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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...

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


As one of my intermittent attempts to better illustrate the complexity of my theory of the two sublimities, I decided to explore some visual comparisons.

In the March essay WITH ENFOLDED HANDS, I compared the three phenomenalities to the three distinct parts of a seed. Though I still like this image, I have to admit that it doesn't capture the way all of these abstractions interact in the world of finished artworks. I noted in that essay that even in a work as devoted to loopy fantasy as Carroll's ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, some references to coherence still had to exist for the story to make sense. Thus the Cheshire Cat may take his leave of Alice in a fantastic manner, but when the feline fades out, it still serves the same narrative purpose as if he simply got up and walked away.

Thus I turn to the pleasures of geometry, and find more satisfaction in describing the three phenomenalities as three interlocking circles.

Each of the circles should be seen as representing not a distinct section of physical matter, as is the case with the seed, but rather a non-physical "field of force." Because there are no true physical boundaries between the three phenomenal domains, it may be easier to imagine each of them having limited influences over the other than would be the case with my earlier seed-metaphor.

In this 2014 essay I described the workings of the combinatory-sublime according to the two principles of causality, "intelligibility" and "regularity" (later superseded by a better term, "coherence," which I've edited into this passage):

...the combinatory-sublime arises rather from the transgression upon the reader's expectations in terms of intelligibility and causal coherence. DIRTY HARRY, a naturalistic work which conforms to general expectations regarding intelligibility and coherence, has its own proper level of mythicity but is not likely to inspire a high level of the combinatory-sublime because of said conformity. ENTER THE DRAGON conforms to expectations regarding coherence but not intelligibility; being "anti-intelligible," it has a higher potential to arouse the combinatory-sublime. And STAR WARS, which violates both intelligibility and coherence, has the greatest mythicity of the three in reality, as well as the greatest potential for symbolic combinations and thus for the combinatory-sublime.
This geometrical arrangement approximates the way the phenomenalities evolve from one another. Had I found on the Net an image of three rings that were both interlocked and surmounting one another, that would have hewed closer to my conceptual premise. But this one works tolerably well. The red ring is the naturalistic phenomenality, representing adherence to both coherence and intelligibility. The blue ring, only indirectly tied to the Region of the Red, flouts both coherence and intelligibility. The interceding green ring takes one principle from each of its neighbors: abiding by the principle of causal coherence like Region Red, but transgressing the principle of intelligibility like Region Blue. (If I cared about exact parallels, Region Red ought to be Region Yellow, and the parallel would be stronger-- but it doesn't exactly weigh heavily in my scales.)

Thus, for the sublimity of the combinatory. But what about the dynamic-sublime, to which I've devoted much more space on this blog?

Here's the geometrical visual on the sublimity of power:

My reason for choosing concentric circles is because each "field of force," and the sublimity it represents, registers as independent of the other two, perhaps more like three planetary orbits rather than interlocked rings. I established this principle in SUBLIMITY VS. MYTHICITY PT. 3:

As far as the film DIRTY HARRY is concerned, there is no being more powerful than Harry Callahan, though some of his foes, particularly Scorpio, are capable of challenging the hero.  The same holds true for Lee and his foe Han in ENTER THE DRAGON, and for Luke Skywalker and his opponent Darth Vader in the first three STAR WARS films. 

To pursue the orbit-simile, Dirty Harry's "planet" is one that obeys all the laws of a naturalistic cosmos, so that's why his type of power elicits the *admiration* of the audience.

The "planet" of DRAGON's Lee, however, allows for a transgression of the law of intelligibility. This doesn't precisely give Lee more physical power than Dirty Harry, but the flouting of intelligibility means that Lee *seems like* he possesses a greater *potency,* as defined here in a three-part essay series beginning here. This quality of anti-intelligible potency gives rise to the audience's *fascination.*

And finally, Luke Skywalker exists on a "planet" that allows for the transgression of both intelligibility and causal coherence. This doesn't necessary mean that every protagonist in a marvelous phenomenality necessarily has powers that transgress coherence, just because Skywalker does: obviously Indiana Jones does not have such powers. But he too exists in phenomenal worlds wherein such powers are possible. Thus, when a non-powered hero like Indiana Jones triumphs over, say, a Thuggee priest who can rip peoples' hearts out of their chests, Jones acquires roughly the same aspect of the "dynamic-sublime" as Luke Skywalker-- and both characters elicit the audience's *wonder* (also sometimes called *exaltation* in various essays here).

However, this aspect is only "real" on the "planets" of the marvelous phenomenality, because it is a narrative, rather than a significant, value. Both Indiana Jones and Luke Skywalker have no power, or even potency, within the narrative worlds of Lee and Harry Callahan, because these are worlds where causal coherence cannot be transgressed.

I'm strongly considering adding yet another specialized term to my already overburdened lit-crit continuum: "domains." The word would connote all of the above-described fields of force, whether they pertain to combinatory values or dynamicity values. In the near future I'll probably experiment with it in a planned follow-up to UNCANNY CITY.  But what will be the use of it, at least over the long haul, is more than I can say.

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