Barry Pomeroy Main Page
Back to main page Me on my boat, the Whimsey

Photo by Christian Artuso
A Mad Trapper's Examination
Historiographic Metafiction
How to Read, Write, and Interpret Fiction
How to Write an English Paper
Scholarly Editions
Science, Belief, and the Cultural Burden of Superstition
Teaching International Students
The Appearance of Solidity
The Slippery Signifier
Google Plus View Barry Pomeroy's LinkedIn profile
 

A Mad Trapper's Examination of Reader Response and Reception Theory (1995)

I ground this reading of reader-oriented criticism in a particular text, Rudy Wiebe’s The Mad Trapper. Positioning this novel as representative of the contradictory characteristics of all texts--”always already” open to multiple interpretations--I use these multiple readings both to examine and undermine the novel and Reader Response/Reception theory. Situating and problematizing my own discourse by examining its pedagogically-questionable origin, I begin my reading of both Reader Response and the novel with a Phenomenological investigation into intentionality and the construction of the reader’s consciousness. I then move to a reading of Reception theory which, by examining The Mad Trapper’s textual conditions of production and dissemination to the reading public, works to undermine Phenomenology’s problematic stance. Since both of these theoretical readings are premised upon notions of a unified and coherent self, I further explore their implications by discussing at first general theories of subjectivity and The Mad Trapper, and then finally making a reading of both Lacanian psychoanalytic theory and The Mad Trapper. I intend that this multiple reading of both theory and text, by utilizing interpretation’s inherent yet often unacknowledged multiplicity, undermines the dominant objective and authoritative interpretation of traditional critical practice.

 

Historiographic Metafiction, Or Lying with the Truth (2000)

In this project I ground my reading of historiographic metafiction in a series of postmodern texts which work out of and subvert traditional notions of historical writing. I use Linda Hutcheon’s construction of this postmodern genre to investigate the particular literary and historical strategies these texts use and abuse in order to write an alternative history. Beginning by reviewing the theory surrounding historical fiction as well as historiography, I investigate the specific textual strategies that historiographic genres—such as the postmodern novel, the Canadian long poem, the short story and to some extent, the film genre—use to present their self-reflexive interaction between history and fiction.

I open my discussion by analyzing those texts which both posit the necessity of history and investigate it as a verifiable discourse. I next discuss the necessity of history by looking at legitimizing historiographical strategies postmodern historical texts use: “found” texts, Comic Book covers and newspaper articles, the public archive and major players in historical events. Historiographic metafiction overturns these discourses by the use of anachronism and the deliberate falsification of an accepted historical version. I examine the gradually revealed multiple truth which is left to the reader’s interpretation and the construction of history as myth, as well as the problematic narrative voices—such as the so-called unreliable narrator and the use of the lyric “I” in the contemporary long poem. In some incarnations a historian figure directly criticizes/enacts how events become facts. Still other postmodern re-visionings of the historical past are politicized retellings which question the official historical version of particular historical events or people.

Arguing for the deliberately political and even polemical nature of historiographic metafictions, I focus upon these specific literary strategies in order to argue that historiographic metafiction’s specific and political use of these strategies is an attempt to recover, re-examine, mythologize and narrate the assorted discourses we call history. I argue that historiographic metafiction creates a previously nonexistent historical space which writes both people and events into a traditional history from which they have been deliberately—and with political motive—excluded.

 

This guide is meant to assist the student of literature and the creative writer in their understanding of how literary techniques and narrative devices can inform a reader's interaction with text. Each writer, from experts in the craft--like the writers of the stories I use as examples--to the beginner who wants to exercise control over the story they are writing, choses from a series of techniques or strategies that permit or prevent certain stories from being told. This study is an attempt to examine more closely the ways that literary techniques--such as use of narrator, the construction of character, narrative desire, the manipulation of narrative levels and narrative time, the evocation of cultural codes, as well as metafiction and magic realism--assist or frustrate the reader's attempt to understand the author's intentions.

By making writerly readings of realist texts as well as symbolic, psychological, and speculative thought experiments from writers as diverse as Jorge Luis Borges, Bruno Schultz, Octavia Butler, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Fritz Leiber, George R. R. Martin, Gabriel García Márquez, Thomas King, and Kim Stanley Robinson, the implications of these choices can be more easily seen. The reader becomes privy to certain types of information depending on what strategy the writer has chosen, and that choice leads the writer to ever more circumscribed possibilities until the story has fulfilled its author's intention. Although knowledge of these techniques is typically demanded at the undergraduate level, and there are list-like guides which purport to define them, seeing them in their natural habitat gives the reader a much better sense of what the technique or strategy offers to the author.

This analysis of the techniques used to create engaging stories should be useful for both students and writers who are interested in learning about the diversity of ways in which authors have confronted both narrative and structural questions in the stories they wish to tell. The short story--just to name one fictional form--seems endlessly flexible, but with an understanding of what a particular strategy allows, both the reader and the writer are better equipped to understand the text's messaging as well as how the chosen technique informs or inhibits its performance.

 

This guide is meant to assist those who want to learn the basics of writing English essays, as well as how to use research to support their academic arguments. Accordingly, it explains the general purpose of the academic English paper, the rationale for its structure and how to incorporate quotes and separate arguments, as well as offers research tips. Many guides on the market are full of information the student does not necessarily need, and tend to be expensive books whose rationale for existence is hundreds of pages devoted to primers on sentence structure, conjugation of verbs, and arcane use of punctuation. This project is meant to answer the need for a quick, coherent guide that focuses more on argument than grammar, and more on research and literary terminology than parts of speech.

With the notion of research changing as quickly in the academic world as it is in the mind of the general public, this guide takes on the task of explaining the different resources available as well as their relative strengths, and how to incorporate material into the essay using both MLA and APA format.

Lastly, the guide gives an editing checklist the reader can use to double-check their own work, offers a description of how their paper might be graded, and takes on the task of explaining constructions as prosaic as punctuation and as arcane as fake transitions and the incorporation of quotes. I also have a list of literary terms commonly used in undergraduate English papers, and offer a few fun exercises to tease your brain, test your knowledge, and boost your self-esteem.

 

This project includes H. G. Wells' World Brain, The Time Machine, and The Island of Doctor Moreau. I plan for other work in the series, but I am turning back to more creative enterprises after I finish these three works.

I have annotated the original texts of these novels and lecture series (in the case of World Brain), as well as provided a lengthy introduction to Wells' life and work. Here I trace not only his relatively humble background but also the fortuitous accident which gave him his insight into the imaginative possibilities of books and which led to the three major periods of his artistic expression. At the end of each general introduction I provide an introduction to the work under study, focusing on its societal and critical reception, as well as an analysis of the work itself.

 

Science, Belief, and the Cultural Burden of Superstition (2022)

In this idiosyncratic study I imagine the scientific enterprise to be an edifice of reasoning and experimentation that we share with every animal all the way back to the protozoa. Only recently, in geological terms, did we choose to indulge in fantasies and stories, and although they served to entertain us through the dark nights, and could be used as memetic tools, they sometimes confounded us when confronting real threats. The river is not coming after us to demand prayer, the water is not rising to wet the expectant frogs, there has been rain in the mountains and we should move to higher ground. In order to examine what conspiracy theories, Santa Claus, fairies, luck, ghosts, and gods might have to offer the post-Neolithic mind I trace the logical implications of those superstitions through anecdote and history.

The science section begins as a kind of hymn to the experimentation and reasoning of those whose efforts made our lives better. I include more recent scientists, as well as those Indigenous cultures which retained information over ten thousand years so that the landforms and taxa around them might make sense to their descendants. Such systems, regardless of how robust, are also subject to the superstitions from the age of fantasy, however. A closer look at prejudice in the scientific system, a discussion of cultural inertia and an unfounded and denigrating way of thinking about our ancestors, show how those intellectual shortcomings continue to trouble our understanding.

A profound ignorance of how our world works has mixed fantasy and science, is eager to shift blame to another, and culminates in our own lack of self-knowledge. This takes the form of the ego's effect on our reasoning, our susceptibility to the blinding of self-undermining media, and our tendency to think emotionally rather than rationally.

This study is meant to be more than a list of problems, however. In both the scientific and fantastical world, this more than ten-thousand-year-old story is about our striving, our recent missteps, and our greatest accomplishments. Returning to an older way of looking at the world, we are climbing out of the hole of self-imposed superstition and emerging into the light. We might blink at first, but the real world is more beautiful and fantastic than the one we invented, and phenomenological magic waits around every corner.

 

Teaching International Students: Recommendations for Success, Challenge, and Delight (2022)

I envision this book fulfilling two complementary roles. I hope it will be useful for instructors of undergraduate students of the humanities, as well as relevant for anyone interested in the amount of forethought that goes into pedagogy in the international student classroom. After more than two decades of experience with international students, I have had the chance to try numerous experiments with that demographic. Simultaneously, I have developed a way of thinking about teaching international students which has led me to understand the importance of cultural elements in instruction, the significance of discussions around academic misconduct, and how to construct a course as well as assignments. In my evolving way of thinking about my pedagogical practice, I strive to test my students' abilities instead of how well they fit into the western education system.

I begin with the challenges of teaching international students as well as a discussion about the materials I have developed for the classroom. Because I have long been interested in how cultural difference affects instruction, I examine how the students' cultural mores impact their learning. I also survey, at length, how to overcome the challenges of academic misconduct as well as approaches for paper writing workshops and how to explain academic research. I include examples that I have used in class, as well as marking rubrics and codes.

International students are a growing demographic in the west, and they can be a delight in the classroom, but the instructor must approach their pedagogy with a self-reflexive understanding of what they hope to accomplish and what the students need to learn.

 

The Appearance of Solidity: Media and Culture in the Electric Age (2017)

This collection of essays connected by the thread of media influence is an attempt to trace the logical result of the Gutenberg Press experience through print, telegraph, telephone, radio, television, and internet technologies. Using Marshall McLuhan’s insights as an impetus, this meandering tale draws upon novels, radio and television shows, film, and trending internet platforms and gaming to discuss the influence of media in a world increasingly wrapped in the fibre optic cables of the technological age.

Technological advances have always had a clear effect on the possible expressions of culture, but those are best seen in retrospect. Now, with the advent of the internet through YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the world of gaming, the cultural shifts that are happening beneath our feet have become difficult to see. The stream of data has become a torrent, but its vacant noise obscures its exact shape. This idiosyncratic examination of those shifts is a commentary on the current of our times and an interrogation of the eddies and swirls of cultural influence and societal change.

New trends such as self-publishing have utterly transformed the established publishing industry, just as Netflix has transformed the reception of television, online piracy the notion of copyright, the cellphone the paper map and the camera, and YouTube the home movie. Like a skipping stone over the growing flood of the digital age, this study examines some of these trends more closely in terms of what we gain as a culture, as well as what the current leaves behind in its inexorable rush into the future.

This study investigates and encourages the inherent playfulness of language. By examining several case studies where the written word has gone astray, I intend this tongue-in-cheek discussion of errors to be both a fun exposition about language and a way to enjoy learning about effectiveness in communication.

As children we think a single word can change forever how blossoms fall, or at least that's what the poem told us. Later, we learn to depend on collections of words. We hope that their jostling Brownian randomness will somehow, eventually, encourage them to settle into a coherent meaning. Once we understand syntax, that words can form coherent structures, we know that more important is the order of their appearance if we want the heavy lifting we are demanding of them to be performed. For many, the final stop on this uneven path is a fascination with the forms, rigidly demanding the exact placement of the slotted word.

Once the forms stretch, we realize that the endlessly plastic word can be twisted to suit nearly any shape. Deforming structure around it as if it were somehow unreal, the word is an arbitrary utterance cast adrift from intention and desire. By that point some are ready to abandon words entirely, and focus instead on what is known, the reliable physicality of the unworded phenomenological world, an image in a mirror, or going even further back, the glorious chaos that was the wordless real of their youth.

Only after many years do we realize that we still rely on the single word, that we ask it to carry the burden of inevitable incoherence, collecting resonance as it tumbles across the page and time, squirming for space, a piglet at a teat, shouldering aside others in an urgent, interminable, demand for meaning.

 

 

Contact Barry Pomeroy