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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, July 31, 2015

THE LONG AND SHORT OF MYTH, PT. 2

Before making any further observations on the effect of structural length to the symbolic discourses of comic books and comic strips, I should mention that even those stories that anyone would validate as genuine myths-- that is, those archaic cultural tales that usually possess some religious dimension-- are also affected by "long and short" considerations.

When I first began discussing literary myths on this blog, I related the word to its original Greek context. Since *muthos* has usually been translated as "utterance" and/or "story," I deemed that in both archaic and in modern times a myth had to be a coherent story in form, while its main attribute would be its high symbolic complexity. Conventionally, this means a story with a "beginning, middle, and end," though Aristotle invoked only two literary terms to describe narrative progression:

clearly [Cioffi's] structural summation of how anomalous presences impact on "conventional social reality" is of a piece with Aristotle's concept of the "Complication" (literally "Desis"= "tying or binding"), while the way in which the viewpoint characters (my term) respond to the anomaly comprises the "Resolution" ("Lusis"= "untying.") -- ANOMALOUS ENCOUNTERS: RESOURCE.

Yet, though I still consider this valid, I must admit that constituent parts of stories can be mythic, if not actual myths as such. Jung's best name for these story-parts was "motifs," and in his psychological investigations he often treated each motif as if it possessed its own symbolic validity, apart from its function within a narrative. Similarly, the Cambridge myth-and-ritual school, which was probably a greater influence than Jung on Frye's ANATOMY OF CRITICISM, regarded the structural elements of classical Greek drama-- such as agon, pathos, and sparagmos, to name the three referenced in Aristotle's POETICS-- as having ritual importance in and of themselves, not simply as parts of the narrative.

Thus it could be said that the motifs are the "short forms" of myths, which carry a special valence even though they are quasi-dependent on other motifs in order to form narratives. One might say, in line with Aristotle, that the myth-motifs of a given narrative must be "tied" together to provide the narrative's "long form" structure, even though Aristotle would assume that the pleasure of the text comes from its resolution, or the "untying" of all the narrative's knotty complications.

At the end of Part 1 I contended with Aristotle's term "complication" somewhat, saying:

I'm currently considering the proposition that mythopoeic scenarios, much like those of the other potentialities, need to be formulated to allow for *complication*-- though this need not be entirely identical with the Aristotelian term given that translation...
I've decided that what I was seeking in the term "complication" is better described by Wheelwright when he speaks of *amplitude* in this passage:

"Certain particulars have more of an archetypal content than others; that is to say, they are 'eminent instances' which stand forth in a characteristic amplitude as representatives of many others; they enclose in themselves a certain totality, arranged in a certain way, stirring in the soul something at once familiar and strange, and thus outwardly as well as inwardly they lay claim to a certain unity and generality."-- FOUNTAIN, p. 54.
In Part 3 I'll show how the concept of amplitude might apply in symbolic discourses hemmed in the structural limitations of the comic-strip medium.

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