Saturday, May 16, 2015

PRACTICALLY INCONSUMMATE IN EVERY WAY

I said at the end of PLAYING WITH FUNCTIONS that I'd seek to find examples of the four potentialities that might be more accessible than the novels I cited (GONE WITH THE WIND being the only one of the four that is widely read these days). But it's occurred to me that since I revived the concept of the potentialities alongside the Langerian concept of consummation, adapted here with application to literary merit.

I chose "potentialities" as the term for these four types of relationship between literary elements because such elements are not "given," like physical elements. The author is, as Tolkien rightly says, a "sub-creator," and for a work to succeed with respect to any of the potentialities, a significant number of readers must feel that all or at least most of the proper elements are well enough assembled that the work feels "finished," which is the definition of the adjective "consummate," But when the audience feels that the work is "unfinished" in some way-- i.e., "inconsummate"-- the result is audience dissatisfaction. Of course, "consummate" and "inconsummate" will never replace common terms like "good" and "bad," or even "cool" and " sucky." But I believe that they are not only more accurate with respect to the vagaries of taste, the dichotomy allows one to explore the potentialities with a somewhat more objective eye.

I've stated in a general way that most works are dominated by a particular potentiality, but here I want to state that my principle of centricity applies to the potentialities as much as to mythos. In JUNG AND SOVEREIGNTY I stated:

 One of the key features of my ongoing theory is the notion that every coherent narrative, even if it contains elements of all four of Northrop Frye's mythoi, only one of the mythoi dominates the narrative.... I find it interesting that even though Frye does not invoke Jung's four psychological functions (sensation, intuition, thinking, feeling), Frye's "logic of dominance" (my term) mirrors the logic Jung uses to assert that only one of the psychological functions can be dominant when it is in a "conscious" state. 

The same logic pertains to the potentialities. In FOUR BY FOUR I used Dave Sim's CEREBUS as an example of a work dominated by the potentiality of "the didactic." (And though I've never stated it outright, its overall structure conforms to the mythos of the Fryean irony.) The same "logic of dominance" pertains to both. CEREBUS contains elements characteristic of the drama, the comedy, and the adventure, but overall the elements of the irony dominate. And like all works that are primarily about "thinking," its potentiality is dominated by the didactic. Elements of the kinetic, the dramatic and the mythopoeic are all present, but they don't inform what Frye would call the "total vision" of the work.

Now, since Sim was a superlative (if problematic) artist, even the "inferior potentialities" are generally well executed, even if they are "side dishes" to the main entree. So in none of my four categories do I consider Sim's work "inconsummate."  In contrast, if a work seeks to craft even a side dish, and does so in an unsatisfactory manner, then the work is inconsummate with respect to that potentiality. For instance, in this essay I judged that Mark Millar's WANTED fails in the domain of the dramatic. Dramatic relations are certainly not the focus of WANTED, but since Millar fails in this department as much as he does in the centric area of WANTED-- that is, the sensation-oriented "kinetic"-- then in these two areas the work is inconsummate.

Similarly, Millar botches any mythopoeic elements that might have been inherent in his proposition that "this is what happens when the villains win." So WANTED is inconsummate with respect to those three potentialities.

But is it fair to view WANTED as having failed in the domain of the didactic? Millar isn't really dealing with abstract ideas at all; he doesn't even bother to lend any intellectual rationalizations to the characters' actions. I would probably judge the potentiality of the didactic to be inconsummate as well, but in a different way than the others. It's not so much "tried to run the marathon and failed to complete it" as "didn't even show up at the starting-post."

ADDENDA: I should add that it's certainly possible for an author to use one of his non-centric potentialities in a minimal fashion, yet still prove satisfying and thus "consummate" with respect to that potentiality. Spielberg's RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, like Millar's WANTED, is primarily intended to evoke the audience's thrill in pure kineticism, and so like WANTED, the other three potentialities are all used to a lesser extent. Yet whereas WANTED fails to support its extravagance with any hint of abstract concepts, RAIDERS evokes didactic concepts-- like modern man's indebtedness to ancient history-- to a degree which is satisfying even though it remains even more minimal than the film's dramatic and mythopoeic components.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

PLAYING WITH FUNCTIONS

Not the artist alone but every creative individual whatsoever owes all that is greatest in his life to fantasy. The dynamic principle of fantasy is play, a characteristic also of the child, and as such it appears inconsistent with the principle of serious work. But without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable." (Jung, PSYCHOLOGICAL TYPES, 1921, page 63.)
I regard sensation as conscious, and intuition as unconscious, perception. For me sensation and intuition represent a pair of opposites, or two mutually compensating functions, like thinking and feeling. Thinking and feeling as independent functions are developed, both ontogenetically and phylogenetically, from sensation (and equally, of course from intuition as the necessary counterpart of sensation).-- more Jung.

In the third essay of the series THE ONLY DEFINITION OF ART YOU'LL EVER NEED, I started from Jung's proposition that art should be fundamentally defined as "play," but that so-called "serious art" and "escapist art" respectively would have to be separated out as "play for work's sake" and "play for play's sake."

From this secondary proposition I articulated, in JOINED AT THE TRIP PT. 4, a schema for assigning merit to each of these art-modes. By the design of this schema, both "good serious art" and "mediocre serious art" would be equal in terms of being "play for work's sake," that is, the narratives of serous art are designed so that the author can put forth some sort of ethical or moral argument. Yet, perhaps paradoxically, I stated that the superior "serious narrative" was one which successfully incorporated elements of play into its "work-oriented" theme. William Faulkner's LIGHT IN AUGUST possessed a "work-oriented" theme comparable to that of J.M. Coetzee's DISGRACE, but Faulkner's novel succeeds on more than one level because the author allowed some elements of play to leaven his serious theme.

Similarly, I stated that even though both Mitchell's GONE WITH THE WIND and Dixon's CLANSMAN were escapist works, ruled by the principle of "play for play's sake," of imagining the world as one might like it to be rather than as it is. Of these two works, Mitchell's was superior because I could discern that she had incorporated elements of work into a "play-oriented theme." I viewed the verisimilitude that Mitchell conferred on her character-types to be one such element of work, and as such one that seems to have been deficient in THE CLANSMAN, though I admitted that I made this judgment purely from viewing the D.W. Griffith film.

But what, a hostile critic might ask, does it really mean to speak of "elements of play" and "elements of work?"

Just as I endorse Jung's opinion with regard to the "dynamic principle" underlying all creative work, the father of depth psychology also provides the answer to this question.

Not mentioned in the second Jung-quote above is that Jung also divided his four functions into two distinct categories: "the irrational," sensation and intuition, in that no rational meditation is needed for them, and "the rational," thinking and feeling, which both require what Jung calls "reflection."

Given my endorsement of these divisions of the human psyche, I found myself applying these to literary qualities.  In a rough way I was influenced by Gerald Mast's 1984 work of cinema-theory, FILM/CINEMA/MOVIE, in which he argued for evaluating films in terms of both "the mimetic" (the film's ability to reproduce verisimilitude) and "the kinetic" (the film's ability to make the audience feel sensations within their imagined experience). So far as I know Mast's theory was not followed up by later film-critics, and I may be the only one to do so, even though I thoroughly re-interpreted his duality into a quaternity of what I called "potentialities," as stated in FOUR BY FOUR:

The KINETIC is a potentiality that describes the relationships of sensations.
The DRAMATIC is a potentiality that describes the relationships of discrete personalities.
The THEMATIC is a potentiality that can describe the relationships of abstract ideas.
The MYTHOPOEIC is a potentiality that may describe the relationships of symbols.
(I will henceforth substitute a new name, "the DIDACTIC," to replace "THEMATIC," which word is too easily confused with its more commonplace literary usage.)


I also cited two very brief examples as to how given works in the comics medium might emphasize one or another of the Jungian functions/ Phillipsian potentialities, with a concomitant de-emphasis of the others:

I might attempt to use Jung's function-terms to assert that Dave Sim's cerebral CEREBUS privileges the function of "thinking" more than any other, and that Frank Miller's SIN CITY privileges the function of "sensation." But though it's easy to make such an assertion, it's less easy to demonstrate its truth through textual examples.

I don't plan at this time to develop the theory of the four potentialities, since it's difficult to isolate the operations of each function from the others. But my hypothetical answer to my hypothetical hostile critic would be:

"The elements of play" are those that invoke the irrational kinetic and mythopoeic potentialities of the narrative.

"The elements of work" are those that invoke the rational thinking and feeling potentialities of the narrative.

Again, to a hostile critic, these refinements would still not resonate, but to pursue the concept further, I'll return to the examples cited in JOINED AT THE TRIP PT. 4.

What "realistic" elements are held in common by LIGHT IN AUGUST and DISGRACE?  Both novels are organized around scapegoat-characters. In the Faulkner novel, the character is Joe Christmas, a man who may or may not be half-black, who becomes the lightning-rod for white-black relations in 1930s Mississippi. The same is the case for the Coetzee novel, where the character David Lurie, a white man in South Africa, generates a white-black conflict based in the heritage of European imperialism. Neither novel emphasizes the irrational function of sensation, and so their potentiality for the *kinetic* is mutually nugatory. However, Faulkner's comprehension of the mythopoeic relationships of his narrative far exceed those of Coetzee.

What "escapist" elements are held in common by GONE WITH THE WIND and THE CLANSMAN? Both novels are organized around the sufferings of a community. oppressed by the liberation of slaves in the Deep South. That greater community is boiled down to the sufferings of a particular white family: the O'Haras in the Mitchell narrative, the Stonemans in the Dixon narrative. In both novels one solution to the South's oppression is the formation of a vigilante group, the Ku Klux Klan, though this solution is the main thrust of Dixon and a side-plot in Mitchell. Neither novel is strong on the "abstract ideas" necessary to support the rational function of thinking, and so their potentiality for the *didactic* is mutually nugatory. However, Mitchell's narrative finds its strength in the potentiality of "feeling," given that it manages to conjure forth a rich tapestry of character interactions, an arena in which Dixon's story cannot compete.

All four of these examples, of course, depend on one's having read the novels. In the coming months it may be possible to provide more extended applications of this theory-- a conflation of the work-play dichotomy and the four potentialities-- to media-works that are, at very least, easier to assimilate.

Monday, May 11, 2015

PROFILING, WITHOUT COURAGE

PROFILING: The use of personal characteristics or behavior patterns to make generalizations about a person, as in gender profiling.-- Dictionary.com

The title of this essay references a work that is no longer well known, and which I myself never read: John F. Kennedy's 1957 non-fiction work PROFILES IN COURAGE. My title thus may be a forced pun in that it must be explained. Still, the sentiment behind the title best describes my revulsion at the lack of courage evident in Aaron Kashtan's essay "The End of Comic Geeks," in that he resorts to profiling the only group a psuedo-intellectual can easily get away with attacking: what the author calls"straight white males."

Kashtan begins by accepting a stereotype of comics fandom that he fails to prove, but accepts as a given, just as a hardline conservative would accept that all welfare recipients are sponges:

In comics, for example, the comics industry has a notorious history of excluding women and younger readers - and there is a persistent and largely accurate stereotype of the comic book store as a man cave. 

Naturally Kashtan has no interest in the proximate causes behind the purported market-dominance of straight white males (henceforth SWMs). A halfway-intelligent critic would have noted that comic books of the post-direct market phase became concentrated upon superheroes because only superhero fans were significantly loyal to the medium. Once the mass-distribution venues for commercial comics died out, most readers of all the other genres-- particularly the romance comics that once attracted a large audience of "browsing" readers-- simply sought their entertainment in other media. But for a critic like Kashtan, the only thing that matters is the verboten attempt of the SWMs to build a "man cave" that excludes women. I'm convinced that this is the real sin of the SWMs in Kashtan's eyes, for though he mentions "younger readers" in the above quote, his only proofs of the SWM's retrograde behavior are both focused on the maltreatment of women, real or imaginary. Nothing more is said about the marginalization of younger readers, though it would seem obvious to anyone with a non-childish mind that this too came about because publishers were seeking an audience with a dependable income-- in contrast to the "younger readers" who largely deserted the comics medium even before the medium lost its mass distributiion venues.

There follows a summary of alleged SWMs on the rampage in the worlds of gamer culture and science fiction, Kashtan seeks to find in comics a comparable "backlash from white men who are afraid of losing their dominant position."

Kashtan gets very slight points for admitting that comics fandom has not experienced any backlashes as "drastic" as those of science fiction fandom and gamer culture-- though I've had my reservations about the latter.  However, since his case would be non-existent without some examples, Kashtan comes up with a couple, both of which I consider nugatory.



The second-cited of the two is the Janelle Asselin fracas, on which I've commented in detail already here. The first-cited is even less impressive, in that Kashtan provides a dumbed-down version of the controversy over the Rafael Albuquerque cover to BATGIRL #41. As most fans know, the artist pulled the cover from DC Comics-- which makes me wonder if he got paid a "kill fee" for his work-- because he didn't want to be a lightning-rod for the controversy, "whether the discussion is right or wrong." There is, in Kashtan's world, no possibility that those fans who campaigned for DC to go ahead and use the cover might have been concerned with artistic freedom in the face of political pressure. In Kashtan's world, where it's fair to profile SWMs but nobody else, this brand of advocacy can only be "fanboy backlash," devoted to keeping the medium "as the private property of men."

Note that at this point Kashtan isn't invoking his demon "straight white males," but only "straight males." I suppose that any objection to attacks on white people will be deemed as a defense of "white privilege" by superficial ultraliberals, but it ought to be deemed as a corrective to the ultraliberals' excessive and illogical arguments. As I stated before, I have no problem with the hypothesis that most or all of the respondents to Asselin's survey were probably straight males, although of course females may also make violent threats, as we've seen from the Whedon-tweet affair. (Significantly, while Joss Whedon has denied that the threats were the reason he left Twitter, he also specified "I have been attacked by militant feminists since I got on Twitter.") Still, as I mentioned in a previous essay, there is absolutely no way to know, in the absence of any arrests and identifications, that any of the persons threatening Janelle Asselin were white. This is a convenient fiction found in Kashtan and many other HU writers, whose idea of promoting inclusiveness is to resort to unjustified and unprovable racial profiling.

Another good one, HU. I'm sure this won't be the last of your bird-brained efforts at prosecuting the "war for social justice."

CURSE OF THE BLACK WHEDON-TWEETS

I won't go into a lot of detail excoriating the idiocies of the hardline feminists who allegedly chased Joss Whedon off Twitter. However, here's a refutation of these clowns that I wrote for the Classic Comics Forum:

________________

I have a view contrary to [what some critics have called] the Smurfette Principle. 

The first is that, to some extent, the two AVENGERS film are victim to the same problem that dogged the earliest issues of the comic book: what do you do when you've got a group with at least four heavy-hitting heroes? We don't know exactly why Stan Lee chose to dispense with the heavy-hitters and try to sell the title with "Cap's Kooky Quartet." But since Lee's bottom line was always to sell more books, I'd speculate that he knew he couldn't really exploit the Marvel Approach to Character Conflict by using the team-up schema that worked so well for DC. Therefore Thor, Hulk and Iron Man were cast out to allow for more latitude in character-conflict, and for a time the group's biggest hitter was Giant-Man/Goliath, who didn't have his own feature any more and so could enjoy all of his dramatic arcs within the sphere of the AVENGERS comic. 




Unlike Lee, Whedon didn't have a choice: the AVENGERS movie-franchise was always meant to follow the pattern of DC's Justice League, exploiting the big-name heroes in both their own features and as part of a group.  So Whedon had to include Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, and Captain America (who's not precisely a heavy-hitter but does have an impregnable shield). Hawkeye and Black Widow were spotlighted in their first appearances through the connections with SHIELD, so that they would eventually provide, within the AVENGERS film-franchise, a contrast to all the heavy super-powers, in that they were closer to ordinary mortals. This is pretty much the same function that "low-powered" heroes like Hawkeye and the Wasp served in the AVENGERS comic-- or, if you prefer a LEGION parallel, Bouncing Boy and Dream Girl.

So if you've got a team of super-gods for which you, the writer, have to provide a credible challenge, you can't take time out to figure, "now how can I come up with something for non-powered Black Widow to do, that allows her to shine?" A single story in a comic can give a low-powered hero a featured position while the big stars are sidelined. A high-FX film like ULTRON can't do that; the low-powered heroes, both Hawkeye and Black Widow were never going to get featured positions. 





And that's why I become so torqued off at people like Whedon's critics. They're not thinking about whether what they want is do-able within a particular context; they JUST WANT IT.

Now if the group had written in She-Hulk and given her nothing to do-- that would be the Smurfette Principle.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

THE SIR WALTER REFLEX

One more quick observation on the subject mentioned in my last post:

It occurs to wonder, why would NB be so intemperate about an offhand post that did not directly assail the pro-feminist beliefs of the essay under discussion. My post on the subject of the Asselin-CBR imbroglio wasn't even a matter of playing devil's advocate. It was on the level of "crossing a T" with respect to the reportage of factual news.

Yet, in a thread referenced here, I made copious direct comments in express opposition to another poster's ultraliberal views on race, as well as those of NB himself, and NB never threatened me with deletion.

I theorize that NB's attitude re: feminism is rooted in the "Sir Walter Reflex," a reflex that comes into play only when a male debater thinks that he is acting in the defense of womanhood.

I didn't name the reflex, but I witnessed it before while responding to another "hit-and-run" excuse for a critic, Chicken Colin. In his Sequart hatchet job on one of my essays, he tried to claim, falsely, that Kelly Thompson didn't need him to defend her. Yet when Thompson chose not to engage me in prolonged debate, the Chicken attacked my analysis of Thompson's essay in terms that were, like NB's, oriented on painting me as a male chauvinist.

The only thing that separates NB and CC is that even though both are equally oriented on defending womankind from the Evil Chauvinists, NB at least engaged me a few more times than the utterly cowardly Chicken.

I won't even get into the extent to which the views of Dave Sim-- as incoherent as they were-- were assailed not for their incoherence but for their failure to support an unquestioned ultraliberal narrative.

HOW CAN SOMEONE SO WRONG THINK HE'S SO RIGHT?

Yes, it's time for another round of that overly familiar game show, "Someone on the Internet is Wrong."

Don't get me wrong: I support free speech, no matter what sort of ultraconservative or ultraliberal tripe it may produce. The tripe this week comes from my most frequent source of the ultraliberal variety, Noah Berlatsky. I'm sure that this won't be the last time he spins some web of ragged logic for me to rip apart on this blog. However, this week will almost certainly be the last time I'll say anything on his blog, for which small favor I'm sure he'll be grateful beyond all words-- or rather, all deletions.

I've tried to minimize comments on Berlatsky's blog because, as I said recently, there's never any genuine discussion there, just endless citations of the "right" way of political thinking.  Given the mindset of the blog's owner and his contributors, I made my infrequent posts there not for any profit--  I knew I wouldn't get many persons from that community checking out my blog, and even if I had, I don't participate in Googlebucks or whatever it's called anyway. I just did it to furnish myself with subjects on which to expatiate here. Usually I've dealt with impersonal critical principles, but this time-- it's personal.

Well, personal and boring, even to me. But needs must when the devil drives, etc.

So the other day I scanned a HU essay with an apocalyptic title, "The End of Comic Geeks?", by one Aaron Kashtan. I didn't read it in depth, though I soon encountered the phrase "straight white men," a standard trope in the diatribes of over-politicized, and therefore bad, critics. I had no thought of engaging with Kashtan or his editor on this particular article of faith.

I did, however, notice one item in Kashtan's essay that was presented as yet another "article of faith," though it actually should be governed by "burden of proof," and it regards the Janelle Asselin Imbroglio from April of last year. Kashtan first referenced the TEEN TITANS review with which the incident began:


Asselin was hardly saying anything controversial here. It’s pretty obvious that this cover is not only terrible but also misogynistic. And yet just for pointing out this obvious fact, she was not only criticized but threatened with rape. At the same time that she published the article, she released a survey on sexual harassment in the comics industry, which is also a significant problem, and some unfortunate trolls discovered this survey and filled it in by posting rape threats against Asselin. According to CBR proprietor Jonah Weiland, “These same “fans” found her e-mail, home address and other personal information, and used it to harass and terrorize her, including an attempted hacking of her bank account.” And according to Jonah, many of the fans in question were regular participants on the comicbookresources.com message boards


I had commented on the matter myself more than once. particularly in the essay DANCING ON THE DWARF.  In that essay I expressed my reservations about the Internet news-community having reported Wieland's allegations as fact. These allegations imply that Wieland had indubitable information on the identity of these fans, which, if true, should have led to the arrest and prosecution of said fans. I was not able to find any evidence of such an investigation except for what Asselin wrote about her unsuccessful attempts to get the law or her bank to trace the culprits. The DANCING blogpost still contains a viable link to that Asselin post, in which she states that her only evidence against comics-fans was that circumstantial. I chose to point that out to Kashtan and the readers of the Hooded Utilitarian.

Did I rant and rave to the HU readers that they were mindless dupes of a FemiNazi hoax? Hardly. I confined myself to making a very mild objection to reporting Wieland's allegations as unvarnished fact.


Though you [Kashtan] have quoted as printed Jonah Wieland’s view that CBR fans attempted to hack Janelle Asselin’s account, it should be noted that this was not decisively proven. This was not for Asselin’s lack of trying, but unless she’s written something new about the matter, I understood that in her last word on the subject amounted to circumstantial evidence. I print this excerpt from my blogpost on the subject, which mentions the title of the only related Asselin post of which I’m aware.“This Janelle Asselin blogpost, entitled “An Explanation No One is Owed,” clarifies that Asselin (a) was unable to interest the FBI in the investigation of the rape threats that appeared on her online survey, and (b) had only circumstantial– though not improbable– evidence that one or more of her harassers had been complicit in the attempt on her bank account."

Here is Noah Berlatsky's response, delivered as if it were a general statement of his personal priorities. Since no one else on the thread has demurred against any aspect of Kashtan's pro-feminist narrative, it's clearly directed at me, though Berlatsky did not have the stones to address me.


You know, on second thought, there’s no particular reason to tolerate extended MRA nattering by random passersby on this thread. So…yeah, I’ll just delete that stuff. Fair warning. 


Berlatsky clearly chose this tack to discourage engagement, not just in the sense of a direct argument but in any continued postings. As soon as any administrator shakes the "delete" club, it's axiomatic that he would rather have the source of disturbance just go away entirely. Berlatsky is so eager to have this happen that he not only describes a mere two paragraphs as "extended," he decides to label me as "MRA." This abbreviation can mean either "Men's Right Activists" or "Men Run Amok" (the latter may or may not have evolved from the former). There's no knowing what NB really meant, given his history of posturing, but to be charitable, let's say the former was intended.

To "natter" is to jabber about unimportant matters. One would have to deduce from this that NB does not regard as important the question as to whether Jonah Wieland's allegations have any hard evidence to back them up. To be concerned with such niceties, it seems, gets in the way of the pro-feminist narrative that NB has put forth in roughly the same terms as those of Kashtan. Therefore, any counter-narrative must be the work of someone trying to protect the image of men from the complaints of women.

I'm sure that if NB read my blog, he'd manage to seize on something that he considered proof of this
opinion. But it takes a major mental leap to take the statement that Wieland's assertions lack hard evidence, and turn it into a defense of innocent fans-who-think-it's-funny-to-make-rape-threats.

This, of course, I have not done. In the above essay I referred to them as "scumbags" and expressed no doubt that comics-fans had assailed Asselin's online questionnaire about the comics-industry, since no one but comics-fans would have any interest in such a survey. But despite Asselin's circumstantial evidence, there are a lot of illegal hackers out there who routinely seek to break into bank accounts, and that fact should be out there, even if it does weaken the desired narrative.

So it's not about "men's rights;" it's about "burden of proof." Kashtan could have written roughly the same thing about the rape threats on the survey, and I would have said nothing. I would have liked to have pointed out that there would still be no evidence that all of the perpetrators are necessarily "straight white men," that Black and Latino men have their own history of woman-bashing. But I probably would not have bothered to point that out to someone who invokes the scapegoat of "straight white men" in such facile terms.

NB's response is a masterpiece of doublethink; of seeing what he wants to see. In ultraconservative terms, it ranks with the petty furor of people who don't like to hear "Happy Holidays" usurp "Merry Christmas."

So, assuming that NB keeps his word to delete any post of mine that he finds objectionable, here's my farewell post to HU-- always assuming that it will be deleted as promised.


Well, since no one would make such an absurd post without intending to use it as an excuse to get rid of an unpopular poster, I take Noah's dubious word that what I now post will be read only by him, and will be gone by morning.
Yes, Noah, it's your blog, so if you want to say that the sun rises in the west, or a statement about a lack of hard evidence constitutes a defense of Men's Rights, then you can make those definitions. They're chickenshit definitions, and it's a chickenshit way to justify getting rid of someone who disagrees with you, but you have every right to be chickenshit.
Kashtan, same to you. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

SACRED AND PROFANE VIOLENCE PART 4

To sum up the arguments for the previous three installments, with an eye toward concluding this line of thought:

In Part 1, I asserted that one might view the manifestations of sex and violence within fiction as sources of 'violence" that served to propel and thus create the narrative. This extra-diegetical "violence" is the one referenced in the title of the essay-series, and I probably should have given it another name, to distinguish it from diegetical violence-- perhaps "disruption," in line with the Frank Cioffi quote cited in Part 1.

In Part 2, I chose to explore the real-world alignment of sex and violence with the proclivities of, respectively, the females and males of the human species, as dictated by biological development.  Yet I specified that biology did not entirely define destiny; that it was possible for either real-world sex to perform a bouleversement with regard to dominant proclivities, a turnabout which would be the subject of Part 3.

In Part 3, I referenced an earlier essay-series in which I had investigated a similar bouleversement in the works of two of the philosophers who have influenced me. I did this in order to keep this line of thought distinct from my own meditations on a parallel turnabout, formulated by me alone, though other critics have certainly discussed similar archetypal figures, notably Camille Paglia. I termed these archetypes after a couple of their appearances in Greek myth: "Adonis, the Loving Man" and "Athena, the Fighting Woman." I then digressed to the subject of assigning merit to these-- or any-- archetypes when they appeared in fiction. This was the point at which I attempted to elucidate a meaning for the "sacred and profane" in my title, which, when extended from its Durkheimian definition into the realm of fiction, translates to something more like "widely significant and not very significant." This line of thought will be expanded on in a separate essay. I concluded the essay by stating that I would explore the "two turnabout archetypes" in terms of the ways they enhance the Bataillean concept of "narrative violence," henceforth "disruption," the specific source of the narrative's conflict, which as specified here may manifest in the mode of the dynamic or the mode of the combinatory. Since I've already critiqued several individual comics-stories for my "1001 myths"series, I'll draw upon two of those for my examples.

This essay on NEW MUTANTS #62 is one of the few occasions on which I dealt with a figure that conforms to the Adonis archetype. This character is the semi-villainous character of Manuel, who in this story forms a romantic connection of sorts with the character of Amara, one of the featured members of the titular group. "To Build a Fire" is a two-character story, dealing with the way in which Amara and Manuel attempt to survive in the Amazon rainforest. I noted in my analysis that Manuel's psychic persuasion-powers were "stereotypically female," while Amara's power-- the ability to manifest volcanic flames-- is far more potent. There is a conflict of dynamicity present, in that both teens are in danger from the jungle's denizens-- a signal irony, since Amara wants to preserve the jungle, refusing to use her power to create a signal-fire (hence the title). However, the primary conflict is of a combinatory nature, in that it deals with the "war between men and women," and the suspense is not so much "will the two teens survive" as it is "will they make sense of their feelings about one another?" In contrast to Amara, who possesses a kick-ass "male" power, Manuel's only influence over Amara is his male charm, enhanced by his mutant power-- though Manuel fits the Adonis mold in that he's strikingly handsome. He verges away from the male superhero mold in that he frequently evinces cowardice and selfishness, but this reversal is precisely what the story needs to bring forth Amara's own growth of consciousness.

For the archetype of the Fighting Woman, I cite this essay on RED SONJA #1 from-1977. This story takes particular interest for its inversion of the folkloric opposition of "the virgin and the unicorn," which in its usual telling claims that a wild unicorn will lose its wildness in the presence of a true virgin, and will lay its horned head in the virgin's lap. The SONJA story deals with a deep soul-bond between a unicorn and the titular swordswoman Red Sonja, who is not a virgin but has chosen to preserve her sexuality as if she were. She's also a swordswoman specifically because she was raped by men, which is an action that the story's villain Andar wishes to commit, in a figurative sense, upon her friend the unicorn. In this narrative the elements of the combinatory are certainly present, given that it belongs to the freewheeling genre of sword-and-sorcery fantasy. However, the archetype of this version of "Athena, Fighting Woman" is dominantly involved in a conflict of dynamicity: Sonja and her magical horse-friend against the depredations of a character whose name suggests a Greek word for "male."

Obviously, since I defined both stories as possessing a high mythicity, both of these stories would meet my criteria for being "consummate." I have not yet decided whether or not I'll try to come up with similar stories which would show these archetypes in an "inconsummate" form. Such stories would be by definition forgettable, and the only good reason to describe them would be to rail at their faults. So I may elect to allow this early CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN story to remain my go-to example of the inconsummate.