First Problems


Suspense
Fiction

Earl
Jackson
, Jr.


Project at Hand


We will read texts of major writers associated
with the „suspense“ genre, situating our readings within the sociohistorical
contexts of the texts‘ production, dissemination, and „evaluation.“ We
will also avail ourselves of the modes of inquiry and critique that have
emerged from the fields of psychoanalysis, semiotics, Marxism, and other
radically materialist critical traditions, particularly those traditions
informed and transformed by sustained feminist interventions. From this
reading we might hope to develop a more sophisticated and engaged description
of the „suspense“ genre in particular and the politics of signification
and the larger cultural contests in which this genre is realized.


Genre Theory


CLASSICAL GENRE THEORY


  • Epic
  • Lyric
  • Drama (Comedy/Tragedy)

 

SAMUEL R. DELANY’S THEORY OF GENRE


[focused on distinguishing science fiction from other genres]

Two Binaries


  • mundane/speculative
  • literary/paraliterary

NoteFor a breakdown of these components of Samuel R. Delany’s theory of genre, see Chapter Three of my book, Strategies of Deviance. I have digitalized this chapter and posted it in its entirety on the web. You can find it by pointing your browser at:
http://wwwcatsic.ucsc.edu/~ltmo115/sod3a.htm


QUESTIONS ON GENRE


How to distinguish the following „genres“:


  • Mystery
  • Detective
  • Crime
  • Suspense
  • Horror


    How to distinguish suspense as a textual genre/practice and
    the „suspense“ film? Among the subsidiary issues this question raises there
    are:


    1. The problem of film adaptations of suspense fictional
    texts.
    Examples:


    Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train vs.
    Alfred Hitchcock’s „Strangers on a Train“


    Cornell Woolrich’s
    „Rear Window“ vs. Alfred Hitchcock’s „Rear Window“


    Dorothy B. Hughes’s In a Lonely Place? vs. Nicholas Ray’s
    „In a Lonely Place“>


    Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley
    vs. Plein Soleil


    Mickey Spillane’s Kiss Me, Deadly vs. X’s Kiss Me, Deadly

    Jim Thompson’s Pop.1280 vs. Bernard Tavenier’s Coup de
    Torchon


    Vera Caspary’s Laura vs. Otto Preminger’s „Laura“ vs.
    Nico Nikolaidais’s Singapore
    Sling


    David Goodis’s Nightfall vs. Jacques Tourneur’s „Nightfall“

    Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley’s Game vs. Wim Wenders Der
    Amerikanischer Freund



    2. The resonances among the semantic histories and formations
    of generic categories.
    Examples:


    pulp fiction

    film noir

    giallo


    Textual Practice


    ROLAND BARTHES’S TEXTUAL TYPOLOGIES


    Two Binaries


    • readerly text/writerly text
    • text of pleasure/text of jouissance [„bliss“]

    IDEOLOGY OF REPRESENTATIONAL PRACTICES


    Louis
    Althusser


    Ideological State Apparatus

    Roland Barthes


    Mythologies
    – myth vs. semiology



    First Questions


    • What of Delany’s theory of genre can we adopt and how can
      we adapt it as part of formulating a critical understanding of the „suspense“
      genre?
    • What can we do with Barthes’s textual typologies? What happens
      if we divorce them from specific genres?
    • Can we [re-]politicize Barthes’s writerly texts and texts
      of
      jouissance
      , in terms of the demystificational functions of
      his earlier semiology, and even in terms of an unfixing of the subject
      stabilized by Althusser’s ideological state apparatus?
    • What are the implications of expanding the scope of jouissance
      to include certain affective peculiarities of certain works of suspense
      fiction (the novels of Jim Thompson, for example)?

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    Contact

    Earl
    Jackson, Jr.


    clickthis@anotherscene.com