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internal inconsistencies

jrf's picture

Earlier in the semester, we read some theory on how the Walt Whitman Archive destroys the concept of a single narrative of Whitman's life, or a definitive version of any of his works. I'm interested in exploring works where this impossibility is evident even within a single version of a text. For example, the Sherlock Holmes novels and stories never seem to settle on a single interpretation of Holmes's character (or a single location for Watson's war wound); likewise, the original Dracula novel has very little internal consistency regarding details of vampire lore (or of the plot). And, as Herbie mentioned, many works are now out of copyright and other authors have published their additions to the canon.

It might be interesting to explore this idea of "canon"-- what readers will and won't accept as "what really happened" in a given work. As readers, our instinct is often to try and create a coherent universe out of the details given to us by an author. Fans of a given universe often develop complex theories to justify a text's inconsistencies, to validate it by making it "work"-- or, just as often, reject works that don't abide by their own in-world rules. Why do we appear to have such a strong need for internal consistency? Has "sloppy" writing become less acceptable over time? Does the destruction/deconstruction of narrative that Folsom claims his database accomplishes impact the need for internal consistency in any way?

This idea is a little wobbly, but I think it might provide an opportunity to look at what defines a fictional universe, and how we draw boundaries around them, as well as the evolution of different (sloppy and less sloppy) ways of telling stories.

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