Reading Round-up: January/February 2014

Earlier this month I added a static Resources page to the blog. There were a few motivations behind this namely:

  1. I found a new online bibliographic tool and wanted to beta test it before using it for my thesis bibliography
  2. I like showing off about my book collection (I have an album on my facebook dedicated to pictures of new books I buy)
  3. I continue to get more and more frustrated by literary scholars using the same two or three myth theorists in their work

On my resources page you will see that you can download something called the Myth Booklist. And now you can download it here also. When it comes to myth, literary scholars tend to think that they know what they are talking about and futhermore that we know what they are talking about when they call something ‘myth’. After all, we all know what we mean when we call a work of literature myth, right? Well, yes and no. We probably do know that by conferring such a title on any piece of literature, the writer/speaker wants us to know that they consider the work of high cultural importance. What we don’t know from simply the use of the term ‘myth’ is neither how nor why this is. That’s usually when a theory of myth enters from stage left and you are more likely to see Joseph Campbell, Claude Levi-Strauss or Carl Gustav Jung on stage than any other theorists. Setting aside my own personal – and admittedly somewhat irrational* – dislike of Campbell, what dismays me most when these theorists come up again and again is not that their theories are any less useful or interesting that other theories but that they are not demonstrably more so. We often get into habits as academics of re-treading the same ground and we all see the same critical approaches within a subject area, like myth or the Gothic or fairy tale or any number of others. We are fascinated by particular theorists in spite of or – as I occasionally suspect – because of the incomprehensibility of their writings. And they should fascinate us, but not at the expense of their usefulness. Par of the reason that I link to the myth booklist is that there is neither a Strauss nor a Campbell in evidence among the authors on the list.

Anyway, that’s more than enough of me on my soapbox. The purpose of this post was not, in fact, for me to have a rant about myth theorists but for me to give my Reading Round-up for Jan/Feb. I have been woefully dilatory in both tackling my academic reading backlog and posting my reading round-ups on here.  Indeed, rather than shrinking my reading list appears to be growing by the minute. However, I have found time to do at least some academic reading in January and February so far:

  •  ‘The Red Angel’ by G. K. Chesterton (from Tremendous Trifles)
  • ‘Introduction: The Impact of Monsters and Monster Studies’ by Asa Simon Mittman (from The Ashgate Research Companion to Monsters and the Monstrous)
  • ‘The Tyranny of Time and Identity: Overcoming the Past in Gregory Maguire’s Lost‘ by Jason Colavito (in 21st Century Gothic: Great Novels Since 2000)
  • ‘Post word, Postconcept: Contemporary Fiction and Theory’ by Mary Estene (in Contemporary Literature 54, 1)
  • ‘Science Fiction and the Future of Criticism’ by Eric Rabkin (in PMLA 119, 3)
  • ‘Disability, Identity, and Representation: An Introduction’ by Rosemarie Garland-Thomson (in Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature)
  • ‘With a smile and a song…: Walt Disney and the Birth of the American Fairy Tale’ by Tracey Mollet (in Marvels & Tales 27, 1)

Have you had a productive month reading wise? Let me know in the comments.

*I am aware that this vague swipe will likely be insufficient information for some of my readers, but my issues with Joseph Campbell are best left for another day.

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