Apr. 26, 2012 by fordfellows
This is the sixth in a series of posts for the Writing Blog by Ryan Sheldon ’13.
So far, I’ve dealt almost exclusively with the influence of particular texts on literary development. It occurs to me that we might invert the question: How are we influenced by what we haven’t actually read? How long are the shadows cast by gaps in our literary knowledge?
I’ll approach this by way of a tangential and self-sympathizing analogy: as a child, I never saw any of the original Star Wars films.
I haven’t seen them since then, either (I tried to get through Episode IV and fell asleep, something I took as a grand cosmic sign that I’m simply not meant to watch the movies). I’ll admit to being ashamed of this—sure, it’s a besmirchment on my cultural upbringing—but I ultimately don’t find myself all that out of the loop in most everyday situations. I know Chewbacca was a wookie. I know you could make the argument that Han Solo was Harrison Ford at his most badass. I can recognize Yoda’s distinctively garbled syntax.
Luke, I am your father; I find your lack of faith disturbing…and so on.
My pop-culture lexicon ain’t so impoverished, right? I catch ninety percent of Star Wars allusions and references, and I’m even able to drop a few myself when the situation calls for it. My question is whether or not secondhand literary knowledge is as portable as pop culture—it’s not as easily answered as you might think. Furthermore, we might ask if such obviously scant familiarity is equally stigmatized, whether in a RuHo audience or more serious academic settings.