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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...

Monday, February 29, 2016


In the end, no matter what specific arguments I put forth, they boil down to the subjective feeling that BEAST [FROM 20,000 FATHOMS] only tromps its way over the megadynamicity threshold, while [THE GIANT] BEHEMOTH "storms" across, in part because it shows a greater propensity toward the "dynamic-sublime."-- STORMING THE THRESHOLD PART. 2.

I don't know how important yet another new term will prove to the ongoing evolution of my lit-crit theory, but I've been thinking about giving a name to this "greater propensity" since late last year. I reread THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA around that time, and so found myself meditating further on Nietzsche's complex theory of "self-overcoming," particularly in COMBAT PLAY PT. 4.

In this essay I wrote: "Only those who consciously admitted the allure of mastery, of wielding power over others, had any true capacity for self-overcoming." Since the German term for this process proves unwieldy, I considered coining a term along the lines of "the overcoming factor" that could applied not to human societies-- which is Nietzsche's focus-- but to literary creations as imagined representations of power relations. But "overcoming factor" would be something that might require re-explanation over time.

Wheelwright's term "amplitude," which he applies to differing levels of poetic resonance, suggested itself as a substitute-- partly because the word connotes the quality of being ample, and thus coheres with my formulation of THE NARRATIVE RULE OF EXCESS. But in addition, "amplitude" has a more physical connotation, one akin to the geometrical representations I used hereThis Wiki essay cites the use of the term in classical physics, and the amplitude-type that most coheres with my metaphor would seem to be that of "peak amplitude:"

If the reference is zero, [peak amplitude] is the maximum absolute value of the signal; if the reference is a mean value, the peak amplitude is the maximum absolute value of the difference from that reference.

Even a hypothetical "zero" would not really apply to either of my two modes: the combinatory mode or the dynamicity mode. With regard to the first, in past essays I've subscribed to Wheelwright's view that even the simplest form of symbolic discourse, the "monosignative," always has a potential to assume greater levels of symbolic complexity. With regard to the second, I've also noted that even characters that register as "microdynamic" may have some minor abilities in the realm of self-defense, as shown by the example of Vicky Vale in this essay. Therefore, the base level of both "monosignativity" and "microdynamicity" should be seen as a "mean value" of what is possible within a fictional universe.

"Peak amplitude," then, represents the artist's ability to go beyond the mean values of both modes, and to "storm" into the more rarified domains of the sublime. Of course the artist will always have some need of the mean values, what I've also called "the purely functional." But the term amplitude may serve better to bridge abstract concepts like "functional" and "super-functional," or any other such concepts I continue to explore here.

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