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So, it’s been a while since I’ve posted here, obviously due to the rather pervasive impact of the StrikeBlog. After that situation thankfully came to an end, I kind of missed the StrikeBlog – I still have to check it occasionally to delete the lesbian porn spam comments. Fortunately, there has been both a wealth of television to keep my blogging side busy at Cultural Learnings, but I’ve admittedly let this blog die down thanks to another element entirely: The Thesis.
Myles Files Thesis Report #1
November 17th, 2007
Today, I wrote 7 pages of my thesis. Woot.
This reflects the current thesis mode, really: after a month and a half of proposal hell (To summarize what my advisor has had to listen to for a good week and a half: proposals are annoying), I’ve finally sat down and actually started writing the Thesis. This is a positive step forward, and I am hoping that perhaps the Myles Files can help it become a pattern of behaviour.
[As part of my Theory3073 Class, we are required to provide three critical responses/commentaries as part of our course work. In addressing Marxist theory, the first of our major perspectives taken within the course, I chose to complete the following assignment as a way of testing its legitimacy and its use as a way into new forms of media.
Normally I’d put this type of stuff at my TV blog, Cultural Learnings, but in this case I’ve chosen to place it here due to its application to academic endeavors. I might end up using certain aspects of this within my thesis, although I have pretty much decided I could theoretically use every single perspective in the history of literature in my thesis, so I will need to pare that down. Anyways, I’m posting it online so I can use YouTube to illustrate my points, and to share with everyone. So, enjoy!]
You Can’t Take The Sky From Me:
A Marxist Reading of Joss Whedon’s “Firefly”
In reading Terry Eagleton’s Marxism and Literary Criticism, my immediate reaction was how this related to television (For those who know me, this should not be surprising). This is, obviously, a flawed perspective, but what I came to understand reading the text is that a Marxist perspective puts a very different perspective on literature, and that applying this to a television show could reveal hidden complexities and detail that would elevate it to a level of literary scholarship. It is with this eye that I turned to Firefly, which I realized was not just another science fiction series. The result was a greater understanding of the series’ representation of class, unique for the genre, and also the complexities of its largely invented superstructure.
The realm of science fiction intended for mass consumption within a popular culture realm is a world in which idealist systems of governance and society have been the relative norm. If we look to Star Trek, it represented a world where there was no struggling working class and no sense of economic structure: rather, food came out of magic machines and life was threatened by arch-villains as opposed to the struggle of the masses. Even Star Wars’ Tatooine, despite the representation of slave labour within Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace, is never seen as a class struggle but rather a personal issue for young Anakin and his mother. And really, let’s be honest: they don’t even have it so bad when it comes to slaves.
Joss Whedon, meanwhile, wanted to create a science fiction environment where things weren’t all shiny, and where true political and social ramifications not only existed but set the stage for the action that would follow. Firefly is not a glorified and idealized view of the future, but one that actually features an acknowledgement of the impact of things such as base and superstructure on the production of language, and as a result the production of literature. As a result, it is possible to view the production of society within the series itself as a unique case study of the Marxist analysis we have discussed in class.
[When we last left this series, I was getting into why, exactly, I had been drawn into the realm of popular culture when discussing medieval literature. Now, let’s take a look at what I actually want to investigate in the Thesis itself.]
Why I’m Writing a Thesis on Battlestar Galactica:
There is one quality that all medieval literature tends to have: heroes. These knights are strong, honoured, chivalrous, daring, and whether it’s Malory or Chaucer, Beowulf (Yes, I know it’s not strictly medieval, but that will be addressed within the Thesis. I’m sure. I would mess up this run if I made note of it here) or Chrétien, they’re omnipresent within these stories. While some are more complex than others, there is a fairly stock image that people have in mind: hero swoops in, shows off, saves the day, capiche.
But, this is not to say that there is no depth within these characters: that image is often false. There lies within the world of the medieval hero certain dividing lines, lines that separate some heroes from the rest of their brethren. In Beowulf, as an example, the title character (Or one of the two characters named Beowulf, gotta love the Beowulf poet) is heroic until the very end…but those knights that were supposed to support him, assist him, abandoned him in his time of need. They, the story explains, were ignoring the very principles they were supposed to be following by leaving one of their men behind to die.
That divide then, between real heroes and false ones, echoes further into the texts of Arthurian Legend. One of the primary concerns of these texts is the concept of celestial and earthly chivalry battling it out for supremacy within this universe. Some knights believe in the holy spirits, the more religious elements of their world; they are the ones who combust up into heaven when they complete the grail quest, as opposed to those who get stuck back on Earth due to falling into its clutches of lust and love. But which one is more fulfilling, and represents the greater purpose? Does abandoning the religious path immediately force you away from true heroism, true purpose? Or is it in fact just a different path, an equally righteous one at that?
Now, all of these themes are prevalent within medieval literature, and is all based on past research and all of that jazz. However, in my view a Thesis is designed to expand a research base beyond its existing mould. As a result, I want to take these themes and principles and see how they’ve grown and adapted themselves into contemporary popular culture. And, specifically, I want to view how the ideas of heroism and chivalry adapt themselves into the environment of Ronald D. Moore’s 2004 reimagining of the 1970s television property Battlestar Galactica.
[When we last left this exciting series, I had just explained how I had been attempting to drag old literature into modern times for the first two years of my university career. Now, let’s see how the past year has influenced me.]
Why I’m Writing a Thesis About Battlestar Galactica:
The Spark of the Baskervilles
I was in Dr. Stewart’s 19th Century literature class when I first realized that I had a serious problem on my hands. These classic novels, some more interesting than others, have been taught a certain way for decades. Dr. Stewart knew how he had taught them for his many years, and I appreciated his take on the material. However, for whatever reason, every single novel evoked some sort of pop cultural representation for me. Without fail, each and every text became a parallel into my own time as opposed to simply a text reflecting its own period. The text had taken on new meaning, and I felt like I had gained a new understanding of it.
This was no more evident than within the work of Arthur Conan Doyle and his creation, Sherlock Holmes. In what Dr. Stewart called “Dragging [him] into the 20th century,” I insisted on writing a paper which discussed the Hound of the Baskervilles in the context of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. This wasn’t the only parallel I found: I also discovered that Scooby Doo is basically a wholesale ripoff of the basic structure of Conan Doyle’s work, and that these mystery themes persisted long beyond the original writings. What was it about Holmes that ignited this spark, this fire that led to these themes becoming so prevalent that a contemporary, highly rated TV show uses them as a basis upon which it operates? What was it about Conan Doyle’s writings that has sparked a procedural forensics construct so prevalent within modern television?
[As part of my Thesis preparation, I wrote a little piece that was used to help soften up my Advisor to the ideas that would follow. It’s long, it’s self-deprecating, but I think it gives one an idea of where I’m coming from with the Thesis. I’ll post the 2nd part next weekend.]
Why I’m Writing a Thesis About Battlestar Galactica:
Lighting the Fire
My desire to drag medieval literature into the 21st century is a long documented one. In my first year at Acadia, I gave a presentation on pop cultural representations of Odysseus as part of our study of Homer’s The Oddysey. My analysis there was viewing just how well this character translated to other environments ranging from the Coen Brothers’ adaptation of the epic into O Brother Where Art Thou? to various episodes of The Simpsons. It covered both direct and indirect adaptations of the character, and viewed each character in light of elements within The Oddysey itself. The result was twofold: a better understanding of Odysseus’ character, and a bit of a personal awakening.
It is now July, which means that any attempts at getting work done on The Thesis (The subject of File #1) needs to be done during this period. By the time August rolls around I’ll be preparing for RA training and all that entails, so I figure the month of July is when I should get this thing in order. And, after writing up a “Statement of Thesis Intention” and getting the relative thumbs up from K-Whett, my Thesis is officially a go-go.
I’ll be blogging about The Thesis for a few reasons. One is that I think it will help me hash out some ideas: I have done a lot of research in the form of less formal discussions over the past year, and it has been helpful at organizing sources and the like. The second reason is that I want to prove to my parents and the Elder McNutt that I’m actually working on it.
And so, here it is: the working title of what shall end up being an epic Thesis event for the ages. Are you ready?
The Medieval Hero in the Modern Space Epic:
The Journey of Chivalry and Honour from Beowulf to Battlestar (Galactica)
There’s also a general outline, which might be revealed further in future posts. Until now, ponder my insanity.
[It has come to my attention, slowly but surely, that television blogging has taken over my life. Ironically, my response to this is to start another blog. The reason? I want to be able to talk about things other than television. Since not everyone watches television, but might for some reason still find interest in me, the Myles Files has been born.]
File #1 – The Thesis
Slowly taking over my life one nag at a time, “The Thesis” is actually coming together better than I would have expected. I’ve got an outline of sorts of what I want to accomplish, and once I get a response from K-Whet I plan on starting research. Unless he comes back with “You’re insane,” which is entirely plausible considering the content of said outline. We’ll have to wait and see, I guess.
File #2 – The Acadia
They’re closing Cutten and reopening Tower? It appears that Acadia is just begging for me to blog about them. And who am I to ignore them?
File #3 – The Life and Times
Whether it’s work, or news, or anything else that breaks, this shall be the File in which I discuss it.