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Freedman, Carl

Entry updated 29 October 2021. Tagged: Critic.

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(1951-    ) US academic, literary theorist and author, James F Cassidy Professor of English at Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge). He began to publish essays of genre interest with "Style, Fiction, Science Fiction: The Case of Philip K Dick" in Styles of Creation, Aesthetic Technique and the Creation of Fictional Worlds (anth 1992) edited by Eric S Rabkin and George Slusser, and Philip K Dick remains one of the several standard authors who remain his central sources of citation. Others include Samuel R Delany, Robert A Heinlein, Ursula K Le Guin, China Miéville and Kim Stanley Robinson, with an almost invariable focus on their work as authors of Utopias (and Dystopias, a term he does not himself countenance in critical discourse). In 1999, he was awarded the Pioneer Award for Excellence in Scholarship for his 1998 article "Kubrick's 2001 and the Possibility of a Science-Fiction Cinema" (1998 Science Fiction Studies), he was given the Science Fiction Research Association's Pioneer Award.

Freedman remains best known for his first theoretical book, Critical Theory and Science Fiction (2000), eloquently arguing a loosened version of the Marxist claim that literary theory is not in fact literary theory (or is theory without merit) if it does not direct confront and cognitively transgress the presumptions and faiths that govern civilization in the West over the past two or more centuries. His indebtedness to the work of Fredric Jameson is clear, but the linchpin of his thought must be deemed to be his strenuous (though modified) acceptance of Darko Suvin's Definition of SF in terms of cognitive estrangement (see also Novum); his main concession to more broad-church readings of sf (and, reluctantly, fantasy) has been to argue that the relation between cognition and estrangement is liberatingly dynamic. The Incomplete Projects: Marxism, Modernity, and the Politics of Culture (2002) continues this welcome project. Given such a loosening, readerly apprehensions of Fantastika breathe more easily.

The Literary Conversations sequence of extended interviews with authors, beginning with Conversations with Isaac Asimov (2005), contain several sustained conversations of high quality. Essays on Marxism and China Miéville include "Speculative Fiction and International Law: The Marxism of China Miéville" (November 2006 Socialism and Democracy), "To the Perdido Street Station: The Representation of Revolution in China Miéville's Iron Council" (Summer 2005 Extrapolation) and "Towards a Marxist Urban Sublime: Reading China Miéville's King Rat" (Winter 2003 Extrapolation). Art and Idea in the Fiction of China Miéville (2015) deals witt six of China Miéville's novels, including the Bas-Lag trilogy and The City & the City (2009), with a focus on the dialectical cognitions which Freedman identifies as central to their outcomes. Two other recent publications, The Age of Nixon: A Study in Cultural Power (2012) and Versions of Hollywood Crime Cinema: Studies in Ford, Wilder, Coppola, Scorsese, and Others (2013), are works of cultural history that, while not primarily focused on sf, do contain sf related material.

Freedman won the Pilgrim Award for 2018. [JC/CPa]

Carl Howard Freedman

born North Carolina: 13 April 1951



works as editor


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