Featured Post


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, July 16, 2012


Just a quick preface to the promised sequel to HERO AND VILLAIN, MONSTER AND VICTIM:

At the end of Part 2 of WHEN TITANS GET CROSS-COMPARED I assigned to each Fryean mythos a trinity of Schopenhauer-derived qualities:

ADVENTURE // "subjective" // "pleasure principle" // homogeneity of percept and concept, so "serious"
DRAMA // "objective" // "reality principle" // homogeneity of percept and concept, so "serious"
IRONY // "objective" // "reality principle" // heterogenity of percept and concept, so "humorous"
COMEDY // "subjective" // "pleasure principle" // heterogeneity of percept and concept, so "humorous"

In Part 2 I'll be exploring how comedy is heterogenous to its dominant pleasure principle whereas adventure is homogenous toward the same principle, as well as irony in comparison with drama in the same constellation.

But given the fact that Freud's famous two principles include a reference to "reality," I first want to make clear that when I say that "reality" dominates the drama and the irony, I'm talking about a principle that overarcs two other principles introduced earlier: those of "thematic realism" and "thematic escapism."  I explored these two concepts with some attention to their effects in BACK TO BATAILLE 2:

... my "works of thematic realism" are characterized by a greater degree of *assertorial gravity* than the opposing kind, while "works of thematic escapism" are characterized by a greater degree of *assertorial levity.* 
Keeping that in mind, I want to specify that this applies to thematic concerns only, and not to their opppsite, the *narrative* concerns, the question as to how the narrative itself works.

It should be clear that even though popular fiction's thematic values are closer to escapism, in a narrative sense they still follow the same patterns as works of thematic realism. 

Thus, when I say that HARRY POTTER, being a drama, is dominated by the reality principle, this means in terms of its narrative values.  One might decide that another drama involving magical characters-- let us say Shakespeare's TEMPEST-- is more devoted to thematic concerns of the realistic, rather than the escapist, variety.

*Even saying that,* it's quite possible that in a *narrative* sense, POTTER and TEMPEST can be equals no matter how they diverge in thematic terms. Narratively both Potter and Prospero follow the purgative processes of the drama, in which they survive peril but are somewhat compromised by their efforts. 

Naturally, the same principles apply across the board to the other mythoi; my other earlier examples-- BUFFY, MARSHAL LAW, and RANMA 1/2-- belong like POTTER to the world of thematic escapism.  I emphasize that narrative concerns and thematic concerns are not identical because so many critics over the last century have misunderstood this basic facet of literature.

No comments: