Commentary Track

Starship Troopers (1997)

This week on The Spectator Film Podcast…

Starship Troopers (1997) 2.22.19
Players: Austin, Maxx

Commentary begins at 17:40

— Notes —

  • The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms & Literary Theory by J. A. Cuddon — This book’s a very helpful resource for grappling with the otherwise challenging or inscrutable terminology frequently encountered in academic writing. I’m linking to the 5th Edition, which also credits M. A. R. Habib, although I used to 4th Edition for the definitions I’m including below:
    • Defamiliarization: “A concept and term introduced by Viktor Shklovsky (1983-?), an important member of the Russian School of Formalism (q.v.). It is a translation of the Russian ostranenie ‘making strange’. To ‘defamiliarize’ is to make fresh, new, strange, different what is familiar and known. Through defamiliarization the writer modifies the reader’s habitual perceptions by drawing attention to the artifice of the text. This is a matter of literary technique. What the reader notices is not the picture of reality that is being presented but the peculiarities of the writing itself… Linked with this is the idea of ‘laying bare’, or exposing, the techniques and devices by which a work of art is constructed.”

    • Readerly/Writerly Texts: “Terms devised by Roland Barthes (1915-80), the French critic, to make a distinction between two basic kinds of texts: the lisible (‘readerly’) and the scriptible (‘the writerly’). He expounds on this in his book S/Z (1970). By a ‘readerly’ text he means a book (a novel, say) to which a reader’s response is more or less passive. For example, a ‘realistic’ novel (or any ‘classic text’ as Bathes terms them), presents to us a recognizable world with easily recognizable characters and events. The readers accepts the meaning without needing to make much effort. A ‘writerly’ text, however, makes demands on the reader; he or she has to work things out, look for and provide meaning. Obvious examples of writerly texts are Joyce’s Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. A writerly text tends focus attention on how it is written, on the mechanics of it, the particular use of language. A writerly text tends to be self-conscious; it calls attention to itself as a work of art. It also makes the reader into a producer. Barthes makes the point that the writerly text is of value because the goal of literary work (of literature as work) is to make the reader no longer a consumer, but a producer of the text. However, as Barthes demonstrates in his analysis of Balzac’s short story Sarrasine (which is basically a readerly story but which Barthes discusses as a writerly one), a critic may, if he or she wishes, read any story as either writerly or readerly. A readerly or writerly reading is not inherent in the text but may be part of the reading.”

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