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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...

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


In order to expand somewhat on Bataille's "two types of economic consumption," I present this quote from Bataille's 1957 book EROTISM. Keep in mind that when Bataille speaks of "violence," he's also states in the same work that he considers sexual activity to belong to a subset of violence.

In the domain of our life [the principle of] excess manifests in so far as violence wins over reason. Work demands the sort of conduct where effort is in a constant ratio with productive efficiency. It demands rational behavior where the wild impulses worked out on feast days and usually in games are frowned upon. If we were unable to repress these impulses we should not be able to work, but work introduces the very reason for repressing them. These impulses confer an immediate satisfaction on those who yield to them. Work, on the other hand, promises to those who overcome [these impulses] a reward later on whose value cannot be disputed except from the point of view of the present moment.

In Part 4  I drew parallels between the principle of play and stories of thematic escapism, as well as between the principle of work and stories of thematic realism. The author who pursues the course of thematic realism also pursues a course like the "deferred gratification" Bataille describes above. He does not just write or draw whatever gives him pleasure in "the present moment," nor does he orient his creative activity toward the "instant gratification" of his audience's desires for sensuous frenzy.  The realist represses some of the pure pleasure of creation in order to communicate some rhetorical point, though only an inferior realist allows his principle of work to subsume his principle of play.

The thematic escapist author, however, is free within the same limitations as the aforementioned "games" and "feast days." These celebratory practices unleash some of the energies of excess, though never all of them without restriction.  A tribal festival may allow a member of the tribe to eat and drink as much as he wants, and the tribe may even turn a blind eye if he enjoys a little fuckery of which society would not normally approve (I'm thinking here of Steinbeck's description of the casual liaisons that cropped up during camp-meetings ostensibly devoted to right Christian worship). But I doubt that most tribal festivals give participants the leeway to rape or kill anyone they want. Games are even more circumscribed in terms of the ways they allow players to expend their energies.

Still, "work" implies steady, productive activity while "play" implies sudden bursts of frenzied activity with no definite purpose. This suggests a parallel with the terms for the goal-affects as I finally articulated them in EXPENDITURE ACCOUNTS PT. 2.  "Persistence" is the primary motivation of those who either already have a status quo existence or of those who desire that existence. "Glory," on the other hand, is the primary motivation of those devoted to abstract ideals, and who pursue those ideals beyond the bounds of personal advantage. Thus in THE ILIAD Achilles describes the choice of two contradictory fates which he, and by implication every human being, must make:

"Mother tells me,the immortal goddess Thetis with her glistening feet,that two fates bear me on to the day of death.If I hold out here and I lay siege to Troy,my journey home is gone, but my glory never dies.If I voyage back to the fatherland I love,my pride, my glory dies. . . ." (Book 9).

With these parallels in mind, I return to the topic of the kinetic effects, sex and violence. PART 3 takes pains to establish that in both their pure and mixed states they can be used for purposes of *megalothymic* self-aggrandizement or of *isothymic* self-leveling. When I reviewed the four examples of pure and mixed states I listed in LEAD US NOW INTO TRANSGRESSION, I determined that only the example used for "non-violent sex" could be considered entirely *megalothymic."  However, SWAMP THING #34 is just as much an example of "play for play's sake" as the other three examples. Though there is a nice rhetorical point to be made about the leveling of distinctions between human being and plant-elemental, the tenor of the story is dominated by the principle of play, by sensuous frenzy.

In Part 4 I addressed my questions about the relations of work and play to both escapist and realistic narratives, and as it happened I chose to make the common element of all four examples the political topic of Caucasian-Negro relations. But it should go without saying that the same breakdown could apply to the use of kinetic elements as easily as it does to other forms of content.

In terms of pure merit, I think that the Moore/Bissette/Totelbein "Rites of Spring" achieves as much as any "non-violent sex" story possibly could, within the sphere of a fundamentally escapist work.
However, the example I gave in the TRANSGRESSION essay for "violent sex," taken from Frank Miller's THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN, does not achieve comparable merit for this type of story.

Granted, Miller's overall story is not centrally about sex, as is the Swamp Thing story. Still, in all of the TDKSA scenes that involve Wonder Woman, Miller's consistently characterizes Wonder Woman as the ultimate frustrated female, a "bitch on the rag" if you will.

So if I had chosen to wtite PART 4 as if I were evaluating all the examples in terms of being either good or bad "play for play's sake," then that particular Moore Swamp Thing story would take the place of Mitchell's GONE WITH THE WIND, while that particular Miller Batman story would take the place of THE CLANSMAN.

Of course, it should go without saying that both of these authors have produced assorted good and bad works dealing with sex, violence, race and almost any other content one might seek to isolate.

It also follows that there must also exist meritorious or un-meritorious stories with any of the two pure states and the two mixed states described in TRANSGRESSION. But I doubt that I will list them all, as I conceive these essays as a prelude to a larger and more involved project, possibly to be entitled CHARTING THE LINES OF LAW.

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