randomling: Kira Nerys (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) (kira)
[personal profile] randomling
[personal profile] kaberett wanted to know:

I'd also adore knowing more about how you approach literary criticism etc - when you're starting out with something new, what makes the critique-goggles slam on? What do you have to do to keep them away? What sorts of themes etc do you notice first?

Okay! Whee. This is probably going to get long because there are a lot of things going on here. But the first thing to say is this: I do a lot of stuff that falls under the lit crit umbrella, but one thing I don't do much of is thinking about how and why I do this stuff. There are certain parts of it that are totally unconscious, so this is using muscles that I am not accustomed to flexing.

So I'm feeling my way around a bit blindly here. The rest is going under a cut, because it'll probably get long.

So one piece of this is that... well, I was going to say I think critically about everything, but that's less true than I would like. (For example, thinking critically and seriously about political things, as opposed to just absorbing the opinions of the people I admire most, is something I'm still working on.) But I think critically about nearly every artwork I come into contact with. Whether that's thinking deeply about why a particular song affects me, or making a quick observation about some of the themes of a poem I've just read, I find it almost impossible to take the critique goggles off. A lot of the stuff I think doesn't get articulated at all, and much of it these days gets articulated in IRC rather than anywhere more public and permanent, but that doesn't mean I'm not thinking about it. (For example, I may or not post them, but I am currently wanting to write one post about how Drop the Dead Donkey talks about dysfunction, and another that's really ill-formed but is about thematic stuff in the dance music I've just started listening to seriously for the first time.)

What this means is that I almost never consume uncritically. The one exception is when I'm full of squee over something - there is a sort of grace period when I'm so busy being thrilled by it that I'm not thinking about it in the usual way. When I'm in that period of epic squee, I also find I don't want to hear any criticism of the thing that's making me so happy. That period never lasts, though. I will eventually start thinking critically about even the most amazing art. An example: I probably would have noticed the mirroring between Aang and Zuko a lot sooner if I hadn't loved the show quite so hard.

Which brings me neatly onto "what do I notice first?"

Mirrors are a big one. I'm not sure why, but the mirror is just about my favourite literary device, and I will latch onto it whenever it shows up. I notice reflections everywhere, especially in fiction, and that's often my way into broader themes, because what a piece of fiction chooses to mirror is often an indicator of what it thinks is important. In terms of actual themes I notice, I think I'm going to list some stuff I've noticed lately and see what crops up:

* Identity and identity politics in Welcome to Night Vale
* Group dysfunction in Drop the Dead Donkey
* Trauma responses in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (hat tip to [personal profile] kaberett)
* Trauma responses in Farscape (hat tip to [personal profile] flippac)
* Dysfunction and trauma responses in Battlestar Galactica
* Coming of age in Avatar: The Last Airbender
* Handed-down responsibility in Avatar: The Legend of Korra
* Dissent, disagreement and diplomacy in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Hmm. A lot of stuff about trauma and dysfunctional groups in there, but otherwise it's a fairly mixed bag. Some of this (stuff about trauma, coming of age and identity) plays interestingly with my headmess, and some doesn't so much. One thing I haven't mentioned here is "chosen family", which is a theme I like, but perhaps not one I have really felt the need to examine closely. I am more likely to go "aw, chosen family" than examine deeply what a particular show has to say about chosen family.

I am not sure I have many interesting conclusions to draw here, but I would be happy to answer questions in comments!

Date: 2013-12-24 10:49 pm (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett

Also, hurrah for mirrors and reflections, because I think I tend to notice them at the of-this-world level but not so much at others, which... is something I want to work on, I think. (And now I am thinking about Dave Hughes' song Mirrors, and I should chuck a copy your way when I'm next near one!)

Date: 2013-12-25 07:42 pm (UTC)
ephemera: (Labyrinth - reading)
From: [personal profile] ephemera
Interesting - thank you ;)

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