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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...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Just a quick note updating my assertions in SUBCATEGORICAL IMPERATIVES...

When I introduced the notion of "sub-" versions of the four mythoi, I was attempting to account for some of the irregularities that might seem to keep this or that work from fitting properly within a designated category.

In so doing I was, consciously or otherwise, following the paradigm created by Northrop Frye in ANATOMY OF CRITICISM.  In order to subsume a variety of works under his four categories of romance, tragedy, comedy and irony, Frye discusses each of these ritually-related categories in terms of its "phases."  As noted elsewhere, Frye conceived his categories as part of a seasonally-patterned cyclical activity, so for him there was no contradiction in seeing that the ritually-related category of comedy might have different phases, though all of those phases remained indisputably comic in essence.

Parenthetically, I've always wondered whether or not Frye was influenced in this conceit by William Butler Yeats' 1925 book A VISION, which had (as I remember from my college reading) a similar occupation with "phases" of consciousness.  But despite the fact that I used a quote by Yeats for my very first post here, I confess I haven't even looked at A VISION since college.

While I didn't have anything against Frye's phases, they didn't sing to me as did many other aspects of ANATOMY.  I thought it made more sense to speak of the irregularities in the four mythoi in terms of the way the way the "significant values" characteristic of a given mythos assumed either a "dominant" or "submissive" position in the narrative.

However, I never found myself using "sub-agonistic" or any of the others, so that in itself suggests that they weren't as useful as I had hoped.  These days I tend to characterize mythos-irregularities as arising from the ways in which the *dynamis* of plot or character may conflict.  An example of this system appears in the essay RISING AND FALLING STARS:

All works of "pure adventure" (in which both plot and character clearly evoke adventurous *dynamis*

Works in which the plot alone conveys the adventurous *dynamis* and overrides the character-*dynamis*, which belongs to another mythos

Works in which the characters alone convey the adventurous *dynamis* and override the plot-*dynamis*, which belongs to another mythos

Based on that contemporary preference, I'm sending "sub-agonistic," "sub-pathetic" and their kindred to the boneyard of unworkable terms.

As noted in STALKING THE PERFECT TERM: THE COMBATIVE, however, I may keep the distinction of "combative" and "subcombative," because it addresses a quality of narrative that is related to neither plot nor character, but to that element that Aristotle called "spectacle."

The employment of said terms, of course, requires a separate essay.

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