Featured Post

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...

Thursday, November 13, 2014

STALKING THE PERFECT TERMS: WONDER AND TERROR

I don't think my "Golden Age of Metaphenomenal Fiction" started at the age of 12, as the old joke more or less has it. My earliest memories attest to my liking fantastic works more than realistic works, even though I could see the appeal of both. But I will say that I probably became a *devotee,* rather than a casual consumer, of metaphenomenal works at least by the age of 12. I was 11 when the BATMAN teleseries hit the airwaves, and the accessibility of the Caped Crusader encouraged me to venture into the strange world of comics-that-weren't-primarily-funny, unlike "Archie," "Donald Duck," and the occasional funny superhero-type like "Mighty Mouse." I probably started reading paperback SF regularly a couple of years later; my first such purchase may have a used copy of Michael Moorcock's THE FIRECLOWN.



In this devotee-period I began to read whatever histories of SF. fantasy and horror were available at my local library. In one of those works-- I no longer remember which-- I encountered the assertion that the appeal of science fiction was its simultaneous capacity for "wonder and terror."  

I don't imagine that this work-- probably something published in the 1960s-- was the first to use these tandem terms. But I've never forgotten how the conjoined words resonated with me, though of course I did not feel that their appeal was confined only to one form of metaphenomenal fiction.

Fast-forward to the near present. In this 2013 essay I formulated my terms for the types of emotional affects that accompany the experience of the sublime. For all works of "the marvelous"-- that is, works that stimulate the "anti-real sublime"-- I said that henceforth I'd term the sympathetic affect "exaltation" and the antipathetic affect "awe"-- the latter derived from Rudolf Otto and the former from my reaction against Otto's one-sided hermeneutics.  But I have to admit that these two states of mind can shade into one another rather easily, and it's difficult to invoke Otto's hermeneutics every time I invoke the affects.

Thus, for this essay and at least the next few, I'm substituting "wonder" for "exaltation" and "terror" for "awe."

So for my trinity of sympathetic affects, each of which is responsive to the phenomenality of the work involved, are now FEAR // DREAD // TERROR.

And my trinity of antipathetic affects are now ADMIRATION // FASCINATION // WONDER.

On a quick side-note I'm moved to observe that at least one writer, Anne Radcliffe, viewed "terror" as a faculty which "expands the soul and awakens the faculties to a high degree of life," as opposed to the contractive effect of "horror." Interestingly, in the passage from Radcliffe's work reprinted here, she makes a number of references to Edmund Burke's work on the sublime-- which I may attempt to address in more detail later on.

No comments: