Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Literary Trends & Conversations

Bear in mind, during this post, what I have said before about the similarity between the current supernatural trend and the Gothic. But this time, I want to focus on the how of the similar content in these two periods.

This past semester, one of my classes read about half of a book called Pamela, following up with sections from Anti-Pamela and Shamela. As you can tell, the second two books were parodies of the first; they were two of many more such books. Such things became literary conversations of sorts. It seems dull to look back on piles of the same basic plot, but the concept is understandable. We have the same type of thing now in YouTube form, where you can search for a particular parody and come up with dozens of results. But do we also have it in book form?

I think so, in a way. Let's come back to the supernatural trend (and we can include fantasy in this). There are the big titles everyone or most everyone knows. But there are also the piles of "similar" books. Most of them aren't as good or as original (though not necessarily), and some in the overall bunch parody parts of others (or at least respond to them). Let me take my friend Twilight for instance. Though it appears to have helped launch the trend because of how timing worked out, it wasn't really the first of its kind. And there are responses even stated outright in the text. Bella tries to remember what fiction has said about vampires and compare it to her observations, etc. The reader, looking in, does something similar. Twilight is a different world from previous vampire fiction. It therefore takes on a different focus and a different theme, even while including a few of the same elements within its framework.

It's in these little differences that the big changes often happen. Back in the eighteenth to nineteenth century, texts shifted (though with rather similar plot lines) from showing essentially trapped and powerless women to independent figures. Now, very much through parodies, we seem to be shifting the supernatural from something to be feared or to be cautious of to something that analogizes aspects of our real lives. (It always has done that, true, but it's a bit different now, isn't it?) So in Twilight, it isn't about certain characters being vampires; it's about what they choose to do with who they happen to be. It's a similar sort of thing in Harry Potter.

And I do hope I didn't ramble or stray overly much in this post.

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