ENGC23 Lecture 11: 6.1 Gunslinger: A Quest for Genre

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9 Feb 2016
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6.1 Gunslinger
: A Quest for Genre
● thinkingaboutwherethistextcomesfromandhowgenresintersect
Roland, Childe of Many Fathers
● ideaofRoland’sancestorsinhistory
○ longstandingphilosopherofStephenKing:dowhatyouwantwiththestorywhenmaking
adaptations;theoriginalnovelwillalwaysbethere
○ what’stheriskofabadretelling?
○ Kingsayshehashisownversionofthestory,andhe’sgivingthisstoryforotherpeopleto
change/transformit
● ChildeRowland
astheoriginalfairytale
○ goesbackearliertoArthurianchivalriclegends;wedon’thaveanoriginforthistime
○ beingpartofthistraditionhowdoesthisintersectwithourreadingsofGunslinger
,especially
whenitcomestowomen
■ isRolandchivalric?
■ wehavethepureprincessesvs.seductressesandwitchesinArthurianmyths
● RolandappearsRobertBrowning'spoemChildeRolandtotheDarkTowerCame
○ stanzaVIImostimportant*;encouragedtoreadthiswithGunslinger
sidebyside
■ weseeinfluencesontheKing’scharacterRolandthroughthispoem
○ startsthepoemwithanepigramof“SeeEdgar’ssongin‘Lear’”
■ upfrontofwherehegotthematerialfrom
Shakespeare’sKIngLear
doesinfactmakeasmallcommentofChildeRowland
○ blurringtheboundariesbetweenhighliteratureandgenrefantasy
Origin & Context: Hobbits & Spaghetti Westerns
● King’spreface(encouragedtoread)mentionsthathobbitswerebigwhenhewas19yearsold
○ linkbetweenthefantasticandthereal
○ sayshewasa‘halflinghippie’:
■ fellinlovewithTolkien’swork
■ didn’twriterightawaybecausehewantedtowritehisowntypeofstory;ifhehad
immediatelywrittenastoryafterreadingTolkienitwouldhaveaffectedhiswork
■ didn’twanttowritehighfantasticalfantasy
○ likedtheideaofthequest,butdidn’tliketherural,Scandinaviansetting
■ metatalking:wantstowriteaquestwhilehe’sonaquesttowritetheperfectstory
The Writings & Revisions of Gunslinger
● talksaboutthegonzoWesternforexample,TheGood,TheBad,TheUgly
● turns22yearsold,butstilldoesn’twrite;whendoesGunslinger
start?
● publishedseriallyfromOct.1978Nov.1981inafantasy/scifimagazine
○ conceivedroughlyin1970;thestorywas“born”intheseventies
■ contextcanhelpustodecodethetext
■ twowars:ColdWar&VietnamWar
■ lot’sofdictators
■ politicalcrises:Nixon&Watergate
■ oilcrises(Gunslinger
hasapostoil/postgasworld)
■ transitioningfromTheBeatles
tohardrocklikeLedZeppelin
(whohadmanysongs
inspiredbyLOTR)
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■ Hollywood’s‘GoldenAge’StarWars,TaxiDriver,AClockworkOrange,Exorcist
(many
darkmovies)
■ skyscraperracethebiggestskyscraperswerebuiltintheseventies
● butwe’renotreadingtheseventiestext,we’rereadingthenewerrevisions
○ Kingdecidedtoreviseeverythingbecausethesevenvolumesweren’tseparatestoriesbutpart
ofalongseries(TheDarkTower)
○ fixedtheseriesbyrevisingTheGunslinger
inthewinterof2003
■ context:onlyfewyearsafter9/11;whatitmeanstofightsomethinglike‘TheManin
Black’/unseenterrorists
■ askshowatimeperiodisalookingglasstothenovelwritteninseventies:whatmight
happentotheworldastimechanges
Revision vs. Retelling
● atwhatpointdoesrevisionbecomeretelling?
○ howdidthesechangesoccurandwhatcontextsshapethem?
○ othercontextstoconsider:
■ Kingismucholder
■ Kinghasmoreofanestablishedcareerasawriter
■ moretechnology
■ ideasofraceandgender
■ revisingasawaytocreatethe‘truestory’ratherthanjusttryingtosell
○ Kinghadaneardeathexperienceandapparentlythischangedhiswriting;beginstobelievethat
theDarkTower
seriesshouldbefinishedasauthorialresponsibilitytothe‘collectiveimagination
ofamillionreaders’
■ readersmightusedifferentimagesofcharactersasa‘default’(forexample,youmight
immediatelyassumeacharacterisCaucasian)
■ iftheuniverseneverexistsinanobjectiveform,it’shardto‘kill’it(hardtochange
imaginationsofpeople)
■ whenthinkingaboutfandom,what’stheimportanceofcateringtothegroupvs.the
cateringofthefew(author)
● doestimechangetheauthor’sperspective?
● Kingisdrivenbytheideaofepicandquest
○ theepic:Rolandisexplainedtobeinstoriesspanningacrosstimeandspace(whichiswhyhe
seems‘familiar’tothereader)
■ theword‘hero’:assomeonebeyondnormal
■ historyandmytharedifficulttodetangle;epicsstarttobleedculturalboundariesand
werenotsurewhat’sreal/fantasy
● ArthurianRolandissaidtocomefromPaladinsofCharlemagne(knightlyposition)
The Quest
● RolandissworntogettotheTower
○ what’spresentinRoland’squest?whydoesitmatterthatweknowwhatquestis?
● ***usingquestinadangerouslyloosetermajourneyfromxtoywithintent;that’snotquest,that’splot
TGTF
:theideaofquestiscontingenton‘success’
● thebeginningofGunslinger:
Themaninblackfled...thegunslingerfollowed
○ endswithpromiseofcompletion;endswithasenseofwaiting/pause/stasis
○ in1982readersdidn’tknowtheDarkTower
wastocome
● endingoftheDarkTower
endsexactlywhereitbegan;futilityornot?
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