Wednesday, November 11, 2009

WPW Replacement

Instead of the regularly scheduled programming, I'm going to put up some thesis stuff. I'm up to my eyeballs preparing for my defense tomorrow, so I'm spreading it around. As part of the defense, I'll be distributing a single-spaced, one page handout that is designed to succinctly sum up 130+ pages of text, 25 pages of which are ultra dense critical analysis.

It's rather like squeezing a linebacker into a shoe box. Without further ado, here is the shoe box:

Overview: Into the Water features eight stories written in the mode of magical realism. These stories loosely trace a timeline beginning during the early colonization of North America and ending in the modern day. They explore an intersection between European and Native American folklore, using animal totems as each main character has a literal animal that acts as a guide to bring that character to a resolution within the story. While the stories are designed to stand alone, there is also a framework where the stories can be read as stories-with-a-story, framed by the first story, “There Once Was a Little Boy Who Walked Very, Very Far” and the last, “Needle and Thread.” They are the two most contemporary stories and both have the same main character.

Magical Realism: A description originally born of the writings of German art critic Franz Roh in 1925 and used to describe a style of art in which everyday subjects were presented “in such a way that the normal became unfamiliar” (Reeds 178). Later, Spanish writer José Ortega translated Roh’s work, taking liberties in the translation and applying the term to literature. This is where the association of magical realism with Latin America culture comes from as well as its use to describe literature “in which magical and realistic elements coexist with equal status” (Warnes 488).

Magical realism can be described in terms of the merger between the realistic and fantastic and analyzed on a spectrum which goes from the use of magic in a literal sense (ontological), where magic is a real force, and the use of magic as natural phenomenon (phenomenological), or something which could be explained as something other than magic (Reeds).

Stories in Into the Water fall along both sides of the spectrum.
Ontological stories: “When Bridgette Went Into the Water,” “Albatross,” “The Honeymoon of Mr. and Mrs. Roux,” and “Charlie’s Ghost.”
Phenomenological stories: “There Was Once a Little Boy Who Walked Very, Very Far,” “An Ocean Kind of Blue,” “The Movement of a Heart,” and “Needle and Thread.”

Cultural Studies: The main trait of magical realism is that of merger, which makes it an excellent genre for cultural considerations. J.M. Wise uses the term “third culture kids” to describe the cultural identity of those who have dual cultural background. This “third culture” is a hybrid creation. As an American of German descent, I identify with this hybridization and it is a theme which Into the Water is based in. The main characters are born of the hybridization of European culture and Native American culture as well as the hybridization of human and animal. In this way, using the mode of magical realism allowed me to express the exploration of culture by making cultural hybridization literal through symbolism.

Other Unifying Symbolic Motifs:
Water, which is traditionally associated with rebirth and change. “When Bridgette Went Into the Water” uses this symbolism when Bridgette crosses the Atlantic ocean to become the first (chronological) character to be changed by magic.
Birds, especially birds of prey, and specifically the falcon. Common falcon symbolism associates the bird with sight/illumination, which reinforces the role of the falcon as totem guide in the stories “There Once Was a Little Boy Who Walked Very, Very Far” and “Needle and Thread.”

Next Steps:
I have submitted stories from this collection for publication (they’re currently being reviewed by multiple magazines). I completed the first draft of a short novel of 53,000 words, Crossroads Promise, in September. The novel continues to develop the mythology introduced in Into the Water. I have now begun revisions on the novel, and, after another review, will begin submitting that novel to agents.

4 comments:

Debbie said...

Wow, impressive. All scholarly and stuff. You're going to kick some serious tush tomorrow.

Especially with all the good juju being sent your way.

Fleur said...

You're officially too smart to be my friend :-)

Seriously, this is perfect. Go knock 'em dead!

Ali said...

Thanks for the support ladies. It helps :)

Jenny said...

It almost makes me miss school, being surrounded by intelligent folks such as yourself, Ali. Go kick some butt! Make them cry if they dare challenge anything you say! You are the authority. Period.

Good luck tomorrow. I wish I could be there to root you on. Come to the store after and tell me how you did.