Today, though, isn't going to be a sports post. As is patently obvious from reading this blog, I studied history in school. If I had done things a bit different in school,* I would probably be teaching history right now. I've got a passion and, I think, a talent for it. I would hope Pacer Week might have shown that.
*Read: How I should have done it in school and regret not doing.
Readers of this blog might not be aware of how I minored in English. Creative writing, to be precise.* It probably doesn't come as a shock, given my tendency to write (or at least start) novels. But, even the great Kurt Vonnegut says not to look for the future writers of America (or maybe it was the world, I can't remember the exact lines from Palm Sunday) in English departments, so it might not have been as obvious how seriously I've studied the mechanics of fiction writing. That said, it's probably no surprise that one of my all time favorite web sites is TV Tropes.
*Though that has not been lost to practically any of my employers. At least at Purdue and Watchfire they had it in their heads that I had majored in English, and I don't really know why. My BA in History is in bold on my resume, my minor just in normal font.
That's all fine and good, I hear you saying, but what's with the picture of Pope Benny up there? Well, I'll tell you. One area I'm more than a little fascinated with is the idea of Word of God in literature. For those that don't want to click the link, "God" in this case is the creator of a work. So, for example, in the Harry Potter universe, J.K. Rowling would be God. For Star Wars, that would be George Lucas. They wrote the series, so they can declare what is and is not canon, or the proper way to interpret a work.
Except, well, maybe they can't. Sure, George Lucas can spout off all he wants, but it's possible that his opinion can be totally discounted. The nice (or at least easier) thing about literature (or maybe art in general) over history is that the source material is very limited. History can be viewed through so many prisms and is pretty dependent over your views coming into whatever project you're working on, and what primary sources you can dig up.* With literature, your source material is a book, possibly a series of books.
*And as a side note, I would rather not hear anybody I know ever talk about revisionist history. As Dr. Michelle Rhodes once put it in class, every history should be revisionist in some sense if you're doing it right. But, that's a post for another day.
Because the source material is so limited, everybody who has an interest can be working with exactly the same material. That means that what exists to analyze and interpret is the work itself. In our Harry Potter example, the only things that can be taken as unequivocally true is what exists in print. Whatever JK Rowling says in an interview is just as valid as what another reader gleans from the books. Just because she wrote it doesn't give her the license to declare anything extra about the work or the characters in it. Now, I've not really read Harry Potter, but from what I understand, there is a kind of famous example of this with that series. In fact, if you go to the Word of Gay* page on TV Tropes, it's pretty much the trope maker.
*That would be a very specific application of this whole Word of God thing, one you can probably figure out from the title.
This is just fascinating and exciting to me, though probably less so for other people. And maybe a lot of this is from my history background. There is some similarity there. With history, there is unquestionably one way things happened. The US and its allies, mainly the British, invaded Iraq in 2003. That is the truth. Now, interpretations about why this might have happened and what sort of effects it has had depends on how you interpret documents and events surrounding that one instance. With literature, this is also true. In Slaughterhouse Five, there are stories about Billy Pilgrim going to Tralfamador and spending time as an exhibit in their alien zoo. That is in the book, no question about that. There is some question and debate about whether is actually happens, or if Billy is hallucinating or something of that sort. If you believe in the Word of God theory, then Kurt Vonnegut could have come out and said "Yes, what Billy was saying is true." Or he could have come out and said "No, Billy was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress after the firebombing, and his brain just sort of broke." And that would settle that.
That does seem a bit boring, doesn't it? And if the author really intended that to be the reason (or for Dumbledore to be gay, in our earlier example), it wouldn't have taken that much effort to write definitive proof into the story, right? This works especially well for novels, as there is the space to really flesh out every idea you wish to flesh out. There are certainly those that hold the Word of God theory to be totally infallible, but that seems to take a lot of the fun and mystery out of writing and reading, doesn't it? Isn't it more fun, and perhaps more fair, to imagine that anybody that has read or experienced a work of art is equally valid to posit their own interpretation as the creator? All it takes is to be able to back up your assertions with proof from the work.
Maybe if any of my writings gain widespread enough readership to have to worry about such things, my ideas will change, but I surely hope not. If you do read anything of mine, feel free to draw your own conclusions. I'm sure I would get a hell of a kick out of people coming to a different destination than myself with something I wrote.