Net One R3


ltmo145d
suspense fiction
earl jackson, jr.
fall 1998


Response One/Three


Earl’s responses in

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The Give and Take of the Suspense Text and Its Reader


Any definition of genre depends upon agreement among readers [How is the agreement achieved,and to what degree must the agreement be, before it produces a genre? Are you saying a genre is the result of a consensus?]. Readers define what a genre is, although, the readers are also in the middle of a continuum which is the history of a particular genre [Go further with this situation. Readers decide what a genre is but they themselves are part of a larger discursive context. There’s the beginning of a good paper]. When an individual writes a text which becomes known as the first work of a genre, s/he is probably not aware of the fact that it will be perceived that s/he has created a new genre [No individual can write a work that is the „first work“ of a new genre. If the genre didn’t exist before the writing of that text, how would anyone know what the text was, including the person who wrote it? Origin stories are tranquilizing myths. Poe didn’t not write the first detective story nor is he the „father of the detective genre.“ Those are fantasies to be analyzed (or ignored in favor of more complex questions) – not patterns to emulate.]. The work which becomes canonized as the beginning of a new genre is surely influenced by other works. It is only from a point in the future that a work can be reevaluated and put into the category of a particular genre. After the genre has been created by readers, then authors may write with the intention of being included in a particular genre [Definitely read Delany on the question of genre formation and the relation between the writer and the genre. See, for example, the interviews collected in Silent Interviews from Wesleyan University Press, or hisinterview in a 1996 issue of the paraliterary critical journal, Paradoxa ]. The construction of genres is alinear, a genre can only be named after it has already been created. Readers usually create genre delineations based upon characteristics which the texts share.

The genre of „suspense fiction“ is peculiar in the sense that it specifically addresses the effect it has on the reader as opposed to other genres like „detective“ or „science fiction“ which refer to specific objects and conventions one will find within the pages of the text . For a text to be considered suspense fiction it needs to at some point produce a feeling of anticipation within the reader which produces a level of anxiety high enough that the reader will read on in spite of the fact that s/he knows there will be a horrible spectacle presented in the near future. The reader must also temporarily suspend one’s disbelief that something other than the horrible will happen in order

to produce the tension necessary to feel anticipation. In Rendezvous in Black it is presented as fated, almost pre-ordained by an outside force, that Johnny Marr will murder a loved one of every man on the list. Nevertheless, as he confronts each victim, the reader must believe that there is some chance of the woman escaping for the effect on the reader to succeed [Never, never, never, base an argument upon a presumption of how „the reader“ (meaning all readers) will respond to a text. Such suppositions are always unfounded, unprovable, usually easily disproven, and in any event tie up the avenues of inquiry in the ways of reading of non-existent readers. This instance here is a good example of why you shouldn’t do this. It’s wrong. I. E., I found it suspenseful and it never once crossed my mind that any of the intended victims would escape. The problem with blanket statements like „the reader will…“ is that only one exception can obliterate it. And I’m sure my response is by no means exceptional].

Another condition of suspense depends upon the reader finding a point of identification within the text [Same problem here. Where is the point of identification in Rendezvous? Where is it in The Killer Inside Me? ]. The suspense in a suspense text is felt by and for different characters at different times. In The Talented Mr. Ripley, there is suspense created when Dickie is about to be murdered by Tom. The reader allows oneself [this antecedent arrangement is not English. And I doubt any of us allowed ourselves to „be put in a suspenseful state“ over the fate of poor, deadduck Dickie. I’m not sure the affect of „suspense“ lends itself to voluntary self inducement, and the psychological entanglements of „letting oneself be put in a suspenseful state“ does not seem to describe an imaginable phenomenon.] to be put in a suspenseful state wondering if Dickie will be murdered or not. However, at other points within the story, the reader allows oneself to be put in a suspenseful state wondering whether or not Tom will be caught or found out [Why not just say, „In other places, the suspense comes from the question whether Tom will be caught or not“?]. The reader must find a point of identification with both Tom and Dickey in order to feel suspense at the times in which they are each in danger [Why must the reader feel this dual/split identification? Rather than prescribe it, it would be more interesting if you described how this was possible, hwo it may be inscribed within the text]. Suspense fiction puts the reader in a state of benevolence [Why on earth do you think that? Do you really think Jim Thompson’s novels inspire „benevolence“?] in which one must be able to sympathize with every character [There are a lot of characters we’re meeting that Mother Teresa would be hard pressed to muster up sympathy for. I don’t think this is a reasonable demand to place on any reader.]. The reader’s point of identification shifts rapidly and the reader is made to come to the defense of many characters. The victims and the killers are both presented as having characteristics which make them repellent and attractive. The reader shifts identification so much that the only entity for which there can be no sympathy is outside the text.

The reader of suspense has an obligation to allow themselves to be continually misled into believing that there is a possibility that horrific events, which are inherent to suspense stories, might not take place [Run on sentence, and again the situation is a very convoluted self-deception obligation. Cant‘ see how this could really happen]. Much like Johnny Marr’s victims, we give ourselves up to the text, allowing ourselves to be abused. If the reader does not temporarily suspend disbelief the text will cease to be suspenseful. Readers have not created the genre of suspense by finding common attributes among texts, but by finding common attributes among themselves.


Roland Barthes on Myth

Roland Barthes on jouissance

uwant


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