forgiven if one repents before death?" or "Given that C3PO understands the language spoken by the Ewoks, no matter how primitive it is, does that not imply a linguistic relationship to a known language, and does that not then imply that the Ewoks may not be indigenous to Endor, but a spacefaring race who were somehow stranded there, reverting to primitive practices?" and so on and so forth.

Fairly standard fandom stuff really. I've had similar thoughts before, and argued them at great length across other fandoms: notably Red Dwarf and Discworld. I'm quite sure that if I wanted to, I could quite easily write a 1000 word essay on either of thos two topics. Nothing new there then. What was new to me though, was the realisation that there is essentially no difference between that sort of element of fandom and mainstream literary analysis, other than the perceived importance of the works in question. Possibly this is something that everyone else already knew and i was just slow to catch onto, but it acted as a definite lightbuld flicking on inside my brain.

The net result of all this is that I'm changin my view of literary analysis. to accept that, done properly, it is probably neither pointless nor painful, but is potentially both enjoyable and relevant. One has to consider, however, the fact that it took me seven years beyond the last time I studied it (I got a B in English literature GCSE, for anyone who cares) to come to this conclusion. This does not reflect particularly well upon my schooling, I don't think. If I Were Queen™ then the way I would go about teaching it, would be to have the class read through the entire book in their own time, before even starting. Then I would have a general classwide discussion of the book as a whole, without any direction to it, just talking about whatever the class wanted to talk about. Then, and only then, after giving them a chance to actually muster up a bit of enjoyment or enthusiasm would I launch into the actual nitty-gritty.


And on a totally unrelated note, if anyone is curious, the answer to my brainteaser is that they all have flags containing red, white, blue and no other colours (though the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica only half count since the national and state flags are different, with the former containing coats of arms including other colours). And yes, they all have names containing both consonants and vowels, and are lived in by human beings. Knowing the sort of people who read my journal, I really ought to know to word things more carefully.

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When I was at school, and struggling to fill my brain with the invented-from-thin-air literary analysis the teacher (and presumably exam board) wanted to hear (as opposed to the sort of thing that made sense to me at the time), I had a policy of reading the texts through in my own time before we got the ripped to shreds in class.

My main motivation was largely one of self-preservation: the class would take it in (random, teacher-allocated) turns to read aloud a few pages at a time, and I was almost physically incapable of not getting distracted and reading the book at normal reading speed, with the obvious consequence that just as I started to get into it the teacher would invariably pick on me to read next. The predictible result being that after admitting that I didn't have the slightest clue where the last person left off, I would get a bollocking for daydreaming.

I also found it was a lot easier to make sense of a book when you know what's going on, that Shakespeare is horrifically overrated but useful to quote when you want to look intelligent around Cultured People, that Dickens should never have been allowed to write whole books, and that saying things like "Lord of the Flies is basically a more tenuous version of Jurassic Park" tends to get a bad reaction from English teachers.

I don't understand the 'page by page' thing. I mean, if you were going to read a page, analyse it and then move on that would make sense... but why read it allowd - this isn't Reception class, we assume that they can all *read*.

To be fair we would stop at each salient point and analyse it, so the reading aloud was more a means of preserving continuity between bouts of analysis than an excercise in reading. Bloody frustrating way to read a book though.

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