MA Week Four

This week in Forms of Fiction we read Ford Maddox Ford's The Good Soldier.  Opinion in the class was divided; I thought it was great, and some others thought it was far too convoluted and frustrating.  It's one of the classics of the unreliable narrator, and that's mainly how we analysed it.  The structure of the novel and the way it deals with time and disclosure is complex; is the narrator deliberately manipulating the reader, witholding information, creating a false sense of himself to gain sympathy - or he is working it out as he goes alone?  Does the deferral of answers and resolutions mirror the way his human mind is working out events after the fact, a type of psychological realism, or is it an extremely controlled way of making sure the audience doesn't make particular judgements early on?  We looked at internal contradictions and the layering of narratives (Dowell's, Leonora's), and spoke about Wayne Booth's theory of unreliable narration, which focuses strongly on the morality of the text.  Booth would say that if the morality or value scheme that the narrator seems to articulate contradicts the assmed morality of the implied author, then the narrator is unreliable.  He's less conerned with gaps and contradictions relating to plot, etc.  I'm not sure how I'd classify Dowell here; I couldn't quite clarify what Henry James might have called Dowell's 'moral sense'  (Harking back to What Maisie Knew - see, I'm learning!) though there's certainly moments that point to a contradictory morality.

Then onto the workshop after a quick lunch (worst soup EVER) - two short stories; one in which the author was worried about her narrative structure, and one that wasn't finsihed - we read the first half of quite a long tale.  This week we had the other tutor - Tutor B, let's say, not to name names.  Tutor B's more interactive and talkative, as I mentioned before, and the discussion was pretty lively.  We also looked at a short story by Lorrie Moore and tried a quick writing exercise based on it; two characters in a clinical setting (hospital, doctor's surgery) who had to interact while keeping the serious tones as undertones - no sentimentality, no mawkishness, layers of meaning.  I managed about four sentences then stared at the ceiling for ten minutes.  There's a performative aspect to writing in front of other people that doesn't do it for me at all.  Give me a quiet space or a busy room, but as long as people aren't keeping an eye on me, or know what I'm doing, then it's fine. I can work online in a group, because nobody's actually looking, but the in-a-room-together situation jsut makes it all dry up.

Next week (Monday 26th) is my first workshop.  I emailed my submission to the group Monday night so they have a week to read and crit, and I'm quite glad (for once) that I work in Birmingham half the week, because at least I won't run into any of them during the week, knowing they've read it, unable to ask them what they think until the class itself.


Susan said...

Val, I was wondering what the schedule was like for the MA. Do you go in for one full day a week? Sounds like its pretty intensive reading, you seem to be coping well though. Sue.

Valerie O'Riordan said...

Hi Sue!

Well, it depends on a couple of things. All the scheduled teaching is across Monday and Tuesday, though there are occasional readings etc onThursdays (I kissed a good one today.) Whether you can fit it all in on a Monday depends on your options. This year (not sure if it changes from year to year) the poetry options are on a Tuesday. My options are on both days, and we had the option to choose which we preferred, though to get the numbers balanced, you're not guaranteed your choice of days. I got mine both on a Monday; some people have both on Tuesday, or one class per day. The other thing is the Martin Amis seminars - this year they're Monday evening and Tuesday morning. Last year, I think, he did the same thing in each group, so your choice would have been entirely day-related, but for us, the reading list is different each day, and I picked Tuesday because of the books involved.

So it would be possible to have it all on one day, but it would involve a bit of luck! The Amis thing is every other week, so I'm mostly all on a Monday. The two seminars are tiring enough, though, without his on the same day.

Hope that helps!

Valerie O'Riordan said...

PS: I didn't KISS a reading, I MISSED a reading. Ahem.

Susan said...

Thanks for letting me know what it involves. Good luck on Monday! Sue.