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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, December 29, 2012


Believe it or don't, but I really didn't exhume the remarks of Charles Reece in this preceding essay simply because those specific remarks had been plaguing me over the course of six months.  They just came to mind as relevant to my general theme of self-assessment as to where my lit-crit theory stands.

The core of the theory remains indebted to the myth-critical work of Northrop Frye and Theodor Gaster, who had the misfortune to produce their works at the sunset of the "literatute-as-myth" meme that dominated the first half of the 20th century.  I say "misfortune" because the countervailing tendency of the 1960s and later, while not barren of worthwhile work, became, as I noted with respect to comics-critics here, tied to "those well-traveled titans of tedium, Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx," as well as their equally tedious derivations.  But as I said at the end of TERMINOLOGY OF ENDEARMENT, there's nothing I can do, or would do, about judgments founded in taste.

All things considered, 2012 stands out for less for my contretemps with Reece or Kelly Thompson or Old Chickenheart than for my formulation of the Mode of the Combative and the Persona of the Demihero.  Contra Reece's remarks about the supposed defects of a "private lexicon," it's only with such a lexicon-- whether one approves of mine or not-- that one can make any useful formulations about the structure and meaning of fictional narrative, while still resisting the understandable temptation to overintellectualize phenomena.

I remarked here I didn't have Kant on my mind when I started attempting to analyze the nature of combat as a special mode within the sphere of general conflict.  When I made some of my earliest attempts at comparing-and-contrasting characters within a "superhero idiom," as in the 2009 BUFFY THE MYTHOS SLAYER, I could only speak in terms of "elements:"

A given work may share elements of all four myth-themes in varying proportions—may include elements suggestive of conflict, of catastrophe, of abjection, and of rebirth—and yet still have be more strongly oriented toward one theme rather than to any of the other three.

Nothing about that statement is wrong in terms of basic narrative analysis.  But thanks to a lexicon able to deal with the differing manifestations of conflict/combat within literature, it's much easier to address the archetypal elements and motifs that inform a work in the mythos of adventure-- such as BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER-- and then see how those elements are given different structural emphases within the mythoi of irony, drama and comedy.

I won't discuss the potential usefulness of the Demihero concept at present; it's a little too new at present.  I'll just note in passing that for some time I've been thinking about the difficulties of the multiple meanings of the word "hero" in fictional narrative (one of those words that means more than one thing under different circumstances, CR!!)  But this is the first time I've felt I had a means by which I might talk about the very different contexts in which heroes might be ruled more by "courage" or by "endurance," or better yet, by "glory" rather than "safety."

Thanks to these breakthroughs, I feel I finally have the underpinnings of a work that might in part supply a Theory of the Superhero Idiom-- which, within the context of a will-based hermeneutics, would be no less a key to every other literary idiom, though I don't expect those of divergent taste to concur.

I predict that 2013 may prove an interesting year for those who find this blog interesting, few though they may be.  Further, the affiant sayeth not.



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