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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...

Saturday, July 7, 2012


At the beginning of the final section of GRAVITY'S CROSSBOW, I said that I had "discerned only two (though there may be more) universally applicable significant values" within the sphere of literature-- "signficant values" that in theory should apply to any characters in any literary genre thus far conceived.  As in Frye's formulation, "significant values" go hand-in-glove with the "narrative values" that determine what elements function within the narrative to erect the framework of that narrative, as opposed to the way they work to create a sense of extrinsic meaning.

One of the values I cited was *centricity.*  This functions as both values: a narrative must center around some "focal presence," or a group of presences-- usually characters who are human or have human-like responses, though on some occasions this function can be filled by simple "viewpoint characters" who react to a focal presence that is nothing more than a discrete phenomenon-- for instance, a bizarre environment like Lewis Carroll's Wonderland, within which viewpoint-character Alice can only stand as flummoxed witness.  This value does not require modification.

The other value was *dynamis.*  In NOTES ON NORTHROP FRYE AND THE NUM-THEORY I summed up the way Frye had assigned characters in terms of their "power of action" based on the schema from Aristotle's POETICS:

Whereas Aristotle’s division of *dynamis* has the fixed arrangement of an aristocratic pecking-order—noble / less noble / ignoble—Frye’s reformulation suggests a more Spenglerian vision of *dynamis*, in which human power of action becomes less and less efficacious as each mythos in its turn becomes less “romantic” and more “realistic.” 
Later in that essay I critiqued Frye's Spenglerian vision in terms of its applicability:

The most problematic aspect of Frye’s *dynamis* schema is that in its attempt to cohere with Aristotle’s pattern, it implies that “the marvelous” is located purely within the mythoi of myth and romance. I’m sure that, even staying within the confines of the canonical “high” literature with which Frye concerns himself, the scholar was quite cognizant that there exist many literary works which have marvelous content but which are not adventure-romances as Frye himself defines that mythos.
I concluded by saying, in part:

The real strength of Frye’s schema is to be found not in the implied “narrative values”— how each *dynamis* manifests in physical terms—but in terms of one “significant value” that more neatly characterizes each mythos, irrespective of whether its phenomenality is marvelous, uncanny, or naturalistic...

I went on to expatiate in GRAVITY'S CROSSBOW PART 4 that I felt that whenever *dynamis* was expressed through a particular mythos, it took on a characteristic "significant value" I called *conviction,* meaning that the narrative value of a focal *dynamis* took on significance in terms of the dominant mythos with which it was associated. 

To be as forthright as one can be in this sort of philosophical exploration, I've determined that "conviction" does not sufficiently serve to differentiate the signficance of a given focal presence within a given mythos.   I don't repudiate what I wrote on the subject, but now it seems to be that "conviction" must serve as an ancillary term, not a central one. By itself the term doesn't serve well enough to describe the significant tonality that separates, say, an adventure-comedy from a comedy-adventure. 

My revised term for the significant value corresponding to the narrative value "dynamis" will be covered in the next essay, which will describe more fully the philosophical underpinnings of this concept.

To illustrate the value across the four mythoi, I'll make use of *almost* the same four examples that I used early on in my mythos-investigations, in the essay BUFFY THE MYTHOS SLAYER.  In that essay I contrasted four serial conceptions in terms of their mythos-alignments.  Of those four, three concern single protagonists (Buffy Summers, Harry Potter, and Ranma Saotome), while the fourth concerned a team (the "masks" of the Moore/Gibbons WATCHMEN).  I've decided that this time around I'd prefer to compare single-protagonist conceptions straight across, so in place of WATCHMEN as my example of the irony-mythos, I'll substitute the Pat Mills/Kevin O'Neill comic book MARSHAL LAW.

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