Frank Miller, Twilight and Criticism

More cross-posting from Whitechapel for blog-padding purposes, this one from a thread discussing the  Frank Miller incident.

I realise this thread is in the sink, but @Finagle's question -- does an author's life and beliefs and informal writings have a bearing on critically interpreting their fiction? -- is an interesting one.

Made me think about the way the Twilight novels and films have been interpreted solely through the knowledge that the author is a Mormon, which doesn't answer why the series is such a phenomenon. (I have been guilty of this as well). Obviously, Stephenie Meyer's readers can't ALL be socially conservative Christians, there must be something else in the work which makes it vital for them. I think commentators haven't been paying enough attention to the reader-response part of @J.Brennan's New Criticism / New Historicist outline (v. helpful, thanks!)

I think I generally lean Historicist, just because privileging every reading equally, while obv nice and democratic, just gets unmanageable and a bit boring. Sure every reading is of some worth, but some are more interesting than others -- either identifying ideas and emotions that are more meaningful to you, or able to bring in relevant contexts that can shed light on the way the work was produced or received. The latter can be a platform to explore broader historical questions -- where does the work fit into the discourses of its time etc. Of course, that should be contexts plural, so you don't just narrow it down to the range of influences and motives of the author, but recognize that studying the way the work moves through society and history is equally important.

To bring it back to Frank Miller, a work (like for example) The Dark Knight Returns can stand on its own, with the reader free to interpret its ironies in any way they want. That has some value, at the very least to the individual involved, perhaps to others with whom the interpretation holds some kind of resonance. But there is also value in looking at it in the context of Miller's other work, his influences, and piecing together stylistic and thematic constants or shifts. And there is also value in looking at what impact the work had, how others interpreted it, and what that says about the form (comics, literature) or the discourse (superheroes etc.), when it came out and now. All three are worthwhile endeavours, and I tend to admire commentators that can do all of them -- although it can be a lot of work!

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