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January 09, 2005


David Fiore

I couldn't agree more with your position on "decoding", Marc!

At this writing, all I can say about my own plan for Kingdom Come is that I want to argue that the book, which is purely mythological in orientation is therefore also purely anti-political (in the sense that Waid & Ross make no attempt at all to engage the problem of human/social relationships...and that nonsense with Batson and the UN is the biggest red herring in the history of the genre!)

Of course--I do think that a course of politics in literature should deal with anti-political literature, because an anti-politics still has political consequences...dire ones in fact!

Please--join the academic blogging ring Marc! Or, you know, wait and see whether my 20% grade carrot goads my students to flood the net with their thoughts or sinks the class! We'll know in a few weeks...


David Fiore

uh...a course ON politics in literature...

silverchair some more


Fair enough. Three quick self-exculpatory points:

(1) although just because the hunt for political allegory isn't the Non-Beastmaster's preferred method doesn't mean that it can't be a productive one. Reading Kingdom Come, or any other text, through a "what is the political allegory" lens can lead to some unexpected insights, just as could filtering the text through a gender lens, or a race lens, or whatever.

(2) Particularly since Kingdom Come is only one in a series of texts. Asking the same questions of a series of dissimilar texts seems to me to be a useful way of approaching those texts. In this class, we read KC after reading Dark Knight Returns - which very much conditioned how I (and the students) read it!

(3) Most of the action in the course has turned out, surprisingly or not, to be in the seminar room and not on the blog. Students have been fabulous in the classroom (and keep it up, folks!), but haven't really taken to the on-line forum. In the classroom, we've been doing more the kind of thing you describe - combined with the method I just described in (1) and (2).

At any rate, thanks for the constructive criticism - and definitely do start some academic blogging!

By the way, most of the students thought that Kingdom Come was pretty shallow too. That'll teach me for ignoring the collective wisdom of the comics blogosphere.

(cross posted on www.comicbookpolitics.com, so feel free to comment there too, everyone!)


Hey, CBP. I'll agree that reading a text for allegory (political or otherwise) can be a productive method of interpretation and discussion - but only when the text itself can support it. Asking a blanket question of "What is the political allegory?" presumes that there always is one, and while we might be able to support that question with an appropriately loaded syllabus, I don't know if Kingdom Come fits the bill.

Also, it's important not to conflate reading for politics with reading for allegory: one is a type of content and the other is a technique (and reading for political allegory is reading for a very specific intersection of content and technique, one that even many politically-inflected texts will not use). My objection is more with the idea that any text is just a series of allegories waiting to be decoded, a model of interpretation that I've found tends to encourage passivity among students as they wait for the instructor to hand out the allegorical answer key. It also leads to the tautologies described above, as simply asking "What does Superman represent?" presumes he's a symbolic representation of something. Clever enough readers will always find an answer, however unsatisfying.

Glad to hear the class is going well, though - it sounds like a great course.


Thank you Marc and other blog guys.

It is fair, and in fact a good idea, to look for ideas in whatever is being read. Kingdom Come had a fair amount of commentary about the comics industry in the early/mid 90s.

From that, one could argue that comic books, and by extension Kingdom Come, were a reflection of the times in general. (I could go into a rant about Kyle "Green Lantern" Rayner and found wealth, trumping the legitimate merits of courage and honesty, but.....)

If one approaches Kingdom Come from the above angle, then it could be taught in a politics course. That would deprive the instructor of a chance to sound off about foreign policy.

The most important thing to look for in any reading (comics or other) is the writer's intent. What are they trying to say/do? That should be the key factor to consider.

I would disagree with Marc on another point though. Looking for politics (or whatever other idea) everywhere does not encourage passivity, so much as it encourages a sort of literary paranoia. "The politics, they are everywhere, like black-helicopters!"

I have sat through classes where people tried to apply the most irrelevant ideas to a text, and in some cases were encouraged by the professor. Nobody seemed to acting in sarcasm. To use the example of Superman, imagine a student coming up with a detailed, and utterly fanciful take on Superman (in and out of Kingdom Come), and the professor encouraging the effort, and applauding the results.

Basically, what happens is that everyone starts hunting for this fool's gold, and missing what they could legitimately find.

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