I just read

“French works like Peeters or Groensteen seem to be concerned with how things function in the contexts of the ‘work of art.’ In contrast, proposals like McCloud’s (and mine) do not care what the work is about, but hypothesize structural principles at work in the medium and (hopefully) cognition. To invoke an analogy: I’m interested in identifying how ‘nouns and verbs work.’ They’re interested in how people ‘use nouns and verbs in writing.’” (by some guy I should probably know named Neil Cohn)

and thought it was interesting because McCloud's books are some of the most interesting, intelligent and, with the exception of Reinventing Comics, agreeable essays on the medium in existence. But, but now this Mr. Cohn supposes to say that McCloud is a prescriptivist as opposed to a descriptivist. I sorta named this blog after the latter school of thought that supposes that folks were talking long before they were writing, and consequently written grammar rules should always take into account the ways in which folks use the language first, as opposed to prescriptivist rules which describe the patterns of language. Now, I'm not gonna sit here and pretend I haven't had lotta cheap wine, but I know a middle-ground approach is probably the best way to go. With regards to the passage about comics, Cohn made me realize that McCloud is an absolute prescriptivist, and I his ideological enemy. But then Cohn made me realize that I'm not a complete descriptivist, since in fact I buy, love, and like McCloud's books, so to some extent I have to agree with prescriptivist principles. IN FACT, Cohn is the most recent example of me realizing that the middle-ground is the way to go pretty much all the time. Barring, of course, sociological situations where the norm is to one extreme or the other, in which case leaning to the opposite extreme to an intelligent degree is all right, even good. Like with the Bush administration. Or the absurdly descriptivist superhero comics industry. Or the so-far-beyond-absurd-it's-nutty descriptivist TV soap opera industry, which I'm being introduced to in hour-long incrimints every weekday at 1:00.

It's Days of Our Lives, by the way. Stefano is the shit.

1 comment:

Tia said...

That was an always an interesting literary war, in a "black & white" sort of way. Middle ground is a more modern approach, in my opinion, but people with PhD's wouldn't have anything to argue if everyone agreed, right?

I've noticed, though, that more popular work tends to be descriptive. This doesn't mean, though, that if I enjoy a Stephen King book I'm his "idealogical enemy." I've used the terms "writing" and "storytelling" in past discussions on this argument, and this is how I break it down. Description is storytelling, and there's nothing wrong with telling a story (that is how it all got started). I just prefer my storytelling with some exploration of the language it's written in, which would be "writing" (in quotes, b/c that definition is lame and arguable, but I'm pretentious and I like it).

What I'm saying is that even if you hadn't realized that you're not a complete descriptivist, you wouldn't be banned by McCloud or his rabid fans - you can still enjoy it. That's what most art boils down to, anyway: enjoyment.