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In essays on the subject of centricity, I've most often used the image of a geometrical circle, which, as I explained here,  owes someth...

Saturday, December 29, 2012


Though I've only recently chanced across a reference to the pioneering work of endocrinologist Hans Selye-- a Nobel-Prize winner credited with formulating the 20th century concept of "stress"-- even a quick Wikipedia reference points out a useful comparison with the compensation theory of Alfred Adler, first examined on this blog here.

Here's a Wikiquote I've cited before re: positive and negative compensation-- a concept I've found useful in refuting critics like Julian Darius:

Positive compensations may help one to overcome one’s difficulties. On the other hand, negative compensations do not, which results in a reinforced feeling of inferiority.
In 1975 Hans Selye pioneered a roughly similar "positive/negative" classification of glandular excitement states.  Again quoting from Wiki's essay on stress:

Selye published in 1975 a model dividing stress into eustress and distress.[16] Where stress enhances function (physical or mental, such as through strength training or challenging work), it may be considered eustress. Persistent stress that is not resolved through coping or adaptation, deemed distress, may lead to anxiety or withdrawal (depression) behavior.
Neither psychologist Adler nor biologist Selye applied their insights to literary criticism.  On occasion lit-critics have looked at fiction through Adler's lens, though Adlerian examinations are far outnumbered by those following the lead of Sigmund Freud, the past master of explaining psychology purely through acts of "negative compensation."

While Selye's biological research in itself probably would not lend itself to the analysis of literary constructs, its central conceit-- that of "stress" having both negative and positive connotations-- proves useful to a literary hermeneutics based in notions of conflict and will, as my own is.  The notions of "eustress" and "distress" may also prove an interesting gloss on Theodor Gaster's division of the emotional tones evoked by ritualized endeavors into tones of "plerosis" or of "kenosis."

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