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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, November 22, 2014


In recent essays I've re-examined Edmund Burke's work with regard to the ways subjects experience sublimity, either with an affect of sympathy or one of antipathy.  Because of those essays, I find myself looking at how both the sympathetic affects and the antipathetic affects appear in works of popular fiction-- specifically, how narratives tend to center around either one set of affects than the other, though both may easily appear in both. 

This, however, suggested to me a parallel with my writings on centricity with regard to myth-radicals, probably best summed up in JUNG AND CENTRICITY.  Jung specified in PSYCHOLOGICAL TYPES that each individual had within him four psychological functions, but that only one of these would have "absolute sovereignty" as against the others. I asserted that the same logic could also be applied to Frye's four mythoi, using as example the teleseries BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, which I regard as falling properly into the category of adventure, even though the series regularly also calls upon elements common to the comedy, the irony, and the drama.

However, to complicate the matter further, I also linked Frye's four functions with the four "moods," as I called them, that Theodor Gaster listed for the dominant functions of his categories of religious ritual. REFINING THE DEFINING was one of the relevant essays on this topic:

ADVENTURE conveys the INVIGORATIVE mood, and does so by centering upon how protagonists who defend life and/or goodness from whatever forces are inimical to them. The protagonists' power of action is at its highest here.
COMEDY conveys the JUBILATIVE mood, and does so by centering upon how the heroes seek happiness/contentment in a world that has some element of craziness to it (what I've termed the "incognitive" myth-radical), yet does not deny the heroes some power of action.
IRONY conveys the MORTIFICATIVE mood, and does so by centering upon characters in a world where the "power of action" is fundamentally lacking.
DRAMA conveys the PURGATIVE mood, and does so by centering upon "individuals who find themselves in some way cast out from the main society." Power of action here is more ambivalent than that of the adventure-mythos but seems more crucial to the individual's problem than it does for that of the comic hero.

But this raised in my mind the question: what difference is there, if any, between an "affect" and a "mood?"

The best conclusion I've come to, for the time being, is that the Gasterian moods are functions of plot: he and Frye both speak primarily of the *actions* characters take in order to facillitate one dominant literary or religious mood. In contrast, "affects" spring from the main characters, the focal presences, with whom the readers identify. In this formulation, then, "affects" spring from "character," even though the focal 'character" may not be a human being, since the cathexis of emotional affects can focus upon any number of phenomena, ranging from the will-less robot hero of GIGANTOR to the amorphous spirits of THE EVIL DEAD. For the time being, then, I will allot the Gasterian moods to the domain of "narrative values," while the affects-- indebted, as I've said many times to the thinkers Rudolf Otto and C.S. Lewis-- would be "significant values," in keeping with my first essay on this Fryean distinction.

Obviously the two sets of emotional reactions overlap, just as plot and character must, and here's one example. One further complication to my system is that in this essay I have also formulated four persona-types-- the hero, the villain, the monster, and the demihero-- with respect to the ways in which they incarnate a given story's "life-affirming" (or plerotic) forces or its "life-denying" (kenotic) forces. I have also related these types to my own concepts of the *idealizing will* and the *existential will.*   So my persona-types are also narrative rather than significant values. Gigantor, even though diegetically the character has no will as such, incarnates both "the idealizing will" in combination with a plerotic attitude. The "Evil Dead spirits" are monsters, and they incarnate the "existential will" in combination with a kenotic attitude. And just to complete the quaternity, Fu Manchu incarnates the idealizing will as much as Gigantor, but with a kenotic, life-denying attitude, while the demihero Doctor John Robinson incarnates the "existential will" in tandem with a plerotic, life-affirming attitude.  Of course I've specified elsewhere that none of the persona-types are locked into these relationships at all times-- that they are "plerotic" monsters and "kenotic" demiheroes-- but these four are the dominant ways in which the four types are employed in human art and literature.

Having crossed all these critical "t's," I'll return to the question of affects again in the next essay.

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