Literary Criticism and Fandoms?

I’m currently in a class called Literary Theory and Criticism, and one of the big topics we’ve been talking about lately is the questions- where does literature get it’s meaning from?

We concluded that there are three places a piece of literature might get it’s meaning from.

  1. The Author
  2. The Work
  3. The Reader

There was, however, a lot of discussion around which of these things is the most influential.

There’s a rather famous story about Ray Bradbury (the author of the classic- Farenheit 451) stating that during a lecture he once gave to a class of college students, he stated that the theme of his book was the dangers of television. At which point, a student from the back of the class stood up and yelled, “No, it’s about censorship!” The class dissolved into an argument with the author about the true theme of his novel and Bradbury stormed out, swearing he would never lecture again.

Now, whether or not this story is true is not the point of this post. The story, true or not, brings up an interesting point about the relationship between a work, its author, and its readers.

Literature has long inspired its readers- from the very first novels to the now famous YA trilogies and series. The stories and the characters become a part of the reader’s life for a time, and the impact can be profound. What makes it even more impactful and lasting, is when a group of readers gather together to discuss the book and share in their love of the work. Some gather to critique a piece- to delve into the hidden motives of their favorite characters- to dream up elaborate backstories the author never wrote, to imagine crossovers and wonder how the story relates to their real lives. These are the tasks of Literary Critiques.

Today we call these groups Fandoms.

It didn’t dawn on me until just the other day how eerily similar the two are. Fans who are a part of the fandom for a particular work spend hours coming up with theories and putting them on the internet, interacting and discussing ideas with other fans, creating crossovers between works and characters, and even bringing ideas to the author’s attention.

The Reader

This happened recently with the Harry Potter fandom and a brilliant new theory surrounding Dumbledore and the Tale of the Three Brothers from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Check out the story here. One of the most interesting parts of this, I think, is that the author J.K. Rowling has publicly endorsed the theory. And this is far from the first time she has done so.

I would be willing to bet that if asked the question- “who has the most power over the meaning of a story- the author, the work, or the reader?” J.K.R would side with the readers. She has allowed the fandom to run wild with theories and ideas about the Harry Potter series, when she could have easily put her foot down and attempted to dictate what it is she intended to be the original meaning for the story. J.K.R is a prime example of an author who recognizes that once a work is set in the hands of a reader, it is within the reader’s rights to interpret the work any way they wish. And the interpretations will vary- greatly- based on gender, race, social and political affiliations, etc. Once a work is released from the hands of the author, it begins to take on a life of it’s own.

The fan who originally came up with the theory may not have realized it, but what occurred when that theory hit the internet was an act of Literary Criticism. They took an established work, put it under a slightly different light to give attention to a new interpretation, and presented the idea to the fandom via the internet. There are hundreds of thousands of these theories floating around for every work created, this one just happened to be the spark that grew into a flame and a fire.

The Author/The Work

I’m lumping these two together for the sake of this post becoming ridiculously long and rambly. Some would argue that though readers and fans may interpret a work in different ways, it is up to the discretion of the author to decide what is canon. These people would probably also say that the author, not the reader, is the most important part in establishing the meaning of a work.

I will agree with them that the author does have a responsibility to present a work to the best of their ability- to make their meaning clear and to communicate something intentionally.

However, at what point does a work created with such a specific purpose and agenda cease to be literature, and become something more like propaganda or a textbook?

This point was brought up in my class, specifically in the terms of George Orwell’s two most famous works, 1984 and Animal Farm. Most high school students have to read them at some point during their four years, and at this point everyone pretty much expects what they’re going to hear the teacher say. Animal Farm is based on the Russian Revolution. Orwell made that abundantly clear in his text, almost painfully so. 1984 is about the dangers of a society based on propaganda and fear media and a controlling, totalitarian government. I remember my own classes on these books. We talked ourselves in circles around these books- each student stating essentially the above, in slightly different phrasing. In short, we were incredibly bored.

The texts of these two books, as examples, have been so dissected and analyzed over the years, that it’s difficult to see the beauty of them anymore. It’s nearly impossible to see them as much more than textbooks- far from literature.

Is it possible for an author to over communicate their purpose in a piece of literature? George Orwell may be a bit of an extreme example, but the question raises others and, to be honest, I don’t really have an answer. I don’t think Orwell would be too pleased with that Harry Potter Fan Theory situation happening to one of his books though.

So what’s the answer?

I’m not sure there is one. Who has more power over the meaning of a work- the readers and fandoms, or the authors and their works? And then, what happens after an author dies and is no longer around to defend their original meaning? Is the meaning set free… or does it become lost?

Maybe that’s a discussion for another day.

New Video- Books I Brought with Me to College!

Hello there internet! New video, as promised. Check it out and check out the links below as well :)

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Back to School- Here We Go Again!

This morning I woke up in my new dorm room at Judson University, went to church with my family and Nick, and came back to have lunch in the cafeteria. It feels like I never even left.
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There comes a point in life when your home starts to feel less like the place you live, and more like somewhere you go to visit. I’m hitting that point now, and it’s definitely an odd feeling. But Judson feels more like a home than home does right now. And I think that’s a good thing. When you find out you’ve started to outgrow your childhood home, it means that you’ve learned everything you could from that place, and it’s time to move on. It’s a sign of a healthy growing-up environment- one that has prepared you well for the future.

That Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 2.27.31 PMall said, I want to update you guys on some changes that will be coming to this blog and my Youtube channel now that fall is approaching.

It’s nothing to big, but I’ve been doing this youtube thing for about a year now and I feel like I’ve finally gotten a good handle on what I want my channel to be about, the style I want to use, etc.

Starting now, I will be creating one weekly video on my channel to be posted on Thursdays. I will also be posting here on the blog on Sundays on a weekly basis. There may be an additional video if there is something special happening, or a project I would like to share with you all, but you can expect posts and videos on those days for sure. I am making this commitment now to all of you and also to myself as a creator going forward. The focus of the videos will range in topic but I truly want the focus of my channel to be exploring creativity (especially in writing and books) and encouraging others to do the same.

Some of you may remember my month of Vlogsgiving in November, and I will be doing that again this year, so look forward to daily video updates throughout that month!

I would also love to have more interaction with my viewers on my channel so please leave comments, like, and share! Feedback and questions are always appreciated because when it comes down to it- Youtube is all about creating a community.

Thanks to all of you who already support me in any or all of my creative endeavors, I look forward to continuing to share this adventure with you!Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 2.27.20 PM

Love,

Micah

New Video! “At The Crossroads of Should and Must”

Hello there Internet! This video has taken me far too long to film, edit, and post, but it’s finally here! Check it out. Don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe!

Roundabout- Questions Uploaded, Answers Pending

It’s a well known stereotype that this time of our lives (high school/college/early 20’s) is meant for three things; Misadventures, mistakes, and generally figuring out what you want to do with your life.

It’s a difficult time, I’m coming to realize, and things don’t usually wrap up as nicely in real life as they do at the end of a late-night sitcom. Sometimes they don’t wrap up at all and then you get a lesson about the importance of closure, but that’s for another post.

There are so many questions that you never really thought you’d have to ask that suddenly become very pressing during this time of your life. And the ratio of answers to questions is discouraging to say the least.

I have been blessed to have a supportive family and parents who have helped me in so many many many ways. Also they are available to if not answer the questions I have then at least point me in the right direction where I might find the answers. I recognize of course that my family is quite odd in this way and our dynamic is far from typical. And this, I believe, is a huge part of the reason we have so many young adults who are searching for answers in what are very clearly the wrong places. They’ve had enough of shrugged shoulders and blank stares and so they go in search of answers somewhere- anywhere– else. At some point they cease to care if the answers are right, just that there is a person on the other end.

We are a pretty lonely generation. Despite our social media and our cell phones and everything else that ties us all together, we still manage, just as every generation before us has, to think to ourselves that we are the only ones dealing with these questions. We convince ourselves that everyone else has already gotten their lives in order. That we are the only ones left in the dust. When in fact if we took our eyes up off of our feet and looked around, we’d find the room we’re in well crowded.

If you, like me, are in this stage where it seems like the questions are too many and the answers are too few, please know that you are not alone. If nothing else, we can all sit around with some 3am pizza and ponder these questions together.

New Video- Books I Own But Haven’t Read Yet!

Hello there internet! It’s been a long time, once again. I managed to find a little extra time this weekend and decided to make a video. Let’s talk about books, shall we?

P.S It’s Martin the Warrior! Thank you! I found it!

Go Set a Watchman- Discussed, Chapter One Reviewed

Since the day its release was announced on February 3rd of this year a steady stream of media attention has been covering the developing story of the release of Harper Lee’s novel, Go Set a Watchman.

The controversy surrounding the book’s release stems from a few places. First, the subject matter. Second, Harper Lee’s desire to see this book published (see her reaction to the question when it was first written)

To add more fuel to this discussion, Chapter One of Go Set A Watchman was released this morning in a brand new, interactive, online format that’s clearly been targeted at Millenials whom the publishing industry has feared for a long time don’t have the attention span or desire to actually sit down and read a book.

Talk about hitting all the right buttons! Let’s take a look, shall we?

“Scout was all of us…”

It’s well known that Harper Lee’s famous novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, is a work of literary genius and one that’s been read and re-read by thousands of high school students across the United Sates. I remember reading the book in my Sophomore English class and having long discussion with my classmates- in and outside of the classroom- regarding the difficult subject matter it covered. Scout was all of us- we identified with her questioning of the system around her. We talked about race, tradition, sexism, gender roles, and family dynamics through the lens of the story.

Despite all of this, anyone who knows the history of this book knows that this same subject matter is also the reason the book has been repeatedly banned, challenged, and fought over. So it’s no surprise that people are more than a little concerned about what content and questions might be hiding in the pages of To Kill a Mockingbird’s sequel.

“How do you feel about your second novel?” another asked. “I’m scared,” Harper Lee replied.

Harper Lee was never one for the spotlight. Even after her first novel’s immediate success, that led to an Oscar-winning film and a Pulitzer Prize win, she really wanted nothing to do with the media or the fame. Combine that with a history of strokes, rumors of Alzheimers, and a number of quotes over the years on why she’s refused to take the stage– and people start to wonder, why end that now? What’s changed? Not to mention Harper Lee’s age (88 years) has possibly given a sense of desperation to the publishing companies. They see the years growing shorter and after 55 years, everyone wants to get their hands on that infamous manuscript.

I have no doubt that Go Set a Watchman will be another work of brilliance and excellence from Harper Lee and that it will soar to the tops of the charts along with it’s predecessor. But I also find it difficult to reconcile myself to the fact that we as the public may never know if this is truly what the beloved author wants.

“Since Atlanta, she had looked out the dining-car window with a delight almost physical…”

Screen Shot 2015-07-11 at 9.52.05 AMWith all of this floating around in the air, it’s no wonder the potential readers have been getting antsy. Yesterday, however, at least a little bit of this was released as The Guardian published the first chapter of Go Set a Watchman. What’s even more interesting, though, is the format it was released in. Really, it’s something you just have to look at to believe. 

The new format for the novel is online, free, interactive, and comes in both text and audiobook versions. Sound familiar? It should. These are all classic ways that the publishing company has started trying to connect with the Millennial generation. Genius move by the industry? Most Likely. And now with it’s release, readers and left to wonder what the July 14th official release will look like.

As for the actual reading of the first chapter, I can only give my personal opinion. And in that vein, I would give it 5 stars. If the first chapter is anything like the rest of the book, then Harper Lee will without a doubt have another prize-winning, soon-to-be-classic on her hands. It’s fascinating to see Scout (now Jean Louise) all grown up. She seems to have mellowed out, and at first that scared me, but as I kept reading I soon realized that the beloved tomboy hasn’t lost her spark yet. And that’s just Scout. Atticus Finch has been a source of inspiration and a recipient of so much admiration, that fans had a right to be a little nervous about his return in this sequel to the classic. Reading the first chapter, I was reintroduced to the Atticus I know and already love- the kind, self-sacrificing, upright father- with a new, darker twist. It seems time has taken its toll on Atticus and the whole Finch family. Could we possibly see his death in the course of this book? I would say it’s more than likely. Just the possibility is heartbreaking.

In Conclusion, July 14th Can’t Come Soon Enough!

Preordering the book from Amazon as we speak :)

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Hiatus (Sort of)

Hello Internet World!

I’ve missed you, believe it or not, and I feel I owe you all a bit of an explanation as to why I’ve been so absent lately.

What it comes down to really is work. I’m just super busy right now at Riverwoods- which you guys can hear more about in various videos where I’ve talked about it. I’m really enjoying what I’m doing and I’m learning so much about what it’s like to really try promoting an organization via social media- particularly an organization not your own, so having to learn how to play by someone else’s standards, opinions, and preferences! Which reminds me- I won’t be able to do this right now, but once the summer is over and I can get back to making videos, how would you guys like to do a Social Media/Internet World Q&A? What kinds of questions would you have? Hopefully I can learn something from it too as I’m by no means an expert.

So what else can I tell you guys about? Hmmm… I bought 2 new mugs! The obsession continues. The first is by a Youtuber I adore named Carrie Hope Fletcher, and the second is from a late-night Walmart run with Nick :)

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Books? I haven’t really had much time to read this summer, though I have made it through the first five books of the Chronicles of Narnia via Audiobook on Youtube. It’s been so much fun to revisit a series I’ve loved for so long! Even if I haven’t actually read a lot this summer, I have collected quite a list of To-Be-Read books that I will have to fly though as soon as school starts. What have you read this summer? Any good suggestions?

Some things I’m excited about:

1. Youtuber books! Specifically Carrie’s book- All I Know Now, and Dan and Phil’s book- The Amazing Book is Not on Fire

2. Watching the Women’s World Cup #USAvJAP game with my family! (As I’m writing this the USA had a 4-1 lead- apparently the biggest Halftime lead ever in world Cup History in either men’s or women’s leagues!)

3. Packing and reorganizing my life for college- yes, it’s getting to be that time already. I can hardly believe it either… So much to do so little time…

As this summer continues, I may not be blogging or doing videos very often, but I am still active on my Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr accounts! So please make sure you follow me in any or all of those places to keep up with all of the adventures.

Have a great rest of your Sunday, and I’ll talk to you again soon!

Love,

Micah Lee

Quick Clips- Life at Riverwoods!

I’m having an awesome time working at Riverwoods this summer! Hopefully I’ll have time to upload a real video for you guys soon though. This is a short one! :)

Fox Valley Christian Action- Sponsor a Camper Campaign!

Hello all!

I have been so excited to tell you about this project for so long! And now it’s finally here! I just… Whew… deep breath, Micah. Ok. Here we go!

This summer, as you probably already know, I am working at an organization called Fox Valley Christian Action as part of their Riverwoods Family Camp Summer Staff. As an Administrative Assistant and Media Manager, I’ve been keeping plenty busy, and this is one of those days that I’m particularly excited about it!

Riverwoods provides a week of free summer camp to kids and teens from low-income and government funded housing communities in the Fox Valley area. The camp provides a safe place where these kids can come to learn and grow and encounter God in a new way. Being a non-profit, FVCA is funded by faithful donors and fundraisers… which makes what I’m about to announce all the more important and exciting! (Drum roll please)

God is doing amazing things at Riverwoods this summer and I’d like you to be a part of it! Check out the video to hear more about what we’re doing!

FVCA on GoFundMe: http://www.gofundme.com/sponsor-a-camper
or check out the donation page on our website: https://getinvolved.fvchristianaction.org/pages/campers-are-here