Part Two: Interdisciplinarity

Joe Moran can summarize what I argued in the Part One of this two-part blog post in various chapters from Interdisciplinarity. In Part One, I took what was one idea given to me by Doctor McCoy from our November 3rd class regarding A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin and then used crosschecking and secondary sources to learn more. This led me to the self-discovery that A Song of Ice and Fire draws from history, books published before A Song of Ice and Fire was published, mythology, and anthropology. I wasn’t impressed, at first, that my favorite series could so clearly be compared to these topics. But Interdisciplinarity helped me sort out what to do with all this newfound information. Moran explains not only are authors “engaged in a kind of psychic struggle with the great authors of past generations” (105), but that these authors also draw on other experiences from subjects such as anthropology and mythology to accurately portray what they are writing about. As for acting as a reader, Moran explains that I was just trying to consolidate A Song of Ice and Fire’s own “separateness and uniqueness” (Moran 103) from history.

To enumerate the point that many authors draw on past authors to write their books, Moran wrote that Harold Bloom “argues that authors are engaged in a kind of psychic struggle with great authors of past generations” (105). In my opinion, both Martin and J. R. R. Tolkien are great authors, to use Bloom’s term. In an article called “10 Best Selling Books of All Time” it states that Lord of the Rings has sold 150 million copies as of the article’s publishing date. Lord of the Rings was published in 1954, while A Game of Thrones was published in 1996. As of June 11, 2014, the A Song of Ice and Fire books had sold 30 million copies worldwide, according to the article “Game of Thrones Coming to Edinburgh” by Vicky Carroll. Both authors have clearly risen above others in terms of books sold when compared to other authors. With Martin growing up with Tolkien’s success, it is very possible that he psychically struggled to measure up to Tolkien’s accomplishments. Martin could only “complete” (Moran 105) Tolkien’s book if he wanted Tolkien’s same success, as Moran would say. In the end, both authors have accomplished at making people, who may or may not be people who enjoy reading for pleasure, pick up a book for the two’s realistic characters facing otherworldly, near impossible challenges. As an anecdote, I can say that out of all the books I have talked to my brother about (who will freely admit that he does not like to pick books up unless it is for one of his high school mandatory English classes), he has only been interested enough in Lord of the Rings, A Song of Ice and Fire, and the Book Thief by Markus Zusak to read, and I have talked to him about countless books. If my brother is interested in Lord of the Rings, and his interest was for the themes that also occur in A Song of Ice and Fire, then if it weren’t for Martin psychically struggling with Tolkien, my brother wouldn’t have five and more books to read, and perhaps I would not be so interested in A Song of Ice and Fire, too.

In essence, one of my greatest interests in A Song of Ice and Fire draws on my ability to relate to some of the characters. I have always praised Martin on how realistic his characters are; I pride myself on being able to find ways to connect the characters, their surroundings, and their problems to my life. When I was sixteen, I decided I wanted a poster from Martin’s series on my bedroom wall that was of my creation, not another fan poster to join the collection I had bought online. I decided to say what exactly I look up to in each of my favorite characters on my poster, what I wish I could insert into my personality. Every morning I woke up and picked a person I would “look up to” from the list. Though I left it at home instead of taking it to my bedroom at college, I was pleased when my dad reported that from time to time he reads my poster when he is in my room to play with my drum set. My father had never understood my (or my brother’s, for that matter) fascination with the book or television series. Looking at the poster, he started to understand. If I am able to interpret some of my experiences from other’s because of A Song of Ice and Fire, then it only makes sense that Martin would draw on other’s experiences, too. As said by Raymond Williams, “The ways in which we can draw on other experience…[can come from] anthropology” (Moran 52). I could relate A Song of Ice and Fire to the reading assigned for my fall 2014 anthropology class (the reading being “Uterine Families and the Women’s Community” by Margery Wolf) because Martin most likely drew his female characters’ perspectives and problems from everyday culture. I shouldn’t let the fact that Martin based some of my favorite character’s experiences from anthropology hinder my view on his series, particularly his drawings from Taiwanese women. If anything, this connection allowed me to look up to the series as a realistic novel despite the fantasy setting. As said by Stuart Hall, “A culture includes the ‘maps of meaning’ which makes things intelligible to its members” (Moran 56). Just as the Taiwanese understand their patriarchal society because it is an integral part of their culture, so do the women in A Song of Ice and Fire. But culture is “also the way shapes are experienced, understood and interpreted” (Moran 56). Because the culture of Westeros is partially based off of Taiwanese culture and anthropology (in my interpretation of both readings), I was able to understand the Westeros culture through Taiwanese culture and then apply it to American culture. As proven by my poster, I manage to bring Martin’s series to my life. Now, I can interpret all four- Westeros, Taiwan, America, and my life- for this blog post. Through all of Martin’s interdisciplinarity, I was able to interpret his book. It is a new feeling, I will admit, but not one I necessarily dislike.

To enumerate Martin’s ability to get his reader to understand a life different than theirs, Moran says, “Oedipus complex, narcissism, sadism and masochism, derive from literature and mythology” (87). These are motifs I can (gladly) say I can’t connect to my life. Before A Song of Ice and Fire, all the above were just vocabulary words I had a basic understanding in. A Song of Ice and Fire allowed me to get a less factual, more firsthand (though fictional) knowledge. Many of the motifs above are in Martin’s books, such as the sadistic methods of Joffrey Baratheon and Ramsay Snow. Reading his series (though he never blatantly states that characters like Joffrey are sadists) made me turn to secondary sources to learn more about disorders. I once read an article called “Diagnosing Game of Thrones: What’s Ailing Westeros?” by Jonathon Fader. Besides the obvious ones such as the aforementioned Joffrey and Ramsay, Fader diagnoses Theon Greyjoy with narcissistic personality disorder for “his grandiose sense of self-importance, his preoccupation with fantasies of success, and his overwhelming belief that he is ‘special’ and ‘unique’.” With the television series Game of Thrones also inserting these motifs including elements of masochism, such as when Ramsay forces character Myranda to strangle him, it would make sense that his motifs add up with mythology, particularly the Greek mythology. I read Oedipus the King and learned about Oedipus complex through that. Perhaps Martin did too. Because I think it is safe to say that Martin (hopefully) didn’t encounter the four motifs in Moran’s above quote in his lifetime. He, too, must have turned toward other books and mythology, such as for writing about Robert Arryn, who I would say has an Oedipus complex judging by the fact that he still breast feeds at ten years old. Like me, Martin had to turn toward secondary sources to make his books that much better.

But perhaps the best way for me to explain why I didn’t enjoy looking up the comparison of A Song of Ice and Fire to other studies is because I am territorial of my favorite series. The hardest part of making the connections, in particular, was reading the article that raised key similarities between Martin’s series and history. Literary studies and history is said by Moran to “have often led to great territoriality, as each subject has sought to consolidate its own separateness and uniqueness” (103). Of course I would want A Song of Ice and Fire to be separate and unique to history. I couldn’t help but be territorial until I found the parallels between the two. But as I said before, if it weren’t for the real life connections that A Song of Ice and Fire has with history (along with mythology, anthropology, and more), I wouldn’t understand my favorite series. And even just writing these two blog posts has helped me to think about new topics as I wait for Martin to write his newest book and for the fifth season of Game of Thrones to come out so I can have yet another piece to add to my collection.

IMG_6185 A picture of my poster



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