After the Bloodwood Staff (fiction): uncertain borders: the rise and fall of genre? (dissertation)

Laura Goodin

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

In After the Bloodwood Staff, bookish Hoyle Marchand has spent decades collecting and reading classic adventure novels. When fellow collector Sybil Alvaro invites him to accompany her to the wilds of Australia to search for a mysterious artifact, he realizes she is what he has always daydreamed about being: a true adventurer. To reach the treasure, Hoyle and Sybil – and their Australian sidekick Ada– must overcome a series of obstacles: the terrain and its various flora and fauna; a secret colony of political subversives; and especially their own inadequacies. In an allout battle, they end up fighting not for treasure, but for their lives.

After the Bloodwood Staff reinterprets the conventions of the adventure novel, using techniques including exaggeration, parody, inversion (characters behaving in ways diametrically opposed to those specified by the genre's conventions), satire(drawing readers' attention to their own, possibly rigid, thinking about genre in popular fiction), and the incorporation of speculative elements. The novel's protagonists are conscious of the conventions they're expected to follow: thus, they act as stand-ins for the reader, as well as being characters within the story. This immediately introduces a strain on readers' ability to completely immerse themselves in the story; instead, they, like the characters, are compelled to examine the conventions they have always taken for granted and decide whether these are necessary to the adventure, or merely expected.

The dissertation examines how ideas of genre are applied in popular fiction –specifically, in adventure fiction (called in its Victorian and Edwardian heyday "romance"). Focusing primarily on the fiction of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H. Rider Haggard, and Talbot Mundy, it explores the solidification of the adventure genre's boundaries and how this has served the needs of writers, publishers, and readers; finds that these boundaries are beginning to blur as technology and the Internet provide increased opportunities for writers to find niche markets; and examines a sampling of current practitioners' thoughts on working across genres. Finally, it proposes implications for other writers seeking to both determine and transgress genre boundaries.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2014

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