According to Dream Stephen Fry, Bartleby the Scrivener is actually slash - except the author did not approve of slash at all, and so wrote only one sentence in the entire text hinting at it.
(Furthermore, that sentence is a bit of dialogue where Bartleby asks the narrator “Would you please read me a bedtime story?”. However, as I am now no longer asleep, I seem to recall that is not actually valid dialogue, as Bartleby pretty much only has one line of dialogue. Over and over again. However, I could tell Dream Stephen Fry was very sincere about it, as he used the exact same tone of voice and careful diction that he used as Control.)
This concludes this week’s episode of Dream Stephen Fry Theatre.
“Stationary you shall be then,” I cried, now losing all patience, and for the first time in all my exasperating connection with him fairly flying into a passion. “If you do not go away from these premises before night, I shall feel bound—indeed I am bound—to—to—to quit the premises myself!” I rather absurdly concluded, knowing not with what possible threat to try to frighten his immobility into compliance. Despairing of all further efforts, I was precipitately leaving him, when a final thought occurred to me—one which had not been wholly unindulged before.
“Bartleby,” said I, in the kindest tone I could assume under such exciting circumstances, “will you go home with me now—not to my office, but my dwelling—and remain there till we can conclude upon some convenient arrangement for you at our leisure? Come, let us start now, right away.”
Dream Stephen Fry is a pretty brilliant student of literary criticism. I can’t say I’m surprised.
I skimmed the whole thing this morning, thanks to you, and now it is excruciatingly difficult for me to read it as anything other than a stifled, repressed, but ultimately patient courtship.
This leads me to wonder what kind of critical engine we could harness if we could get veteran shippers interested in employing a different automatic lens than “everyone might be making out.” Any suggestions for what that lens should be?
I’ve been using the “How is this story crapping all over all demographics except straight white cis men” lens for a while, but it’s not satisfying as an endpoint. It identifies things that are missing or wrong, but then it doesn’t go anywhere. I appreciate the artists and writers that produce what-if versions that challenge those assumptions, so there’s certainly expansion room there.
(But then, I’m a sucker for crossovers between fictional worlds, so I suspect some of my delight is looking at ism*bent fan art as a crossover between the original material and a society that isn’t quite as awful.)
My dad can straight-facedly describe all of his favorite movies, including the all-time winner, A Boy and His Dog, as “It’s a story about friendship.” Which I’m pretty sure is spotting all the same moments of emotional connection but without adding the making out.
Any other lenses you like to use?
I have to admit, the shipping lens is so pervasive that it’s hard to think of any other.
That said, at the risk of making everything about Homestuck, I do appreciate how many more lens options the shipping community has now with the notion of quadrants. They’re relationship types that existed before, sure, but now that people have convenient handles for them, they’re all that much more likely to recognize them in literature, and then riff on them.
For example, I have a vague recollection of seeing a Tumblr post advocating the notion of Stark <> Banner (from The Avengers). I think that’s great. It’s something that I suspect people would have struggled with words for before - they might instead describe it as “best bros” or something - but now, all of a sudden, people can ship that easily and, more to the point, have it generally recognized as a valid ship without having to stretch for more making-out-y interpretations.
Not that I am against pale makeout sessions. I’m just saying.