Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Story Time: The Nature and Impact of Storytelling in a Postmodern World

Since the publication in 1605 of the first modern novel, Don Quixote, a myriad of rules have been posed on how to construct the ideal story. As the playwright and novelist W. Somerset Maugham quipped, however, “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are” (GoodReads, 2015). In the postmodern era, literary figures have questioned how storytelling as a literary form impacts literature and the general human consciousness.

Storytelling has been a part of our world since the beginning of recorded history. The Iliad, Jesus’ parables, diverse Native American legends, and countless other stories have been used to provide entertainment, teach morals, and preserve culture.

By examining the elements of storytelling, effects of storytelling on readers, and the appeal of storytelling in a postmodern context, we can begin to establish a philosophy of contemporary storytelling. It is worthwhile to note that storytelling is distinct from formal novel-writing which, despite its use of storytelling, has traditionally followed rules by which storytelling, in its most organic form, has not been bound.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

I Finally Understand the Problem with "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

November 3, 2015

For a long time, I was confused by the condemnation of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy adopted by Bill Clinton's administration regarding sexual orientation in the army. Since then, however, I've had the chance to see this policy in its philosophical form among many conservative circles, who assert that if you're gay, it's fine to politely request that you keep your sexual orientation and related activities private.

Concerning the policy itself, some make the argument that gay men are unfit to be in the army because of how close men have to live while on duty. List of things wrong with this argument:
  • Men, contrary to popular myth, don't think about sex all the time (Source)
  • Being attracted to men or to women is NOT the same as being attracted to all men or all women
  • Exercising sexual restraint is a reasonable and normal part of life
  • Consenting adults deserve as little interference from the government as possible
But of course, the army policy in question has been revoked. Yes, and that is a good thing. But the philosophy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is still far too common in US culture. The way it works out in practice is everyone is allowed to assume that everyone is heterosexual, despite 5-15% of all Americans belonging to a sexual minority.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Rights and Rulers: An Examination of Antigone

Now that I'm doing graduate work, I may as well share a few of the highlights. In this essay, I explain why I believe that Antigone was right to defy the government to bury her brother Polynices.

The Oedipus Trilogy, written by the great ancient Greek playwright Sophocles, concludes with one of the greatest civil and moral dilemmas of ancient literature. Following Oedipus infamous marriage to his mother Jocasta, and subsequent descent into despair, his and Jocasta’s four children attempt to live in the shadow of their parents’ legacy. Eteocles and Polynices, rather than ruling jointly or sequentially, kill each other in battle. Their sisters Ismene and Antigone, watch as their Uncle Creon honors the loyal Eteocles and condemns Polynices to rot outside the tomb of his ancestors as punishment for rising against his brother. Antigone, however, decides that her brother’s body will not be desecrated while she still draws breath.

Each character in Antigone explains why he believes the titular character is justified her in the burial of her brother—with the exception, of course, of the obstinate Creon, who does not yield until it is too late. In his eyes, his word is unchangeable law. Even the timid Ismene admits that Antigone is right, but that the living need her as well as the dead.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Grrr, Poopy Gay Wars

As soon as the Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was a national institution, all sorts of "it's not enough" posts popped up among the more liberal corners of my social media. At first, I was puzzled. Wasn't this the goal? Won't everything else sort itself out? Maybe.

I'm going to reproduce a microcosm of the kinds of negativity that the visibility of gay people can provoke. Mind you, this doesn't have anything to do with marginalizing or persecuting religious people. It's just people getting pissed off that gay people might simply appear in things they like. This story begins with Mark Hamill, the Luke Skywalker actor, giving a pretty generalized response to the question, "Is Luke Gay?"

“I’d say [Luke's sexuality] is meant to be interpreted by the viewer,” Hamill said. “If you think Luke is gay, of course he is. You should not be ashamed of it. Judge Luke by his character, not by who he loves.”

The reactions to Hamill's relatively benign statement are galling:

  • "Please don't ruin Star Wars more."
  • "Boycott Disney NOW."
  • "Why are these 'people' and I use this term loosely...ruining everything I grew up looking up to and respecting as a kid?"
  • "...the homosexual mental disorder is spawned by Satan."
  • "homosexuality is a disease and ruined rainbows for me."
  • "Between this and Marvel's constant push for diversity retconning characters into having new sexual preferences and races and genders, I'm quite done with everything Disney is touching."
My existence is a disorder spawned by Satan? If I were a character in a story, would that "ruin it" for you? I'm not even fully a person to you? It takes all types, but one wishes it didn't.