Josh Richards: Rowling or Milton or Meyer or Joyce?

Votaries of Antiquity, a Guest Post from Prof Josh Richards, Palm Beach Atlantic University

Antiquity, like every other quality that attracts the notice of mankind, has undoubtedly votaries that reverence it, not from reason, but from prejudice. Some seem to admire indiscriminately whatever has been long preserved, without considering that time has sometimes co-operated with chance; all perhaps are more willing to honour past than present excellence; and the mind contemplates genius through the shades of age, as the eye surveys the sun through artificial opacity. The great contention of criticism is to find the faults of the moderns, and the beauties of the ancients. While an authour is yet living we estimate his powers by his worst performance, and when he is dead we rate them by his best.

Samuel Johnson, Preface to Shakespeare

Someone recently posted the following comment on an old thread at this site. At the risk of possibly feeding a troll, I have been asked to comment as several illustrative points may be drawn by response.

It follows:

Kids, stop reading this garbage. Do not try to give arguments which you know that are fake. There are better books than this. If you want to read bildungsroman novels, read Mario Vargas Llosa´s, “The Time of Hero” or James Joyce´s, “Portraid of the Artist as a Young Man”. If you like fantasy, read Lewis Carrol, Kipling, Stevenson, Wells, Swift, Wilde, Verne or Jorge Luis Borges. Borges especially will reeducate you and will teach you what literature is. You will discover that many good writers have what is called “style”. Style consists in writing euphonically, by avoiding repeated words, repeated phrases, cacophonies, clichés, anacoluthons and other things. Read good literature. Believe me: you will improve your culture and the way of using your language.

There are three matters that may be learnt from such a post (whose author I have somewhat arbitrarily gendered male for convenience). The first is whether or not there is something that can be learned from works like Harry Potter and Twilight; The second, on the weighing of writers, especially translations; the third on the dangers of pretension. [Read more…]

Josh Richards: The Necessity of Comedy in Time Travel Tales

Guest Professor Josh Richards of Florida and St. Andrews —

Rather than poetry, I come to you today to discuss a modest proposal: if a story features time travel, it should probably be a comedy.  There are three reasons why I believe this to be true.

First, Time Travel is ripe for comedy. Half of Hollywood’s comedic output in the 1980’s featured the concept: Time Bandits, Encino Man, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, you name it. Because Time Travel presents such opportunities for comedy that a writer would have to be as humorless as Virginia Woolf or as self-disciplined as a saint to write one without venturing into humor.

[Read more…]