A Change of Names, a Change of Destiny: Let People Rewrite Themselves, Facebook

12685304333_e59b519fdd_zFacebook is forcing drag queens, performers, and other self-invented creatures to use their birth names, but such a policy enforces gender, parental expectations, family history, and culture. A name is not a person, nor is it simply a reference to that person; it is a description that influences behavior. Michel Foucault stated that “one cannot turn a proper name into a pure and simple reference. It has other than indicative functions; more than a gesture, a finger pointed at someone, it is the equivalent of a description” (105). If a name, rather than being a “reference” is a “description,” we need to ask ourselves what names describe.

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An All-Encompassing Definition of Reality: The Conclusion to Narrative Madness

The Non-Existence of Nonfiction

narrative-madness-book-ronald-b-richardsonIn my book Narrative Madness, edited by Katie Fox, I showed that nonfiction is an impossibility since every text and utterance requires the invention of a fictional speaker who is never the whole person; it filters meaning through the speaker’s or writer’s name, uses narrative language which influences perception and behavior, relies on man-made symbolic code, necessitates the selection of subjectively interpreted facts while overlooking vast amounts of information, organizes information in artificial ways, redirects the future through a present discussion of the past,  acts upon world, community and self rather than merely reporting on them, involves imperfect mindreading and empathy games, utilizes preexisting forms and genres which affect content and meaning, channels voices of predecessors who have previously used the language and textual resources, constructs a reader or listener, and requires recreation and performance by the actual reader or listener.

It is all fiction. All of it.

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Liberate Yourself with Meta-Awareness, But Don’t Let It Kill the Romance

Becoming a reader and critic of his own story leads Don Quixote eventually to sanity. Toward the end of the second volume, he slips out of his chivalric role more and more often, even doubting his most fabulous adventure: the Cave of Montesino. When an “enchanted boat” capsizes and gets pulverized in a mill, the bedraggled knight, dripping on the bank, sputters, “Yo no puedo más” (Cervantes Saavedra 752) (“I can’t take it anymore”), betraying a defeatist attitude for the first time. His increased meta-awareness causes our heroic knight to lose faith in his chivalric role, drop the pretense, and return, alas, to sanity.

Don Quixote Dying

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Don Quixote: The Origin of Modern Realism and Metafiction


tilting-at-windmillsAdapting genres, Cervantes created two new ones: realism and metafiction, says Robert Alter in Partial Magic (1979). The “juxtaposition of high-flown literary fantasies with grubby actuality” established realism, while the “zestfully ostentatious manipulation” of the artifice of literary creation set precedent for “all the self-conscious novelists to come” (Alter 3 – 4). Realism and metafiction were born on the same day and became, almost immediately, rivals. Metafiction is the elder brother, however, since realism was a metafictional technique Cervantes created to parody the conventions of romance. Most fiction since Cervantes, says Alter, can be classified under one of these two headings.

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Don Quixote: A Compendium of Genres, a Book of Books

friendship-of-don-quixote

Don Quixote may be the first modern novel, but Cervantes did not pull it out of the air like a magician’s bouquet. The Spanish bard borrowed language, story, form and genre, giving them his own indelible stamp. The stories he borrowed became his own.

Obviously, the principal genre Cervantes plundered was chivalric romance. Romances are the authors of Don Quixote’s madness, they serve as guidebooks for his speech and behavior, and they are the templates for the novel. The book follows the typical structure, story line, chronotopes and many conventions, but the heroic tale becomes a parody as it passes through the hands of multiple authors, some realistic and some rhetorical.

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The Plagiarized Hero: The Hero with a Thousand Borrowed Faces

 

Language and storytelling arose as a means of creating and maintaining social ties. Tribes then spread across the planet, trading materials, goods, technology, information and stories, so it should not come as a surprise that our narratives are similar worldwide. As humans, we make up stories habitually in order to understand the universe, ourselves and others, but we can only do so within established narrative language (as we have seen) and (this is the new part) preexisting forms and genres.

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The Simulation Theory, or How We Animate the People We Know and the Fictions We Read

The simulation theory takes the theory of mind a step further. Instead of trying to guess what others are thinking, we humans put ourselves in the other’s shoes, as the saying goes, in order to feel what the other is feeling.

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Narrative Madness: Endorsements by Michael Krasny, Geoffrey Green and Robert Alter

You’re crazy! By that, I mean you cannot easily distinguish fiction from reality, and you let delusions brought on by narrative influence your perception and behavior. Like Don Quixote, you wander lost through clouds of story. Your madness, however, does not actually separate you from the world; rather, it connects you because narrative language is the principle means by which humans understand and reshape ourselves and our world.

Ronald B. Richardson, aka Ronosaurus Rex, has published a new book, edited by Katie Fox, which is available at narrativemadness.com or on Amazon. He has also had an excerpt called “Narrative is Memory, Memory is Narrative” published in the post-beat pre-apocalypic Sensitive Skin Magazine.

“Although I hesitate to use the word, it is, on the whole, a brilliant work,” said Dr. Michael Krasny, host of Forum on KQED and Dr. Geoffrey Green, Executive Editor of Critique, wrote, “Thoroughly innovative . . . insightful, provocative, and, in the best sense of the word, scholarly.”

“The writing is lively and at times quite amusing–a blessed relief from dreary academic prose,” wrote Dr. Robert Alter, author of Partial Magic: The Novel as Self-Conscious Genre, “The fundamental argument that Don Quixote is no madder than the rest of us but rather an exemplar of our condition as language-using, storytelling creatures is quite persuasive.”

Narrative Madness: Endorsements by Michael Krasny, Geoffrey Green and Robert Alter

You’re crazy! By that, I mean you cannot easily distinguish fiction from reality, and you let delusions brought on by narrative influence your perception and behavior. Like Don Quixote, you wander lost through clouds of story. Your madness, however, does not actually separate you from the world; rather, it connects you because narrative language is the principle means by which humans understand and reshape ourselves and our world.

Ronald B. Richardson, aka Ronosaurus Rex, has published a new book, which is available at narrativemadness.com or on Amazon. He has also had an excerpt called “Narrative is Memory, Memory is Narrative” published in the post-beat pre-apocalypic Sensitive Skin Magazine.

“Although I hesitate to use the word, it is, on the whole, a brilliant work,” said Dr. Michael Krasny, host of Forum on KQED and Dr. Geoffrey Green, Executive Editor of Critique, wrote, “Thoroughly innovative . . . insightful, provocative, and, in the best sense of the word, scholarly.”

“The writing is lively and at times quite amusing–a blessed relief from dreary academic prose,” wrote Dr. Robert Alter, author of Partial Magic: The Novel as Self-Conscious Genre, “The fundamental argument that Don Quixote is no madder than the rest of us but rather an exemplar of our condition as language-using, storytelling creatures is quite persuasive.”

Narrative Madness: The Influence of Narrative Language on Perception and Behavior

You’re crazy! By that, I mean you cannot easily distinguish fiction from reality, and you let delusions brought on by narrative influence your perception and behavior. Like Don Quixote, you wander lost through clouds of story. The madness, however, is generative because narrative language is the principle means by which humans understand and reshape ourselves and our world.

Names

In the book Narrative Madness (which you can get at narrativemadness.com or on Amazon), I show how names, like mine, Ronald B. Richardson, encode stories of how we are expected to behave, stories which we usually act out. Family names announce a culture. While a culture’s body of rules is not absolute, culture tends to direct and limit communication, attitudes about self, perception of environment, belief systems, social interaction, and behavior. Names do not create culture, of course, but they do act as cultural identifiers, affecting identity. Last names also indicate a place within a family structure. Families are miniature cultures with their own rules, behavior, and language.

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