Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Name Your Poison

From: Allan Guthrie (
Date: 30 Aug 2006

I think we're using 'instruct' differently, Mark. I was meaning it in the sense of 'to direct, give orders to' (in keeping with the idea of 'moral lessons'), whereas I think you're using it to mean 'to provide knowledge'.

Writers provide story, which may indeed contain knowledge (some of which may be inaccurate, deliberately or otherwise -- writers are liars by trade and all fiction is a lie by definition).


  ----- Original Message -----
  Sent: Wednesday, August 30, 2006 12:58 AM
  Subject: Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Name Your Poison

  Al wrote:

  "I honestly don't think writers (particularly those writing from
  character-specific points of view) do a lot of instructing,
  intentionally or otherwise."

  It's impossible not to. In presenting a world as "real," you are
  presenting culturally constructed values as natural. For instance, in
  showing the interactions of characters of different gender, race,
  sexuality, class, etc, a writer addresses the "nature" of those groups
  and the relationships between them. But those relationships can vary
  widely, comparing them across time and/or culture, it's easy to see that
  much (but not all, biology also plays role) of what is thought of as
  natural is actually socially constructed. Whether a writer means to or
  not, a culture's ideology is being presented. An appearance of being
  ideologically free actually just means that the values presented are so
  taken for granted that they are not noticed. I think of it as "coloring
  inside the lines," often without even realizing the lines are there.

  "More likely, readers do a lot of interpreting."

  Both the writer and the reader are willing participants in this. If the
  fictional world holds no relation to a culture's socially constructed
  values, the reader will not recognize it, and will probably reject it as
  not being the "real" world. Like the writer, the reader is so
  integrated into a society's values that they are taken for granted, only
  noticed when they are not "normal." A culture's mainstream ideology is
  the red lines in a painting viewed through red lenses; it is no longer
  visible, but it's still there.

  All art contains ideology, but that doesn't mean the ideology must be
  the point of art. Didacticism, which also bores me, happens when all
  other aspects of art -- plot, character, entertainment, etc -- are
  manipulated in order to call attention to, usually to sell, a specific



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