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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, September 9, 2015


At the end of Part 1 of REFLECTIONS IN A MERCURIAL EYE, I said that Part 2 would deal with grounding my myth-critical approach within "a sound understanding of the way popular art works." But before I do that, I have to investigate the nature of the potentiality with which I'm dealing with a myth-critic: the potentiality of the mythopoeic.

In FOUR BY FOUR I formulated the four potentialities in response to Jung's four functions. I didn't go into great detail as to how Jung deduced his four functions, but chose to reread the relevant sections of PSYCHOLOGICAL TYPES in preparation for Part 2 of the MERCURIAL essay. 
At one point Jung provides his simplest breakdown of the operations of the four functions:

The essential function of sensation is to establish that something exists, thinking tells us what it means, feeling what its value is, and intuition surmises whence it comes and whither it goes. 

In this and related passages, Jung characterizes the intuition as the complement to sensation: sensation perceives things in the present, while intuition senses the ways in which present-day sensations relate to the past and/or the future. I suppose that for some readers this might seem like a rather radical extension of the colloquial use of the word "intuition"-- assuming, of course, that the culture of the Swiss psychologist also used the term in colloquial ways cognate with the English-language idea of "women's intuition." Jung escapes any accusations of over-amplification by specifying that there are two forms of intuition: a concrete type, which "mediates perceptions concerned with the actuality of things," and an abstract type, which "mediates perceptions of ideational connnections." The latter aspect of intuition is the one that relates to the art of literary narrative, and indeed in a few remarks Jung credits intuition with making the "connections" necessary for poetry, though he never develops these observations into a general "Jungian poetics."
Now, Jung being Jung, his concept of the archetypes was never far from his mind.

like sensation, intuition is a characteristic of infantile and primitive psychology. It counterbalances the powerful sense impressions of the child and the primitive by mediating perceptions of mythological images, the precursors of ideas

Now, I agree with Jung's comment that "ideas" are developed out of what might as well be called "images" (Kant called these lesser elements "notions.") However, I want to specify that one need not buy into Jung's specific concept of inherited mythological images in order to validate his basic schema. Jung's predecessor-and-influence Cassirer said much the same thing, sans the inherited images. From the 2012 essay MYTH MATTERS:

Once it is evident that the dividing-line between religious myths and literary myths is real only insofar as individuals “believe” in the distinction, one may be open to an interdisciplinary approach like that of Ernst Cassirer, who devoted his book MYTHICAL THOUGHT to the proposition that “mythical thinking” was a fundamental proclivity of humankind that was not confined those narratives which nominalists choose to call “myths.”  In essence “mythical thinking” is the counterpoint to what Cassirer calls variously “empirical” or “theoretical” thought.
Later, Susanne Langer, who took no small influence from Cassirer, advocated a similar position, which I discussed in GESTURE AND GESTALT PART 2:

What we should look for is the first indication of symbolic behavior [in man's predecessors the anthropoids], which is not likely to be anything as specialized, conscious, or rational as the use of semantic. Language is a very high form of symbolism; presentational forms are much lower than discursive, and the appreciation of meaning probably earlier than its expression... It is absurd to suppose that the earliest symbols could be *invented;* they are merely *Gestalten* furnished to the senses of a creature ready to give them some diffuse meaning."-- NEW KEY, p. 110.

Therefore, when I interrogate the role that the mythopoeic potentiality plays within my system, it should be understood that it doesn't constitute complete alliance with Jung's explanation of inherited images. For the purpose of literary analysis, it doesn't matter whether mythological images are programmed into our beings, or whether they simply re-occur as necessary structual precursors to the rational activity Jung calls "thinking."

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