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NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

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...

Friday, January 24, 2014

PROPPIAN PONDERINGS PT. 1

Though I've sustained some limited influence from Vladimir Propp, I've only referred to him in three essays so far-- here, here, and here-- and I didn't include him among my TWELVE PILLARS OF WISDOM.

On one level, I admire the simplicity of his attempt to study folklore-personae as "functions," which led to this pellucid generalization on the nature of folkloric protagonists:

The hero of the tale may be one of two types: (1) if a young girl is kidnapped,,,, and if Ivan goes off in search of her, then the hero of the tale is Ivan and not the kidnapped girl.  Heroes of this type may be termed seekers. (2) If a young girl or boy is seized or driven out, and the thread of the narrative is linked to his or her fate and not to those who remain behind, then the hero of the tale is the seized or banished boy or girl. There are no seekers in such tales.  Heroes of this variety may be called victimized heroes.-- Vladimir Propp, MORPHOLOGY OF THE FOLKTALE, p. 36.

On another level, I've been less enthusiastic about his manifestation of what I call the "recipe mentality," and in the last of the three essays I stated my credo:


 the Proppian distinction doesn’t capture the difference in character-attitude, which might be fairly deemed a failure of Propp’s analysis


Years ago on some comics-forum I did "feel out" the idea as to whether one could divide pop-fictional heroes by whether they were proactive, like Propp's "seeker," or reactive, like Propp's "victimized hero." This was long before I coined my term "demihero," but even then, I was looking for some method to separate protagonists who looked for trouble from those who simply coped with trouble when it came their way.  Yet following Propp in his concentration on plot-elements alone proved to be a dead end. In this essay I gave an example of two sets of "victimized heroes"-- the respective casts of two teleserials, 1965'S LOST IN SPACE and 1999's THE LOST WORLD.  I demonstrated that despite similarities of continuing plot-situations, the "goal-affects" of the first series represented the affect of "persistence" while the second series represented the affect of "glory."

When I wrote the EXPENDITURE ACCOUNTS series of essays, I had not yet formulated my terms for the type of "will" represented by each affect.  I formulated these terms a few months later in APES AND ANGELS.  If I had, I would have said, in addition to terming the LOST IN SPACE crew "demiheroes" and the LOST WORLD group "heroes," that each represented respectively the "existential will" and the "idealizing will."

The converse of course would be equally true.  Though the term "seeker" sounds like the sort of protagonist who actively seeks trouble, it's just as possible to posit a seeker who represented the dyad "persistence/existential will" as the dyad "glory/idealizing will."  Indeed, one of my recent dual-reviews of two films with loosely similar topics supplied just such an opposition, which I'll discuss more fully in Part 2.


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