New version of “The Demon” (retrospectives, pt. 1)

Louis (Brad Pitt) destroying the Theatre of the Vampires in Interview with the Vampire
(dir. Neil Jordan). © Warner Bros., 1994.

My first book published in English was outcome of my PhD work conducted in late 1990s – The Demonic Texts and Textual Demons (Tampere University Press, 1999). As the subtitle hints (“The Demonic Tradition, the Self, and Popular Fiction”), this work was both a historically oriented inquiry into the demonic tradition across centuries, and an attempt to recast certain poststructuralist questions about textuality in terms of agency, or “Self”.

The methodological and theoretical subtext of this book was focused on politically-committed cultural studies on the one hand: I was reading texts like horror movies, classical tragedies, science fiction, The Bible, and Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses from perspectives opened up by our bodily and situated existence, suffering, and possibilities for empowerment. On the other hand, I was also interested in both participating and ‘deconstructing’ some of the theoretical contributions that the humanities – literary and art studies particularly – had made to scholarship during the 20th century. In a manner, I was turning “demonic possession” as a self-contradictory and polyphonic image of poststructuralism itself: the pursuit of overtly convoluted theoretical discourses (that both reveal and hide the actual intellectual contributions at the same time) particularly both fascinated and irritated me. The vampires, zombies and cyborgs were my tools for opening the black boxes in the charnel houses of twisted “high theory” (afflicted by a syndrome that I called ‘cognitocentrism’ – the desire to hide the desiring body and situatedness of the theorizing self from true commitment and responsibility in the actual world of people).

I have now produced a new version of this book online, as Open Access. After the recent merger of universities, the Tampere University Press (TUP) books are no longer available as physical copies, and all rights of the works have returned to the authors (see this notice). Since I also undertook considerable detective work at the time to secure the image rights (e.g. by writing to Vatican Libraries, and Warner Brothers), I have now also restored all images – or as close versions of the originals as I could find.

The illustrated, free (Creative Commons) version can be found from this address: https://people.uta.fi/~tlilma/Demon_2005/.

I hope that the new version will find a few new readers to this early work. Here are a couple of words from my Lectio Praecursoria, delivered in the doctoral defense at 29th March, 1999:

… It is my view, that the vast majority of contemporary demonic texts are created and consumed because of the anxiety evoked by such flattening and gradual loss of meaningful differences. When everything is the same, nothing really matters. Demons face us with visions which make indifference impossible.
A cultural critic should also be able to make distinctions. The ability to distinguish different audiences is important as it makes us aware how radically polyphonic people’s interpretations really can be. We may live in the same world, but we do not necessarily share the same reality. As the demonic texts strain the most sensitive of cultural division lines, they highlight and emphasise such differences. Two extreme forms of reactions appear as particularly problematic in this context: the univocal and one-dimensional rejection or denial of the demonic mode of expression, and, on the other hand, the univocal and uncritical endorsement of this area. If a critical voice has a task to do here, it is in creating dialogue, in unlocking the black-and-white positions, and in pointing out that the demonic, if properly understood, is never any single thing, but a dynamic and polyphonic field of both destructive and creative impulses.

Frans Ilkka Mäyrä (1999)

Narrative Theory, Literature, and New Media: new book

Narrative Minds, Virtual Worlds (cover).
Narrative Minds, Virtual Worlds.

New book, edited by Mari Hatavara, Matti Hyvärinen, Maria Mäkelä and myself, is now available for pre-order: Narrative Theory, Literature, and New Media: Narrative Minds and Virtual Worlds (Routledge). This interdisciplinary work discusses and analyses constructions of storyworlds and minds in games as well as in literature and media from multiple perspectives. Here is the table of contents:

Introduction: Minds in Action, Interpretive Traditions in Interaction Mari Hatavara, Matti Hyvärinen, Maria Mäkelä, and Frans Mäyrä

Section I

1. Texts, Worlds, Stories: Narrative Worlds as Cognitive and Ontological Concept Marie-Laure Ryan

2. Storyworlds and Paradoxical Narration: Putting Classifications to a Transmedial Test Liviu Lutas

3The Charge against Classical and Post-Classical Narratologies’ “Epistemic” Approach to Literary FictionGreger Andersson

Section II

4. How You Emerge from This Game Is up to You: Agency, Positioning, and Narrativity in The Mass Effect Trilogy Hanna-Riikka Roine

5. Playing the Worlds of Prom Week Ben Samuel, Dylan Lederle-Ensign, Mike Treanor, Noah Wardrip-Fruin, Josh McCoy, Aaron Reed, and Michael Mateas

6.Scripting Beloved Discomfort: Narratives, Fantasies, and Authenticity in Online Sadomasochism J. Tuomas Harviainen

7.Storyworld in Text-Messages: Sequentiality and Spatialisation Agnieszka Lyons

Section III

8. Defending the Private and the Unnarratable: Doomed Attempts to Read and Write Literary and Cinematic Minds in Marguerite Duras’s India Cycle Tytti Rantanen

9. Of Minds and Monsters: the Eventfulness of Monstrosity and the Poetics of Immersion in Horror LiteratureGero Brümmer

10. Narrative Conventions in Hallucinatory Narratives Tommi Kakko

11.Narrative and Minds in the Traditional Ballads of Early Country Music Alan Palmer

Section IV

12.Mind Reading, Mind Guessing, or Mental-State Attribution? The Puzzle of John Burnside’s A Summer of Drowning Matti Hyvärinen

13 Mind as World in the Reality Game Show Survivor Maria Mäkelä

14 Performing Selves and Audience Design: Interview Narratives on the Internet Jarmila Mildorf

15 Documenting Everyday Life: Mind Representation in the Web Exhibition “A Finnish Winter Day” Mari Hatavara

Afterword: A New Normal? Brian McHale

Publisher book page link: http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9781138854147/.