My whole academic and writing career has been the most heavily influenced by the writing of Charles Dickens - J. Palmer

J. Palmer
have written two books of literary criticism. My book, The Fiction of John Fowles, was the first book on that author. My book, Dickens and New Historicism, presented a theoretical reading of Dickens’s attitude in his fiction toward history......

Yubraj Aryal interviewed with a writer, William J. Palmer, on writing and literature. Writer Palmer has been teaching at Purdue University for 40 years and is the current Director of Graduate Studies for the English Department at Purdue University. He is the author of numerous books, both academic and creative. His areas of interest include New Historicism, sports and literature, feminist theory, and postmodernism. His novels are Victorian murder mysteries. )

Writer William Palmer you are welcome in this issue of our literary venture published in Nepal. Let me begin to question you from the area of writing and literature.

What are the books you have written so far and what do they in general deal with?

J. P.: The Fiction of John Fowles, was the first book on that author. My book, Dickens and New Historicism, presented a theoretical reading of Dickens’s attitude in his fiction toward history. I have also written 3 volumes of film history, again from a New Historicist perspective. They are titled The Films of the Seventies: A Social History, The Films of the Eighties: A Social History, and The Films of the Nineties: The Decade of Spin. And then, I have also published 4 novels all set in Victorian England and involving Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins as detectives solving fictional crimes.

Is there any of your oncoming work? What is it about?

J. P.: Metalife 21, or How Americans Deal With Reality. Based mainly on the thought of Jean Baudrillard and Jean Francois Lyotard, this book looks at the acute reality disconnect of 21st-Century life and the subsequent replacement of reality with many different forms of simulacra.

Whose works did you find the most influential in your writing career? How you be the recipient of that influence?

J. P.: Of course, my whole academic and writing career has been the most heavily influenced by the writing of Charles Dickens. My novels are all pastiches of his life and style. Early in my academic career I was also very heavily influenced by the thought of Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus and the whole philosophical extension to both life and literature of existentialism. I turned to film studies in mid-career and my work in film has been most powerfully influenced by the New Historicism movement in critical theory of the 80s and 90s. Then recently, I have embraced the challenges to the concepts of reality and history of Baudrillard and Lyotard. As a novelist, though, besides Dickens, Faulkner, Fowles and DeLillo have been major influences.

What forces within you urge you to write?

J. P.: I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since I was in high school because it was the one thing I really enjoyed doing. I have been very lucky that I got into academia because it has allowed me to write on my own schedule. I am a very methodical writer. I write every day from 7AM to noon in hopes that something exciting will happen and usually it does.

When you write whether you begin to philosophize or anesthetize social contents?

J. P.: My film history and criticism is especially cognizant of social contexts. My whole approach to film studies is that movies are the texts of the mass society of a time and place and culture. I have tried to portray this close relationship between film and contemporary society in the 70s, the 80s and the 90s.

You once told me that besides your English major you also did some minor courses in philosophy. Can you tell me what relationship philosophy keep with literature? Why philosophical knowledge is important for a writer?

J. P.: Yes, I did a minor in philosophy as an undergraduate and have continued to read philosophy all my life. With the critical theory explosion of the 70s and 80s my philosophy interest really came in handy because the philosophers – Derrida, Foucault, Bakhtin, ect. – led the critical theory movement especially in English departments.

Since you are also the Director of Graduate Studies in the English department at Purdue University, let me take this opportunity to ask: It seems that in today’s English department literary theory and philosophy has superseded to the value of generic forms of literature such as poetry, novel, drama etc.? Do you think so?

J. P.: I think that critical theory superseded literature for a while back in the 80s but by the 90s a balance was struck and now literature and theory have become collaboratory disciplines in most English departments.

Thank you for your kind interview contribution for our readers.

J. P.: My pleasure, Yubraj.

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