I have spent a lot of my time in graduate school thinking about how to talk about literary canons and ways to disrupt them. The literature classes I teach always include works that have otherwise been excluded from the Western Canon in a deliberate attempt to draw into question how canons are formed and the limited scope they present to us as readers. It's a tightrope game. On the one hand, survey courses have to teach students about crucial works of literature in an effort to provide some kind useful and repeatable literary knowledge base. On the other hand, simply repeating the canon is sort of like reading the headlines in a newspaper without ever looking at the article itself; sure, you'll have a firm understanding of a literary tradition, but you're missing out on a wide range of compelling material that could make for an even deeper reading of a field. In the realm of science fiction, that can be a bit tricky. Because science fiction is already a small bubble of a much larger literary world, text selections are often arbitrary or based on vague notions of what appears to be the "common core" of the field (we'll come back to this in a bit). Worse, science fiction "people" too often assume they know what the canon "is" and push that perspective on others as if it has weight -- which it does due to the power of cultural suggestion. I've heard too many stories of someone in the science fiction community telling someone else that they have to read X and Y if they want to be considered "educated" about the field; ironically, you'll hear the same ten names repeated in these claims, suggesting such individuals have a less comprehensive knowledge of the field than they assume. There are two false assumptions in these claims:
@renay How do we create an inclusive sf canon that also recognizes the impact publishers had on which works we influential?
— Grand Moff Duke🐍🚀 (@shaunduke) December 21, 2016
- That they speak using the authority of an existing literary canon.
- That the purpose of a canon is to provide a reading list one must consume to be considered "knowledgeable" about a field.
What the film really lacks is a strong and vigorous male lead (such as Han Solo or John Boyega's Finn in The Force Awakens) to balance more equally with Jyn and supply a sparring partner. None of the men here has real physical or vocal stature, nor any scenes in which they can decisively emerge from the pack in a way that engages audience enthusiasm. Both Luna and Ahmed have proved themselves repeatedly in big-screen and television performances, but their characters never pop here, to the film's detriment. And given that Jyn is rather less gung-ho and imposing than was Ridley's Rey, there's an overall feel of less physical capacity on the part of the main characters.None of this is remotely accurate. Actually, I'd hazard to call it complete and utter bullshit. Read More
One such exercise occurred last Sunday when I went with a friend to see Ant-Man, the last entry in Marvel Studio's Phase 2. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and if I can muster the words to say something intelligent about the film, I'll write a review for Totally Pretentious. Discussing the film on Twitter eventually prompted a brief discussion with David Annandale and John Stevens about the impact of "academic brain" on one's ability to enjoy a creative product. Read More