So mode and voice and focalization are all well and good, but narratology didn’t dazzle me until I read Dorrit Cohn’s Transparent Minds (1978) because it is all about the issue that is the absolute nearest and dearest to my heart: how writers convey a character’s consciousness to the reader. What are the techniques for conveying a character’s thoughts, emotions, and opinions to the audience?
And most crucially: rather than telling the reader what they’re feeling, how do you make the reader feel what they’re feeling?
“All I want,” I lamented, “is an Intro to Narratology textbook that takes its examples from slash fanfic instead of from Joyce and Proust. Is that too much to ask?”
To which my friend replied, “I think you’re going to have to write that one yourself, bb.”
So this morning I wrote a program to generate elvish names for Dragon Age, because apparently I have no idea how to prioritize. There was already a name-gen for this out there, but the results it threw were overwhelmingly unusable, and often in blatant violation of the phonological rules that had been established (what? WHAT. COME AT ME BRO, THERE IS NO ‘C’ IN THIS LANGUAGE) so I made my own. It’s pretty cool, if I do say so myself.
So there I am in my favorite gay dive bar, and I turn around and there is this fantastically hot guy standing there. Who’s seen Leverage, show of hands? This guy looked like Eliot when Eliot is doing his geek-chic disguise, with the glasses and his hair back in a ponytail. Commence gnawing on table.
Guy-who-looked-like-Eliot had been chatting animatedly with an obviously-straight girl, then at one point reached over to stub out a cigarette in the ashtray next to me. He glances up, our eyes catch, and I say,
Which is apparently as good a pickup line as any, because he stayed and we got to talking. Got to talking about ~books!~, I don’t even know how, first about Fantasy That Doesn’t Suck, and then he said he tended to read more nonfiction, and I asked about his most recent reading and he said,
“Oh! Ah — yeah, it’s called, uhm, Pedagogy of the Oppressed.”
Sir, can I marry you? Like, right now?
Cuz usually I’m the one busting out shit like “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” in bar chat, and then watching the other person’s eyes glaze over, sometimes accompanied with a vague, “Wow, so you must be really smart, huh? o_o” To which I’m so tempted to say, I KNOW I AM, BUT WHAT ARE YOU?
…Which is why I rarely get laid. And I am okay with this.
“Oh oh oh!” I said. “If you’re interested in that sort of thing, then you should read Stigma, by Erving Goffman — it’s about how stigmatized minorities control perceptions of their identity. It’s a bit dated in its language, but still extremely insightful.”
Which is how I got his number, and a date a couple days later.
So in this research paper I’m writing on Japanese sociolinguistics, I’m about to cite a guy who is also on record as saying that Japanese women weren’t interested in getting the vote. (And besides, they’d just vote like their husbands if they did.)
Clearly this man is an infallible source.
Got 2/3 of my recommendation letters lined up, and they’re not looking nearly so bad as I’d been expecting. I’d been worried because I’ve been out of academia for six years, and most of my undergrad professors wouldn’t recognize me now, much less remember me enough to write letters of recommendation.
I’m scheduled to take the GRE on November 15th, which is giving me fits because OMG I CANNOT MATH, and my high school self would die of shame to see me now, given as I went to a math-and-science boarding school. The verbal section I do fine on, until the critical reading questions, where it devolves into me yelling at the book and going “Your MOM is irrelevant to critical consideration!”
Although, interestingly, the analytical writing section is turning out to be right up my alley. (Interesting because I get the impression that most other people haaaaate that part.) But it’s like, here’s a topic! You have half an hour to write something persuasive about it! And I’m like, “On it.” It is, admittedly, testing me over the areas I’m weakest in (structuring an argument in a logical way and getting it done in a timely fashion) but I’ve been making great strides in both areas this past year, and it’s paying off. (Although — ohhh — I learned how to fight on the internet, and I’m having trouble reining myself in from grandstanding and ad hominem arguments.)
Also paying off is all the weird and random reading I do, because it’s left me with a huge range of people to quote and factoids to cite. Freakonomics on nature vs. nurture adoption studies? Robert Cialdini on “flip-flopping” as a dirty word in politics? Jared Diamond on man-made natural disasters? Dude, I can find something to say about anything.
And it is kind of depressing that my skillset is valued in-and-only-in academia, where there is no money to be had and nobody in the real world respects you. But whatever, it’ll be fun!
So I swore, on my rather spotty honor, that I would buy no more books until I had read at least half of the ones on my list, and indeed I have not.
This topic is relevant to my interests for the purpose of world-building — specifically for Keilja’s story, because he grows up and becomes a university professor, and there’s more to writing a medieval university than sticking some turrets on UCLA. Initially I bought this book and Charles Homer Haskins’ The Rise of the Universities to get concrete details about university life, such as how classes were chosen and scheduled, where they were held, how students paid for them, what subjects were taught and how classes were conducted, how professors interacted with their students in and outside the classroom, and all the other things that I didn’t even know I didn’t know.