Thesis Thursday: Merry Christmas and Here’s What’s Happening in the New Year

Thesis Thursdays is a weekly(ish) feature where I rant, love and talk about young adult books I’m reading because I’m conning my college into thinking this is all for academia! Find out more here!

giphy1Praise Santa because I’m finally home. I made it out of my penultimate semester as an undergrad alive. (Mostly.) Honestly, since I’ve gotten home I’ve mostly been sleeping around requisite holiday stuff.

But anyways. You aren’t here to read about how tired I’ve been. You’re probably here to read about my thesis. Otherwise I’m confused why you clicked on a post titled Thesis Thursday.

I don’t know if I ever spelled this out, but the two thesis projects I had thisgiphy2 semester had two very different goals. One was for my Writing BA, and that necessitated me writing at least 50 pages of original work. I wrote way over 50 before I even considered participating in NaNoWriMo in November. I think I hit about 170 pages of the novel when I won. It’s still not done. Maybe like … 3/5ths done, if you want to get specific. I’m never really sure when I’m writing because I don’t plan a damn thing. But anyways, that one is completely finished and done as far as the school is concerned. I’m going to finish it, but on my own time.

baby-napThe English thesis, on the other hand, is still a massive work in progress. The goal for this last semester was to research things for it and then write the first chapter, and the goal for next semester is to write the last two chapters, defend it and present it. Not necessarily in that order, as I’ve learned, since my presentation is in the middle of freaking April and it’s assumed I’ll still be writing it then.

The finished chapter is currently titled “Taming of the Tropes: How the 81pujydq2ylFemale Assassin in YA Literature Showcases the Biggest Issues and Best Possible Subversions of YA’s Most Popular Tropes” and basically it’s about how so much of YA lit presents a supposedly empowering female main character and then takes away all her power and agency with a really creepy and terrible romance arc. Specifically, I looked at female assassin literature using Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Poison by Bridget Zinn, Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton and–of course–Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. If you want the fangirl version of my thesis, it’s that Throne of Glass is the only one that gets close to present a truly empowered female character while also presenting a plot that thoroughly subverts popular tropes that I’m sick and tired of seeing.

buriedinbooksThe origin of this thesis was me trying to figure out how I could just re-read ToG forever and this is what happened. I’m happy to say that it held up to my intense scrutiny (mostly), because some of them did not. I wrote a blog post about how shattered I was by this re-reading of Grave Mercy, and I reviewed Poison, so if I get around to it I’ll post a reaction to my re-reading of Graceling (mostly okay) and a review of Seeker (mostly not okay).

However, Thesis Thursdays is a long way from over! My second chapter is 200going to deal with marketing strategies for YA books, like cover trends, blurbing, etc, and how that factors in to commodification and tropes, and my third will tackle different publishing strategies as weapons for and against this war of commodification and tropeism. (While still talking about how amazing Sarah J. Maas, Bloomsbury and the Throne of Glass series are.)

Basically, sit tight and wait for next semester. Expect a bunch of bleary-eyed rants about more things that frustrate me. Whether I’m doing research for my thesis or just writing it.

Also, Michaela and I have not forgotten our Betwixt the Books goals. Look for new videos–both solo and together–as we try to figure out how to keep making BookTube videos while separated, since Michaela graduated a semester early and LEFT ME. Coming after the holidays is our promised #imbibliomancy episode on Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant!

Thanks for reading, guys, and happy holidays!

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Worth It Wednesdays: “Throne of Glass” by Sarah J. Maas

Worth It Wednesdays is a weekly post where I feature my favorite YA titles. Find out more about it here!

16034235Title: Throne of Glass

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Publication Date: August 7th, 2012

Goodreads Description: After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Why it’s worth it: LISTEN PEOPLE. I WORSHIP ON THE GROUND SARAH J. MAAS WALKS ON. I tend to have a thing against high fantasy novels for being too detailed, but sometimes YA fantasy teeters too far the other way. The Throne of Glass series is absolute perfection.

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Bibliomancy for Beginners Season 3: Angelfall by Susan Ee

IT’S MY TURN FOR A PICK AND YOU CAN BET I’M ON A ROLL.

I don’t know if you saw my blow up after our last regularly scheduled hangout, but you can catch up with that here if you want. Anyways, this week we’re going my pick: Angelfall by Susan Ee.

I may scream again this episode. HOWEVER, thankfully we have TWO guest Bibliomancers this episode (even if one is just remote) who are in my corner on this one. I guess you’ll just have to watch and see if Taylor manages to set me off. Again. Here we go!

Perusing Poetics: You Write What You Know, Even if You Don’t Know You’re Doing It

So, I’m usually not a fan of big block quotes. They’re clunky, take up space and it’s REALLY HARD to dissect them properly. For this week’s post, however, I might have to make an exception. This is potentially just what happens when you’re quoting Toni Morrison. The following is from her book on literary criticism, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination

“Writers are among the most sensitive, the most intellectually anarchic, most representative, most probing of artists. The ability of writers to imagine what is not the self, to familiarize the strange and mystify the familiar, is the test of their power. The languages they use and the social and historical context in which these languages signify are indirect and direct revelations of that power and its limitations” (15).

Morrison herself is speaking specifically about why she is looking at white literature to discover the effect of the constructed idea of African-Americans on the world at the time. If you’ve been following these blog posts, you might already see where I’m going with this post … in which case I hope you stick around to read this for my sheer sparkling personality.

First off, look at that. Writers with power. Just look at how she describes writers. Isn’t that beautiful? Okay, so Morrison herself is a writer and that might make her biased, but I don’t think that makes it any less true. (I am also a writer and I admit my own bias.) But just think about it. Why do we read at all? It isn’t to read the same story again and again (unless you have fallen into guilty love with some YA trend). We read to find some exciting story that at once captures our imaginations and yet also catches our heart. To be exciting, it must be new, but to capture our hearts it must be filled with some kind of emotion we recognize. Otherwise we’d just be confused.

Secondly, look at what she wants us to look at: languages used and social and historical context. This is SO IMPORTANT. Anyone who says that they can look at just the text and only the text and get the full meaning is a liar. Looking at just the text gives you ONE meaning–also, a one dimensional reading. If you remember back to my post about Whorf, I went on and on about how we understand our world and also how we construct it. These constructions don’t just exist in our lives. A writer constructs worlds, but no matter how fantastical they always reach back to something they know or at least believe in.

Morrison has some really great examples in her book about how white writers were writing about African-Americans and what it says–more about the writer than the actual constructed character. Ernest Hemingway makes such an effort to deny the black sailor in To Have and Have Not agency or speech that he writes this grammatically disastrous line: “I looked and saw [the black sailor] had seen a patch of flying fish burst out ahead” (qtd 72).

Love him or hate him, you cannot tell me that Hemingway looked at that line in editing and thought, “Yes, this makes grammatical sense.” He made the choice to leave it there, instead of allowing the black sailor to even shout a few words.

Does this mean Hemingway is a racist? No. It’s one quote from one novel and conclusions drawn from that would be factually inaccurate. But what it DOES say is that Hemingway felt that he had to write the scene and the character that way. It could be his choice, it could not be. After all, you can’t tell me that every YA author believes that every story should have a love triangle shoehorned in. But there they are, because they believe that’s what people want to read. (Hint, they are not but for some reason they sell.)

Yes, that’s a shallow example to compare to all the centuries of silenced African-American characters and writers, but my point here is not to enter into race politics. My point is that we can look at the way certain things are written and extrapolate massive amounts of information in the way that language is shaped and what it says about writing in the social and historical context of the writer. The difficulty of writing is that it must be both exciting and familiar, and people must also want to read it. Even in the most fantastical of settings, the human experience must resemble the majority of the readership or no one will read it, love it or understand it.

As a final note, if you’re ever looking for enjoyable, interesting and easy-to-read literary criticism, go pick up Morrison’s book. You won’t be disappointed.