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PhD

Dammit, forgot to put a title again

I’m drafting a follow-up piece to the ‘Advice for PhD students” post from a year or so ago, although what ought to go at the top is something about it never being over until it’s over. Reading through the final copy again, you’re bound to spot an instance where two writers’ first names have mysteriously swapped around. I blame those invisible badgers.

Elsewhere, and courtesy of a link from Dr. Bjarnason, Stephen Fry has a blog. Unabashed geekery, but of the very highest order, and demonstrating a grasp of the relevance of technology, industrial user design, and the English language. Exactly what one would expect.

And I’ve written an essay for the Watershed in response to their round table discussion between Andrew Keen, Hazel Grian and Ana Kronchnabl. Not to imply criticism of any of the participants that evening, but rather in order to outline an academic response to Keen’s argument. Watershed will be publishing it sometime in the next week or so, and when they do, expect an abstract here, and a link to their website.

In the meantime, though, I’m becoming increasingly irritated by Christopher Vogler. “The Writers Journey”, which is one of several set texts for MA Interactive Media, is sitting open on my desk, with post-it notes sticking out at odd angles.

I don’t like it. At all. I think it stems from a mistrust on my part of analysts and critics who trade in deconstruction to no apparent end. Vogler’s undeniably very good at this, and in terms of a legacy of literary analysis that includes Propp and Campbell, he’s fine, but I don’t see the point.

He addresses criticism that his book (this is the revised edition) leads to a culture of standardisation by falling back to ‘design principles’, and suggests that artists who reject form are, in fact, reliant on it. And I’d agree, which was one of the points of my PhD. But I don’t see the point.

In particular Vogler applies his model for writing to Pulp Fiction. Resulting in this sort of analysis:

Moving further into the SPECIAL WORLD (Volger’s emphasis), Vincent takes Mia to the strange ’50s cafe for a TESTS, ALLIES, ENEMIES scene.”

Vogler’s analysis of Pulp Fiction, like the rest of the case studies, works to explicitly deny the influence of intuition. Writers working without formula don’t have to ‘Just do it’, as he remarks in the preface, but they do, in my experience, have a healthy regard for those moments of unconscious connection. Vogler indulges in what’s just this minute been described to me as ‘gridding from above syndrome’. A need to impose structure and formalism where none need be applied. And I don’t see the point in that.

//edit//It should have been Vogler, not Volger. Badgers, again.

Discussion

2 comments for “Dammit, forgot to put a title again”

  1. My usual opinion is that ‘design principles’ along with other rote tools such as genre conventions and format limitations don’t define works as much as they define their boundaries. Even the works that break the principles often rely on the knowledge of the boundaries for them to have any effect on the reader/viewer.

    It sounds like Vogler falls into the classic formalist/classicist trap of assuming that a defined set of rules/principles results in a defined and limited system. A small set of rules can have an as good as infinite number of possible outcomes and result in a system that is impossible to define or limit even though we understand its origin.

    Does that make sense or isn’t it even relevant?

    Posted by Baldur Bjarnason | September 20, 2007, 3:13 pm
  2. You think you’ve got problems? I swallowed my favourite whistle this morning!

    Posted by mongo | September 20, 2007, 4:51 pm

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