Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Ninth Lecture: "ChickLit"

We concluded our study of Ethel Wilson's magnificent Innocent Traveller -- your lecturer having finally exhausted his superlatives -- by expanding on the significance of several interesting episodes and literary flourishes overlooked in our study of the book's major accomplishments.
During seminar this week, class discussions brought up alternating male and female insights on how Innocent Traveller works as chicklit. To cite two samples from my notes from the seminars:

  1. Wilson was praised for having expressed a woman's experience - a celebration of spontaneity and lack of inhibition - through a form of fiction that is itself uninhbibited and diverse.
  2. The novel was disappointing because it lacked big action, had too much dialogue, and was too concerned with feelings.

My response to the second assessment here was that there was (a) an epic hero, and that is Time, and (b) a constant violent attack - specifically, the narrator's use of an arsenal of literary devices to shatter the reader's ordinary, dull, day-to-day assumptions about Time.

To the first, I asked whether, if we historicise the novel, this passage from the second chapter is pornography. [I've italicised some of the uhhm ... inciting descriptors]:

Father had the kind of handsomeness of a happy dignified extrovert inspired by a strong and simple faith and the equanimity that shone from his fine eyes ... he and his partner Mr. Cork walked along with a grave and simple integrity which was neither smug nor proud.

Father had a fine nose with generous nostrils, the kind of nose which, when surrounded by other suitable features, causes more trouble among females who are responsive to a bit of trouble than people suspect. He was tall, with good strongly-growing hair and whiskers. All these attributes, together with his deep sorrow and helplessness, touched the heart of every woman in the chapel and of every man too. Each woman knew in her heart that Mr. Edgeworth ... was, for all his vigour, ability and good looks, much more vulnerable than Mrs. Edgeworth would have been if her Joseph had been taken from her. Every wife and mother yearned over him, and so did others who were neither wife nor mother.

Update: February 21st, 2005: It has been suggested to me that "chicklit" is a disparaging term. For an strongly opposing view, read this article on the chicklit blog linked in this post title.

No comments: