Literary Studies

Note: I have reformatted the entries to work better in blog form. Don’t worry. I do know how to properly format an annotated bibliography!

Alber, Jan, et al. “Unnatural Narratives, Unnatural Narratology: Beyond Mimetic Models.” Narrative, vol. 18, no. 2, 2010, pp. 113–136., doi:10.1353/nar.0.0042. – In this article, Jan Alber and his colleagues seek to better understand the study of unnatural narratology by examining “key principles” associated with this field of theory (114). Their intention is to create a unified explanation of unnatural narratives in order to more clearly ascertain where these studies can go in the future. In the process, they will seek to further define and explain unnatural narratology through analysis of four texts that fall within the bounds of unnatural narratives. In the end, they hope to show how unnatural narratives can provide more information about the overall study of narrative.They also intend to clear up any remaining confusion that can result from the use of unnatural narratives.

This source is especially useful given that it was written by some of the foremost voices in narrative studies. All of the authors are experts in their fields and have been publishing about narratology for many years. As such, the information can be considered reliable. While there is a definite goal towards explaining the nature of unnatural narratives, there is no bias, as such, within this article. The overriding goal of the source is to analyze unnatural narratives and provide a more definitive explanation than what was currently available.

Alber and his colleagues have written an article that has been incredibly important to my research. All of the primary sources that I will be using can be considered unnatural narratives or at the very least contain unnatural elements.. This source will help me to analyze and examine the storyworlds for those particular works due to the fact that “…unnatural features are a constituent, important, and challenging feature of most narratives, and that the synthetic and the mimetic, or the unnatural and the natural, often dovetail” (130). Unnatural elements tend to be a natural part of many narratives. As such, it is important to have a solid understanding of this kind of narrative and how it works upon the readers.

De Smedt, Johan, and Helen De Cruz. “The Epistemic Value of Speculative Fiction.” Midwest Studies In Philosophy, vol. 39, no. 1, 2015, pp. 58–77., doi:10.1111/misp.12035. – In this article, the authors argue that analytic philosophy and speculative fiction use “similar cognitive mechanisms” (59). At the same time, the authors also argue that, due to the nature of speculative fiction and its ability to draw readers “emotionally into a story,” speculative fiction allows for greater understanding and “exploration” of philosophical concepts than can be achieved through the simple use of philosophical thought experiments (59). They believe that this increased engagement with philosophical concepts can increase the reader’s empathetic response. The authors utilize three very different pieces of speculative literature–Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Jack Vance’s The Languages of Pao, and Stephanie Meyer’s Breaking Dawn–in order to bolster their arguments.

This is a useful source for me because it helps to shore up the argument that speculative fiction is useful as more than just entertainment. While this source does not intersect with any of my other literary studies sources, this is not necessarily a bad thing. It brings a fresh voice to the subject of speculative fiction. The authors rely quite heavily on sources from philosophy, theology, and cognitive science as well as some forays into  literary and narratological studies.

Overall, this source appears to be entirely reliable and their findings about the connections between speculative fiction and philosophical theory will be a valuable addition to my work. The work that the authors have done brings a legitimizing air to the study of speculative fiction given that they have included a discussion of neuroimaging studies that show the connections between the way our brains process both narrative comprehension and analytical philosophy. I feel that the authors have achieved their goal of connecting speculative fiction to positive aspects of brain function, thus demonstrating its importance to the literary world.

Gill, R.B. “The Uses of Genre and the Classification of Speculative Fiction.” Mosaic: a Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature, vol. 46, no. 2, 2013, pp. 71–85., doi:10.1353/mos.2013.0021. – This article focuses on the loose and rather “fuzzy” nature of speculative fiction as a genre (83). The author engages in an examination of genre and classification and how speculative fiction fits within the literary world. The author sees speculative fiction as a means of exploring all genres, given that it can appear in almost every genre and in a multitude of forms. One of the reasons that the author has chosen to write this article is the simple fact that “Although it includes a great diversity of texts, many of canonical impeccability, speculative fiction is often considered a commercial rather than a literary category” (71). This dismissal, as being nothing more than commercial, does a disservice to the many excellent works of speculative fiction that have been published over the years.

This will be a useful source given that it does a very good job of tackling a large and unwieldy subject. The author doesn’t attempt to define speculative fiction as a whole, given that “speculative fiction is marked by diversity; there is no limit to possible micro-subjects and, understandably in such a mixed field, no standard definition” (72). Having said that, he does discuss the existing definitions of speculative fiction and the many types of books that fall into the category. The author believes that speculative fiction exists as a category separate from science fiction given that science fiction largely emphasizes the scientific method whereas the emphasis in speculative fiction lies in “events that are impossible under the physical laws and constraints of our ordinary world” (72). Each of the primary sources that I will be using adhere to this description, which makes it a valuable source.

As such, I have found this to be an entirely helpful source and one that enhances my work on the ways in which libraries are represented in speculative fiction. It provides a different perspective on the subject, as opposed to the other sources on my list. Taken with these other sources, it will provide a more complete picture of the overall subject. This is a source that I have used before in my research and it has changed my view of speculative fiction, how it is defined, and just how much is included in that title. 

Hurtgen, Joseph. The Archive Incarnate: the Embodiment and Transmission of Knowledge in Science Fiction. McFarland & Company, Inc, 2018. – The author discusses the concept of “archival embodiment narratives” and their place in twentieth and twenty-first century science fiction. The author defines an embodied archive as one that is “located in the minds of characters” (2). The ways in which an archive may be embodied will vary greatly depending on the technology that is being used within the story. The author examines multiple works of science fiction wherein archives play an important role and applies this embodiment theory to these texts as a way of tracking technological progress, from Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 in 1953 through to Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One in 2011. The main thrust of the author’s argument is that these stories exist within a body of work known as “archive anxiety theory,” which appears to be a direct result of the way in which science fiction has become less “hopeful” over time (13). According to Hurtgen, “The power of the archives is connected to economic power, which generates anxiety about archives in the populace and interest in society’s powerful institutions” (16). This creates a paradox in which the library as liminal space competes with the library as a place where knowledge is not a doorway to other places but is instead a vast oubliette where knowledge goes to die.

This is an incredibly helpful source and will be of use to me in my work. Hurtgen approaches archives in an unusual way and his use of archive anxiety theory gives a name and a voice to the concepts that I am attempting to analyze. I believe that the author is a reputable source and his analyses are reliable. There does not appear to be any kind of bias in his work. It is an objective presentation of this kind of fiction.

Given the nature of my area of specialization, this source fits well with my research. Each of my primary sources deals with the concept of archive anxiety in some way. It will be especially helpful with analyzing The Great Library series and The Gaslit Empire series, both of which focus on worlds where all knowledge is controlled by an overriding governmental entity. Hurtgen’s assertion that “Concealment theory maintains that there is always something concealed by what is revealed, and what is concealed is usually of the greater importance” is also played out within all of the series that I will be analyzing (15). As such, Hurtgen’s work has given me a greater understanding of the ways in which archival fiction can speak to the larger anxieties in our cultures and societies.

Keiser, Grace. “Modernism/Postmodernism in ‘The Library of Babel’: Jorge Luis Borges’s Fiction as Borderland.” Hispanófila, no. 115, Sept. 1995, pp. 39–48. – Keiser’s 1995 article argues that Borges’s work in “The Library of Babel” illustrates his “main contribution to twentieth century literature” (39). Keiser cites Borges’s use of language, the function of literature within the story, and metaphysical questions raised by the story to shore up her argument that Borges is a “transitional figure” who used narrative craftsmanship to tap into a nostalgia for the past while at the same time laying the path for future thinkers, such as Barthes and Derrida (39). The author admits that her answers to her argument are “tentative,” at best, but her work is well-researched and well-reasoned and helps to unravel some of the mystery behind Borges’s story.

The importance of this article lies in the fact that it was one of the few that I could access that did a truly excellent job of analyzing Borges’s story. As such, it is immensely useful to me. Keiser’s work is well-researched and while it is clear that she is biased in favor of this story, that does not make her unreliable. It is, however, difficult to compare to my other sources given that it is solely and completely about Borges’s story. Having said that, while it may have a singular focus, it will also be valuable in analyzing Cogman’s The Invisible Library series, given that the two libraries function in very similar ways and occupy similar liminal spaces.

This is a source that I have reused several times over the last few years so it has attained a special place in my research. Borges’s story can be difficult to navigate and this article serves to make that navigation easier, while also informing the reader about the outside issues that surrounded the creation and dissemination of the story. It also helps demonstrate how Borges’s story can be considered a foundation stone for later depictions of libraries in speculative fiction. It is clear that many modern stories have been influenced by Borges’s library, even if the authors are not always aware of this influence.

Kraatila, Elise. “Conspicuous Fabrications: Speculative Fiction as a Tool for Confronting the Post-Truth Discourse.” Narrative Inquiry, vol. 29, no. 2, 2019, pp. 418–433., doi:10.1075/ni.19016.kra. – In her 2019 article, the author discusses the concept of the “post-truth” world and how it has affected discourse. This discourse, which entered the common vernacular in 2016 can be summed up as “the trend in populist political rhetoric of appealing to emotional reactions of the public rather than rational, evidence-based argumentation” (420). The author argues that the use of speculative fiction can help to confront and explore these post-truth conversations by “confronting the impression, oft-repeated in contemporary media discourse, that our shared reality is produced by storytelling” (419). From there, readers can start “critically examining and challenging” post-truth discourse instead of simply accepting what they’re being told (418).

I find this to be a useful source because Kraatila has broken down the ways in which narrative and storytelling can be used to spread and embed divisive political rhetoric within societies and cultures by creating stories that may not be true but which resonate with their audience. This certainly isn’t the only source that I will be using regarding speculative fiction but it comes at it from a different direction and so will be a valuable addition to my work. I believe the information to be reliable and there is no indication of bias on the part of the author. The author’s goal was to lay a clear connection between post-truth discourse and speculative fiction and she has achieved this.

I do believe that this source is in line with my research and will fit quite well with my previous discussion of archive anxiety theory. Archive anxiety often stems from audience reactions to political discourse and the fear that things are being hidden behind rhetorical tricks. Kraatila believes that “The understanding of narratives as tools further reinforces the idea that they can be used, consciously and purposefully, to shape the world” (421). This use of narrative as a rhetorical tool to shape the world is demonstrated in each of the book series that I will be analyzing and as such, will be very valuable to my work.