Author framing and canon negotiations
The Donkeyskin and Bluebeard readings in Chapters 4 and 5 show how a story can define ‘the permissible’ and ‘the forbidden’ via the structure of the story. But these readings also raise questions around the authorship of stories and how it affects the way these stories fit into the canon. Some of these textbooks’ authors resemble tour guides, introducing the discipline’s ‘permissible’ main sites, while others approach the task of introducing as one of shaping and defining. The way authors describe this task is important in understanding how a story’s presentation can matter as much as its content in the extent to which IR is, by default, constructed as a ‘social science’. It is often visible in authors’ framing gestures. These gestures are integral to understanding how textbooks (re)produce canonical stories that reinforce as ‘natural’ assumptions which reflect IR’s aspiration to be a ‘social science’.1 Framing gestures also have implications for whose stories are considered legitimate canonical contributions. This chapter explores how framing gestures can indicate that the textbook is either merely reflecting the discipline, or that the textbook is a more complicated site that engages with the political process by which the discipline is constructed. Framing is not just about what role the author and the textbook play in defining IR, but also what it means to do IR in terms of reflexivity, and how much the politics of defining are considered a part of IR. Authors’ claims about what it means to write a textbook play an important role in how the story is framed. This is particularly the case with claims to accurate representation of IR or, conversely, authors’ descriptions of the tasks of writing and reading textbooks as part of the processes of use and abuse (see Chapter 2) and negotiation that construct IR. Framing gestures like a frame tale may allow authors to reflect on the process of writing a story within the story. However, other framing gestures such as drawing on a mythologized ‘original source’ from which a tale is (supposedly) accurately recorded can indicate an absence of reflection. These gestures impact on how the story negotiates the boundaries of what counts as a story of IR. In fairy tales, these framing gestures had a profound effect on how a fairy tale was defined and in turn helped to delimit canonical boundaries. Gestures such as the Grimms’ claims to accurately record and curate the genre reified rules about what it meant to write a fairy tale, both via their claims and through their reiteration of stories following specific structure and style rules. The Grimm’s status as
‘experts’, combined with the widespread acceptance of their stories as fairy tales, established their work as a reference point. Dissimilar stories were excluded from the genre for deviating from this ‘standard’. Conversely, the Conteuses’ habit of setting their stories in salon conversations and the framing used by contemporary folklorists such as Atwood and Carter emphasize the role use and abuse of stories plays in creating their stories. Both the invitation to (re)write stories and the frequent reflection on the process of writing a fairy tale contests and destabilizes the strict criteria for defining fairy tales. When combined with the stories fairy tales tell about ‘the forbidden’ and ‘the permissible’, framing gestures have implications for what gets to count as a canonical text and for how ‘the rules’ negotiated in these stories are presented as static or negotiable. How a textbook tells stories about IR is a significant part of understanding how definitions of IR, particularly as a ‘social science’, can become either fixed or flexible. The gestures used to frame textbooks’ stories about the ‘permissible’ and ‘forbidden’ play an equally important role in negotiating canonical boundaries. Two kinds of author framing, resembling similar gestures in fairy tales, are particularly apt for describing how these gestures manifest in textbooks. The claim to curate via the accurate and impartial recounting of a story about IR helps to solidify the boundaries of what gets to count, both by reinforcing what the story defines as ‘permissible’/‘forbidden’ and in terms of what it means to tell a story about the discipline. By treating the story as fixed or finished, the rules within the story are also treated as non-negotiable. Alternatively, efforts to delineate a story about IR as one of many and to emphasize the process by which the author (re)created and readers might also (re)create that story form gestures of creation. These gestures invite readers to (re)negotiate stories via processes of use and abuse, allowing for revision, (re)writing and (re)invention. This treats the boundaries of what counts as a story about IR as fluid and constantly available for (re)negotiation.