Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Literary Analysis and Interpretation

I mentioned a favorite literary exercise, and it sparked a discussion about analysis and interpretation. I thought other folks might like a tour of such ideas and exercises.


I had some fun with alternative interpretation exercises in school. They come up in most speculative fiction classes, but you also see them in creative writing and some of the more whimsical literary readings. Some of the versions are awful, but others are very useful for learning how to think sideways. For example ...

Assume The Position: that the Istari, elves, etc. in Tolkien's writing are actually space aliens who descended on Middle Earth in an earlier age. What is the evidence for and against this argument? What technological mechanisms could underlie the effects that uninformed characters describe as "magic" ...? Frex, one of the Ring's primary powers is a simple dimensional shift, and another is nothing more than a mental interface.

I saw this done with the Bible once, and it was amazingly apt. What else would primitive people call a landing craft but "a chariot of fire" ...?

It also matters what the type of "magic" is in a story. Several novels posit that magic is much like computer programming, usually with a programmer from our world coming in and upstaging the locals with superior knowledge of computer theory. Others are more akin to chemistry, geometry, etc.

Conversely, there's the joke about Blue Smoke, aka Magic Smoke, in computing.

Working with memories from high school and college, along with things I've occasionally seen online, I have compiled some resources ...

I found some references to interpreting Bible passages as alien encounters:

http://www.unexplainedstuff.com/Invaders-from-Outer-Space/UFOs-in-Ancient-Times-Space-visitors-in-the-bible-and-other-holy-books.html

https://www.aetherius.org/evidence/ufos-in-the-bible/

* I must at this point insist that alien vessels are not UFOs. A UFO is by definition unidentified. If you consider it an alien craft, you have identified it (correctly or incorrectly). But people still use "UFO" to mean "alien vessel." :/ The same is true if you consider it an angelic, mystical conveyance. It's identified.

A debate about magic in science fiction:
https://thecourseofevents.wordpress.com/2015/09/24/magic-in-sci-fi/

Wherein I would like to point out Pern as science fiction that reads like fantasy. It has dragons: they are alien organisms. They have telepathy and teleportation, which are psychic abilities rather than magic. They breathe fire, more or less: by chewing phosphine-bearing rock that generates gas which ignites when belched into ordinary air.

There's an interesting description of LOTR as science fiction here. I had not previously seen the Istari as androids and Sauron as AI, but damn does that fit well with my interpretation of the Ring of Doom as a supercomputer or nanotech engine.
https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1653504-why-do-some-people-consider-the-lord-of-the-rings-science-fiction

Here's a look at industrialization and bioengineering in Tolkien:
https://ucbcluj.org/a-mind-of-metal-and-wheels-technology-instrumental-reason-and-industrialization-in-the-lord-of-the-rings/

This is an interesting collection of exercises in literary analysis:
http://assets.press.princeton.edu/chapters/fuss/10620-all-samples.pdf

This set is about the construction and reconstruction of literature, mostly poems:
http://www.languageisavirus.com/creative-writing-exercises/66-experiments-by-charles-bernstein.php#.X2pwVhBKg4c

And it took me half an hour to find, but here is a description of various activities that can be done with "text transformation," where you reinterpret or rewrite the material:
http://www.tesl-ej.org/wordpress/issues/volume3/ej11/ej11a2/

Much of literary interpretation comes down to reality tunnels and "what the Thinker thinks, the Prover proves." The exercises are really about learning how to change your perspective. So to get a handle on this aspect, try Robert Anton Wilson:
https://ysabetwordsmith.dreamwidth.org/12548924.html
Tags: fantasy, fiction, how to, reading, science fiction, spirituality, writing
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