I’m a big fan of M. John Harrison‘s writing in general: not just his novels and stories but also his blog entries.
Lately, Harrison’s been posting lists of works in the related genres of fantasy and science fiction. It would be an understatement to refer to these lists as unorthodox; while most of the entries are books, some are films, computer games, and pop songs.
In a comment on one of Harrison’s follow-up lists, an artist named Edwin Rostron mentions something called The Codex Seraphinianus. Following the link Rostron left, I found myself thrilled by both the book itself and that essay about it. Additionally, I was also thrilled by the mention of a professor named Terry Harpold.
That was when things became apophenic.
Last semester, I worked on a seminar paper for a course I took on literary theory. The final output still needs much revising before I try to have it published, but I think I generally did a good job discussing a 1995 PC game called The Dark Eye through the theoretical lens of Lacanian psychoanalysis.
As one of my first graduate-level courses, I didn’t know about the shortcuts people often take in cases like this, e.g., working on a paper that already ties in with an existing research interest. Instead, I went for video game studies and psychoanalytic theory precisely because I was unfamiliar with them.
“I want to have fun working on something totally new,” I said.
I was lucky to have survived.
I can attribute that survival to the loads of resources I used, two of the more essential ones having been written by one Terrence Harpold: “Conclusions” from Hyper/Text/Theory and “Threnody: Psychoanalytic Digressions on the Subject of Hypertexts” from Hypermedia and Literary Studies.
Along with Bob Rehak‘s “Playing at Being: Psychoanalysis and the Avatar” from The Video Game Theory Reader, those pieces not only introduced me to key insights and ideas. They also helped me acquire the attitude I needed to work on the paper and get started on the path to learning more about those areas of knowledge.
And now here I am just finding out about Harpold’s course on Poe, which I certainly could have used back then and will just as certainly use now for my own explorations into the matter.
Note that Poe has always been important to Lacan and Derrida‘s critique itself has been referred to in terms Poe-esque/Lacanian.
For instance, another Jameson essay for the New Left Review entitled “Marx’s Purloined Letter” seems to be a review of Jacques Derrida’s Spectres of Marx, a seminal text in the current debates for hauntology.
And that apparently has little to do with Derrida and monsters.
(And man, the manifesto of-sorts for Perforations makes the same allusion to Public Enemy I did in a message I sent to students last semester.)
As for the paper itself, my approach was also rather apophenic. All this has to do with my having taught William Gibson‘s Pattern Recognition for an Information Society course at the time.
More on that another time.
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