Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Thinking about Greek tragedy.

I've got much more work to do on the Providence paper, but I spent today's writing session on Greek tragedy and learning about Mithridates VI. 

I think this season is not going to be as bad as some critics have said. I'm thinking they're not getting a lot of the references, or if they are, they're dismissing them as too superficial. I don't think you can discount the death drives the three detectives each exhibit, and the use of tropes in detective fiction (in S2E1, there were image/reflection and sight/blindness, just for starters) are a modern version of the heavily ironic figures used in Greek tragedy, where surfaces present one face and depths present another.

Lots more to come on this. My first priority is Providence.

I speak at 10:30 a.m. the Friday of the conference, and heavens be praised, I am not going up against the Ramsay Campbell live interview.

Monday, June 22, 2015

"The Western Book of the Dead": True Detective, S2E1.

"Behold, what was once a man." --Bryan Maurice, or The Seeker, Walter Mitchell

Some of the Greek historical and tragedic references in this first episode of season 2 and how they play out in this episode:

Panticapaeum: Ancient Greek city in the Crimea. Built on Mount Mithradat. Mithridates took his life here in 60 BC.

Two sisters, Athena and Antigone. Heavy on the Greek irony: Athena is a virgin goddess, while the character of Antigone's sister is a sex performer online; Antigone died to stay true to her beliefs about burying her brother, while the character is a plainclothes police officer who's got it out for herself and everyone.

Frank Semyon sits across from Ray Velcoro, exchanging the gaze that Achilles and Priam exchanged at the fall of Troy. Privileged gaze: girls doing online porn; police surveillance.

The three detectives are staring into death, both their own and that of Ben Casper. Thanatos, the personification of death, represented by theta, poppy, butterfly (in Paul Woodrugh's girlfriend's apartment, on the wall by the bathroom door where Woodrugh takes Viagra), sword, inverted torch.

Nyx and Erebus are the parents of  Thanatos. 

Death drive: the drive towards death, self-destruction, and the return to the inorganic (Wikipedia); ego or death instincts are opposed to the sexual or life instincts (Freud, "Beyond the Pleasure Principle," On Metapsychology, Middlesex 1987, p. 316). Later, Freud adjusted his theory so that eros opposed the aggressive instincts (New Introductory Lectures 1991, pp. 140-141).

Ben Casper's eyes have been cut out and he's been castrated, per Oedipus.

Casper was discovered at sunrise, so there's a vague attempt to adhere to the unity of time.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Much writing.

I've been writing a lot in my journals lately. I filled up journal 00002 and have made it to page 8 of journal 00003. Three more are on order (I use inventor's notebooks from www.bookfactory.com, and no, that's not a paid URL).

Tonight's writing is on Walter Benjamin and historical epistemology. Not particularly easy going, but it's important for when I start talking about an epistemology of investigation because I'll need some kind of theoretical grounding. 

I think I have done enough research to fill in gaps and begin writing in earnest. I'm going to order a few articles through interlibrary loan that will help with ongoing filling of gaps, but I think the background for the structure as a whole is now solid enough to bear some considered development.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Today's research.

I scoured the TOCs of the journal Lovecraft Studies to see what I needed to gather for more reading. Here's the list:

The Masks of Nothing: Notes toward a Possible Reading of Lovecraft, by Eduardo Haro Ibars, translated by Marie Claire Cebrián 17:26-29 (October 1988)

Infratextual Structures in Poe, Bierce, and Lovecraft, by Andrew Wheeler 21:3-23 (April 1990)

Lovecraft: Artist or Poseur?, by Kenneth W. Faig, Jr. 22/23:46-49 (Lovecraft centennial issue) (October 1990)

Lovecraft on Human Knowledge: An Exchange, by K. Setiya and S.T. Joshi 24:22-23, 34 (Spring [April] 1991)

Empiricism and the Limits of Knowledge in Lovecraft, by K. Setiya 25:18-22 (Fall [October] 1991)

--Lovecraft’s Semantics, by Kieran Setiya 27:26-30 (Fall [October] 1992)

A Gothic Approach to Lovecraft’s Sense of Outsideness, by Kirk Sigurdson 28:22-34 (Spring [April] 1993)

--Lovecraft’s Aesthetic Development: From Classicism to Decadence, by S.T. Joshi 31:24-34 (Fall [October] 1994)

--Some Aspects of Narration in Lovecraft, by Dan Clore 40:2-11 (Fall 1998)

The Problem with Solving: Implications for Sherlock Holmes and Lovecraft Narrators, by Deborah D’Agati 42-43:54-60

“Reality” and Knowledge: Some Notes on the Aesthetic Thought of H.P. Lovecraft, by S.T. Joshi 3:17-27 (October 1980)

Lovecraft’s Concept of “Background”, by Steven J. Mariconda 12:3-12 (April 1986)

The three in italics I have on order via available back issues of the journal; the others I'll need to get through interlibrary loan. 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Planning the next stage.

I am waiting to hear details on my presentation, specifically how long I'll have to talk. At this point, I'm planning to write a 10-page paper that I will know well enough to talk about rather than from. I would rather not show slides, because, well, slides, but I'm a believer in having a plan B. So I'll have slides on a USB stick in my pocket and will consider between now and then putting together some handouts (even if just the lecture notes of the slides). 

Here's the abstract as submitted:

The investigator as a literary figure is a contentious one. Born out of traditions established by Edgar Allan Poe and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (and tracing back to the Biblical Daniel and the story of Bel and the Dragon, the first locked room mystery), the investigator changed radically in 20th-century detective fiction--moving from amateur to professional, investigator to criminal--and continues to change within the genre. Without the investigator, without some figure fortified by curiosity and determination, much of the work of HP Lovecraft would not have been possible.

In the HBO series True Detective, the investigator has evolved into the "artist-investigator." This term is most often used in theater--and then only by a few groups--to describe an artist, employed by a theater company, who pushes against theater's current boundaries. Noteworthy is that the term is not used to describe an epistemology of investigation or the figure employing that epistemology, nor does the extant body of detective fiction criticism address the artist-investigator as part of its canon. These are critical omissions.

In this talk, a review of selected works by Robert W. Chambers and HP Lovecraft through the lens of detective fiction tropes and conventions, along with a discussion of True Detective, will show how the investigators in True Detective are a new kind of character derived from atelier fiction, weird fiction, and detective fiction. This new character, based on the aesthetics of crime and redemption, pits the artistic sensibilities of the detective against those of the criminal. This talk, by closely examining the above elements, sheds new light on the little-recognized figure of the artist-investigator. 

And here's the outline for a 10-page paper that treats the content:

Introduction: My topic in brief and what I'll talk about

Brief overview of movements in detective fiction

Brief overview of tropes and dynamics in detective fiction

The artist-investigator

   Definition in theater
   Epistemology of investigation
   Aesthetics of crime and redemption
   Artistic sensibilities of the detective
   Artistic sensibilities of the criminal

True Detective and the artist-investigator

   Chambers as source material
   Lovecraft as source material
   Cohle vs Hart as investigators
   Cohle as artist-investigator

Conclusion; Q&A

I'll need to write a longer version and trim it to 10 pages. This will give me a start on it.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Good news!

I am officially a presenter at NecronomiCon Providence this year! I got the email this morning from the person who's the head of programming. 

This gives me a road map for what to do in the next 2 months. Before, it was a toss-up: do I prep a conference paper, or do I start writing book chapters? This way, it's the natural progression from abstract to conference paper to book.

Really, really happy about this!