There are a couple of reasons why I’m starting off my studies by reading Andrew Bennett & Nicholas Royle’s An Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory (Routledge, 2016). But there are plenty of reasons I shouldn’t be. Speculative fiction is what busts my book buckle, not literary fiction. There’s some overlap, but out of Bloom’s famed list of 26 canonical authors, only 11 make mine: Dante, Chaucer (great storyteller), Shakespeare (of course), Samuel Johnson (Rasselas), Goethe, Wordsworth, Jane Austen (Northanger Abbey is a direct response to the rise of the gothic novel), Dickens, Virginia Woolf (Orlando), Kafka, and Jorge Luis Borges. A few hang around the pitch edge, hoping to get picked: Cervantes, Milton, Emily Dickinson, Beckett, etc. and although I’ve a passing acquaintance with them all except Cervantes, they don’t fit in with my team plan. I’d never heard of Pablo Neruda or Fernando Pessoa until I looked them up. Pablo wrote prolifically in green ink. He was murdered, probably on Pinochet’s orders. I love the thing Pessoa had going on with his heteronyms. Sad to say, neither are right for what I’m trying to do.
So why read Bennett and Royle? Reason number one relates to further study. Literary theorists who write about speculative fiction sometimes allude to ideas from literary criticism. I’m already familiar with literary theory from my study of the philosophy of sociology, so once I’ve read Bennett and Royle, I hope to have enough of a grasp of literary ideas and concepts to make reasonable sense of any spec-fic theoretical stuff.
Second off, some literary ideas are directly relevant to speculative fiction, such as ‘the sublime’ and ‘the postcolonial’. I’ve already know quite a bit about postcoloniality, but it’s always helpful to revisit a topic and I plan to read more about both these concepts as part of my research. Oh, and that reminds me: I’m decided to focus on storyworlds.
I don’t think there’s much about this topic specifically in Bennett & Royle. But then I don’t plan to take a strictly literary approach here: having already examined some of the pertinent literature in narratology, and found it too distant from my writerly aspirations, I’ve decided to start instead with Mark J.P. Wolf’s Building Imaginary Worlds: The Theory and History of Subcreation (Routledge, 2012), a work of media studies. Sooner or later, I always end up back doing Cultural Studies! C’est postmodernité!