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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Monday, December 20, 2010


Back in this essay I wrote:

"the good critic needs both inductive and deductive skills to do his job"

Further, I specified that the inductive method best described those analytical skills with which a critic analyzed particular examples of a phenomenon and then strove to generalize based on the data garnered from said examples, while the deductive method best described the notion of putting forth a theoretical schema and analyzing phenomena in line with that schema.

Of the two, the utility of "categories," which I addressed at the end of this previous essay, seems far more greater for the purpose of deductive, highly theoretical analysis as opposed to inductive, quasi-empirical analysis.

As example, Aristotle's POETICS uses both. Inductive logic is employed when the philosopher discusses the effects that a "medium" has on the production of art (particularly music). However, when Aristotle formulates his generalization about the "power of action" concept-- in which it's generalized that the power of narrative protagonists has to be either average, greater than average or less than average-- that's deductive logic.

That's not to say every use of categories is insightful. Tzvetan Todorov's schema regarding his concept of the uncanny, fantastic, and marvelous follows the same logical process as does Aristotle's argument: what one might even call "the Goldilocks paradigm." However, as I noted earlier Todorov's schema has too little wide applicability because it is too focused upon the concept in the "middle" position, so that his analyses of the other two axes of his schema suffer as a result.

Nevertheless, where matters of fictional narrative are concerned, it's generally better (diverging from Goldilocks here) to have too many choices than too few. Arguably even in inductive logic the logician chooses, consciously or otherwise, certain common factors from which he seeks to generalize from his particular examples. If some factors are excluded in favor of others, this may be less a valid analysis and more a validation of one's own personal tastes, or the tastes of a culture which one has come to internalize.

In JONNYQUESTING PART 2 I alluded to a naive form of this subconscious exclusion. I gave examples of comments by JONNY QUEST's creators Doug Wildey and Joe Barbera to the effect that they might have wished to have modeled their cartoon-creation more after the realistic vein of Milton Caniff's TERRY AND THE PIRATES than of, say, the TOM SWIFT books. This would not be a surprising preference for either man to champion, since both men grew up in a culture that almost always valorized "realism" over "fantasy."

Inductive procedures are largely useless for correcting cultural prejudices, for they cannot construct a schema capable of taking in the divergent narrative strategies of "literary realism" and "literary fantasy." In contrast, a deductive study of an "all-ages" cartoon like JONNY QUEST can show how those strategies are realized in different but equally-appealing types of stories-- but those strategies can only be seen with the aid of careful categorization.

Admittedly this process would be anathema to the creators who created such wild-and-woolly pulp-stories, but as Northrop Frye said:

"A snowflake is probably quite unconscious of forming a crystal, but what it does may be worth study even if we are willing to leave its inner mental processes alone."

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