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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...

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

OUT WITH THE BAD WILL, IN WITH THE GOOD

On this blog I've written a good deal about the theories of "will" expoused by Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, and have formulated a literary "theory of two wills," influenced by Schopenhauer, in which literary characters are dominated either by the "idealizing will" or the "existential will." However, the English word "will" doesn't adapt well to the adjectival form, which is what I need in reconsidering the arguments stated in 2014's EGO, MEET OBJECT.

In that essay, I meditated on Jung's distinctions between "extrovert and introvert" in his book PSYCHOLOGICAL TYPES, also classified as "object-oriented" and "ego-oriented." I've sometimes considered applying the former set of terms to the two different ways focal presences resolve themselves in fiction. However, the informal meanings of "extrovert and introvert" are far too limiting, while the terms "ego-oriented" and "object-oriented," while closer to my needs, are cumbersome.

Now, in 2009's SEVEN WAYS FROM SCHOPENHAUER, I defined the philosopher's idea of "Will" as "the radical root of all literary activity." This means that, no matter what sort of viewpoint character the author may choose, he may focus as easily upon the "will" within the viewpoint character (or on some figure allied to him, or an ensemble of such characters), OR upon things, people, or phenomena that are perceived as "the other" to the viewpoint character's will.

The Greek word for will is (more or less) *thel.* Thanks to the wonders of search-engines, I've discovered that one author has coined the term "thelic" as an adjective for will, and also that he's using that term for a purpose quite unlike my own. Therefore I will appropriate the term for fiction only, and apply it only to the orientation of the focal presence in narrative.

In place of "ego-oriented," I'll speak of the *endothelic,* meaning that the narrative is focused upon the will of the viewpoint character or of someone or something that shares that character's interests.

In place of "object-oriented," I'll speak of the *exothelic,* meaning that the narrative is focused upon the will of "the other," something outside the interests of the viewpoint character, though not necessarily opposed to them.

This adjectival terminology solves the clumsiness I mentioned in EGO, MEET OBJECT in that a term like "exothelic" applies as well to a place like Wonderland or a character like Dracula. In addition, since I allow for the association between the ego of the viewpoint character and any representative affiliated figure within the same "endothelic" constellation, that not only subsumes narratives like Doyle's "Sherlock Holmes" prose tales-- where the star of the show only rarely becomes the viewpoint character-- but also for examples of *exteriorization,* as seen in the essay DJINN WITH SUMMONER. By this logic, the non-sentient Gigantor-- the star of the teleseries and of (presumably) the manga series as well-- is *endothelic* even though he has no diegetic "will" of his own, because Gigantor is associated with a sentient will through his controller Jimmy Sparks. In contrast, a cognate robot-hero like Astro Boy displays sentience, and therefore does not actually need an interaction with humans to be his "summoners," although the associations don't hurt the robot-boy's claims to human sympathy.

I mentioned Wonderland above, which is clearly the focus of Lewis Carroll's books, which would be *exothelic,* as are most film-adaptations, with the exception of the 2010 Tim Burton film, which becomes *endothelic* by virtue of emphasizing the will of Alice rather than of Wonderland.

Keeping to the context of environments, in OBJECTS GIVEN LUSTER. I used the example of the 1950 WEIRD SCIENCE story "The Destruction of the Earth" in order to demonstrate that the narrative's focus was not upon any of the niggling human characters, but upon the Destroyed Earth itself, whose death-throes are given the most attention. I called it "object-oriented" before, but now it is *exothelic.*

In contrast, there are hundreds of stories dealing with the world's destruction that focus upon the aggrieved reactions of the viewpoint characters, all of which would be *endothelic.* Yet aggrieved reactions are not necessary, as I noted in my examinations of Ray Bradbury's short story "The Last Night of the World." In my first consideration of the story, I averred that the viewpoint characters' sanguinity about the world's end might be viewed as a form of negative will, akin to Nietzsche's "will to nothingness." But in my revised outlook here, I decided that even though the nameless viewpoint characters do nothing to bring about the cataclysm, they are stand-ins for the author's POV.

Thus Bradbury's strategy for giving "new life and force" to the overly familiar threat of nuclear war was to undercut its power by invoking a greater power, one that simply chooses to end the story of mankind in the manner of "the closing of a book"-- an apt metaphor for a writer frustrated with the follies of mankind.
Therefore in this case, although the narrative still concerns the world's end, the focal presences are the two nearly anonymous "husband and wife" who calmly observe that ending with a dignity that the author finds appropriate-- while the nature of the world's end is at best a subsidiary phenomenon.

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