Title of the first draft of my problematics: Coming of Age, the Liminality of Desire, and "What the Novel Might Be."
Title of the second draft: Narrativity, Liminality, and Desire.
Maybe, but not exactly.
Title of the third draft: ?
Lance needs the next working draft of my problematics, like, yesterday. But I'm stuck. Or stalling? I don't know. I feel the weight of the pressure of wanting to get it right. Wanting to know myself and my work well enough to get right at the heart of it. Because what I propose in this document, now, in my 2nd year, could either spark the interest of future committee members who will sign on to help me further figure it out over the course of my 3rd year — or, conversely, lead me into one of those conversations that ends with said potential committee members saying, "Ah, no. Not for me. Sorry. Good luck." I just want to know that whatever it is I want to explore, and how I want to explore it — what I lay out now, in preparation for my reading year and beyond — gets at my core concerns, those most central to who I am as a reader, writer, scholar, critic, human being.
I keep coming back to fairy tales. Which, at the moment, is not very helpful (to paraphrase a certain professor: This isn't the MFA anymore. Think history. Think theory. Think nuance. Think problems worth investigating).
Here's a problem: Instead of investigating theories of non-genre or sites of generic and other forms of liminality, I've spent the past few days losing myself in Rebecca Solnit's The Faraway Nearby.
I love this passage: "Fairy tales are almost always the stories of the powerless, of youngest sons, abandoned children, orphans, of humans transformed into birds and beasts or otherwise enchanted away from their own selves and lives. . . . Fairy tales are children's stories not in who they were made for but in their focus on the early stages of life, when others have power over you and you have power over no one."
Stories. Childhood. Transformation. Nature. Enchantment. Power. Life.
Enough is here. But how to theorize it? What framework is most useful, most resonant?
Magical realism, at least as a place to start?
Zamora and Faris: Magical realism's most basic concern [is] — the nature and limits of the knowable. . . . Magical realist fiction is about transgressing boundaries, multiple worlds; destabilizes normative oppositions; is subversive.
Carter: First it is the combination of reality and fantasy and second, it is the transformation of the real into the awesome and unreal, thirdly an art of surprises, one which creates a distorted concept of time and space, fourth a literature directed to an intellectual minority. . . .
Oxford Companion to English Literature: Magic realist novels and stories have, typically, a strong narrative drive, in which the recognizably realistic merges with the unexpected and the inexplicable and in which elements of dreams, fairy story, or mythology combine with the everyday, often in a mosaic or kaleidoscopic pattern of refraction and recurrence.
I would take the key. No doubt about it. Without a moment's hesitation, I would take the key.