Tuesday, June 23, 2015

'Ecomonstrous Environments in the Fiction of R. A. Lafferty and Cormac McCarthy' (dissertation uploaded!)

Here it is at last, folks:


Feel free to tear it to shreds with incisive criticism.  It's definitely only the first stab at a longer project. I'm pleased to be able to say the dissertation received an 'A'.  It's just an undergraduate paper, but I hope it points in some helpful directions for seeing Lafferty's place in American and world literature as well as philosophy.  Works mentioned, either at length or briefly, are 'Narrow Valley', 'Smoe and the Implicit Clay', 'Snuffles', and Okla Hannali.  The only work by McCarthy engaged in the paper is Blood Meridian.  (The PhD research I hope to begin in October will delve into the rest of their respective bodies of work.)

The main theorists engaged in this paper are Timothy Morton ('dark ecology'), Graham Harman ('object-oriented ontology'), Alphonso Lingis ('imperatives in things'), and a bit of Lawrence Buell (pioneer of contemporary ecocriticism in literary studies).  Large swathes of the paper should be pretty readable even to those not familiar with any theory.  Other parts may seem a bit impenetrable! At any rate, the whole thing is only ten thousand words.  To those further down the academic road than me, all I can ask is your patience and charity!  (But don't hold back much-needed critique either!)

There's lots of other Lafferty stuff happening and I still plan to get back to reporting on that, so stay tuned!  (Here's a quickie:  Jeff Vandermeer is a huge Lafferty fan now, a recent convert, and he'll be including Lafferty's story 'Nine Hundred Grandmothers' in the forthcoming Big Book of SF he and his wife Ann Vandermeer are editing for Vintage Books.)


Antonin Scriabin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Antonin Scriabin said...

I thought I could edit comments and deleted it instead. Stupid phone. Congratulations!

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Ah, well, I got an email of your first comment anyway: 'Congratulations! I majored in philosophy a long time ago, hopefully I can make my way through it. I haven't read a word of McCarthy, however. And the Vandermeer news is great. If there is anyone of literary status who could help popularize Lafferty other than Gaiman (and also be likely too), it would be him. He is a good writer in his own right (the Southern Reach trilogy was really quite good) and a workhorse when it comes to finding, editing, and presenting obscure weird fiction. Really excited for volume 3!'

The philosophy in my dissertation is continental. I was trained in strictly analytic philosophy at the University of Glasgow (I'm just now receiving a joint honours degree in English Lit/Philosophy). So I'm out of my depth really and trying to catch up as quick as I can! There's nothing majorly difficult in this dissertation beyond unfamiliar terminology.

I'm so excited about the Vandermeer thing too. This could be a major boost. Jeff told us he was fully on board with Lafferty and would be reviewing him in the future and stuff. He said some of his narrative moves were so complex he could imagine Nabokov really being interested in him if he'd heard of him. He was enthusing about the story 'Thieving Bear Planet' in particular. I've only read a few of Jeff's short stories and they were some of the best I've encountered (in The Third Bear). But I started listening to Annihilation on audio and was totally enthralled. Stopped listening so I could borrow the book from the library and read it myself and soak in the words as they come off the page. Southern Reach will undoubtedly work its way into my further ecomonstrous studies.

Antonin Scriabin said...

I usually use Feedly on my phone to read your blogs (and a bunch of others). To comment I have to leave the app, and doing it on my phone is just a pain. Great for reading, terrible for participating.

Anyway, my education experience was the opposite. I went to a Catholic university that focused heavily on Scotus, Ockham, Aquinas, Spinoza, Descartes, etc. Analytic stuff was added to later semesters for completeness' sake. They didn't want people looking too closely at Russell, or something.

I wonder if Vandermeer could be convinced to contribute to Feast of Laughter. I'm sure he is aware of it, and according to his Twitter he is writing a ton at the moment (what is the opposite of writers' block? writers' white water rapids?). Definitely read the rest of Annihilation. It is a very eerie journey.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Well, Russell's incredibly overrated in my opinion. The philosophy department at UofG is heavily modernist/enlightenment so we were warned off the likes of Aquinas! (But I'm a heretic and I've been slowly trying to educate myself in Thomism on the side - thanks in no small part to certain commenters on this blog.)

We'll definitely approach Vandermeer about contributing to FoL, especially since he so friendlily [a word?] contacted and interacted with our Facebook Lafferty group. He might wait an issue or two, but I'd be surprised if he didn't eventually contribute. After all, several of his longtime writerly compatriots have been and continue to be involved (Michaels Bishop and Swanwick, Howard Waldrop, etc.). But he is pretty high profile these days, so he may have to be very, very selective about what he contributes to (for whatever reasons fame constrains an author). I'm really looking forward to getting further into his work. And he's been detailing a lot of his new writing on his Facebook account and it all sounds promising and fascinating. It's great to have him on side with Laff.

Antonin Scriabin said...

I agree that Russell is overrated. He can at least be thanked for alerting the population to the work of the much-superior Frege. I think he is mostly popular because he bridged the gap between technical logic that was indecipherable to the untrained and pop-philosophy.

Anyway, you might like Vandermeer's interview with Michael Silverblatt on Bookworm. Silverblatt is a fantastic host and interviewer, and it was a particularly good episode. Here you go: http://tinyurl.com/o3jmda3

trawlerman said...

Congratulations, Daniel. I just downloaded this and will be reading it soon. Very excited.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Rad, thanks, John!

'It was all strong talk with the horns and hooves still on it.'
(R. A. Lafferty, The Devil is Dead)