German writer Paul Heyse (1830-1914) based his theory of Falkontheorie on the ninth tale of the fifth day of the Decamaron. The tale is about a man who sacrificed everything for the love of a woman and when he still rejected her he then sacrificed his prize falcon as well, thereby winning her heart. The idea or Falkontheorie that Heyse posited was that the falcon symbolized the man’s love for the woman. It is only an elaborate way of saying that every story is different from all stories that precede it.
Postmodernists, however, state that every story has been written and all things have been said and that there is nothing more to write as far as plot. Postmodernism posits that we must therefore make our writing (the craft of it) the center of the prose we write.
As I look around at the world of entertainment I tend to agree with the postmodernist, but part of me is very saddened by this. The fact is that it seems that even the quality (or the craft) of writing is crumbling away. Movie producers are out to make a buck, and they seem to think that a majority of the public are not wanting any surprises. Why else would Hollywood turn out so many remakes and sequels and movies based on established characters in comics and popular novels? For many fanboys like me, seeing my comic book heroes realized on screen is something of a childhood joy, but what we are seeing less and less of are original films like Inception and Shutter Island.
Books are facing the same fate it seems, but is this only a repeat of the past? Everyone wants to read about vampires, then dystopian futures, then post-apocalyptic zombie/westerns, and now what? Time travel? It will be interesting to read what people in the far future think about the prose being produced during our time. Will they face as much criticism as the fireside poets? Edgar Allan Poe was their toughest critic at the time, but was seen as a curmudgeon by many of the more popular writers and his criticism was nearly ignored by most. Poe, in one essay, even accused Longfellow of plagiarism. Understand, however, that when Poe used the word “plagiarism” in reference to Longfellow’s poem in question “Midnight Mass for the Dying Year”, he was really saying “unoriginal”. A good summary of the heated correspondence between the two authors is found here.
Criticism exists to make us check ourselves at the door before we enter the room of self reflection. In that room we have piled all of our creative efforts, but the critic has that conversation with us that tells us we need to go in there and put some things in order. If we do not, we end up writing what everyone else is writing, not really trying to disprove the Postmodernist, and not really trying to pound away at the detritus that lines the room in which we stored all of those fabulous words. I want to believe in Falkontheorie. I really do.
Time to get to work with my broom.