July 23, 2009

the arrogance of spirit

I was recently asked to list my favourite records of the year-so-far. After some thought I scribbled down ten of them, in no particular order:

Veckatimest by Grizzly Bear
Bitte Orca by The Dirty Projectors
Here We Go Magic by Here We Go Magic
Heavy Ghost by DM Stith
The Crying Light by Antony and the Johnsons
Dragonslayer by Sunset Rubdown
Heart to Elk by Point Juncture, WA
Actor by St. Vincent
Jewellery by Micachu and the Shapes
I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day by Julie Doiron

+ + +

On the academic front, just finished reading Umberto Eco's metaphysical detective novel, The Name of the Rose, which was first published in the early 1980s and indirectly responds to critical debates in the field of semiotics. I'm writing a paper for my course in medieval literature that compares Eco's use of detective genre conventions with Geoffrey Chaucer's Wife of Bath, whose prologue develops a sustained critique of the practice of "glossing" (an technique employed by clerks to guide interpretation by filling a book's margins with commentary, often offering a directive explanation of authorial intention) in medieval manuscripts. In both texts, the mutually constitutive roles of reader and text are embodied (by the detective and the trail he follows in Eco's novel and by the clerk and the Wife of Bath in Chaucer's text) and shown to be contingent--their relationship comes from what Eco's detective, William of Baskerville calls an "arrogance of spirit." In this way both texts question the basis of textual authority. As you can probably tell, I had some fun writing this paper. Writing about detective fiction isn't new to me. It's a great way to enter into a discussion over narrative and how meanings are constructed, especially when one is open to a specifically theological horizon. Two years ago, I took a course on the portrayal of detectives in fiction and film where we read stories by Poe, Doyle, Chesterton, Christie, Sayers, and what has become one of my favourite books, Paul Auster's New York Trilogy. Films were also a large componant of class and I'll have to revisit Jean-Jacques Annaud's 1986 adaptation of The Name of the Rose.

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