Saturday, June 23, 2007

On Coupland & Destabilisation

K.N. sent the following question by e-mail, which matched an conversation I had in Office Hours with another classfellow, which challenges the lecture expectation of a destabilising effect of reading Life After God.

Do you think that Coupland assumes that the majority of his readers ARE stabilized to begin with? It seems to me that his destabilizing style is actually comforting to the destabilized generation(s) that form his intended audience. The intensely questioning nature of his writing is very familiar to those who have grown up in an increasingly confused world, where a generation gap occurs every 5 years and we are constantly flooded with information that changes our ability to place ourselves in a constant narrative.

This is certainly a provocative point: Coupland's generation "X" (my own generation) is more stable than your generation, "Y," and so what looks like a destabilising book to Gen. X will simply be life to Gen. Y.

For lecture purposes, however, I will cut the Gordian Knot, and say that the uncertainty and instability is the characteristic of Life after God and will ask you to identify and understand the specific literary aspects of that characteristic: the status of the narrator, for example, the presence of existential Fear, etc.


Anonymous said...

I would venture to say that even if the emotional/intellectual destabilization expressed in the narration of Life After God is familiar to a reader, there are purely literary elements of destabilization that can be objectively analyzed. A large part of Coupland's method lies in contradicting some very stable conventions of constructing a novel.


retrodeathpixie said...

...and I completely agree. My comment was responding to the indication in lecture that "if you aren't destabilized, you aren't reading carefully". I think it's possible to recognize and appreciate (and write on a final) these destabilizing techniques, but find them familiar rather than disorienting.
I also think the comment in lecture (ie. my life is too perfect, i need something to complain about) isn't quite what I was referring to.

Anonymous said...

Duly noted, K. It looks like we're all in agreement after all...


Dr. Stephen Ogden said...

Dear "K."
The comment on fashionable bourgeois ennui was certainly not directed to your position. On the contrary! You very helpfully re-framed the understanding from which lectures are being presented.
The reference was to the specific socio-economic sub-cultre in which Douglas Coupland grew up, from which he, to some degree, is writing himself away from, and which is deeply encoded in his settings and characters.
Perfect clarity from the podium is so far only my ideal, not my practice ;--)

Anonymous said...

I agree with the notion that Y generation is actually stabilized in destabilized concepts. I myself find it quite irritating to read statements of certainty as in previous novels (The Amber Spyglass and Brighton Rock) and the uncertainties presented in Life After God definitely get me back on the regular thinking trend.