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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...

Friday, June 10, 2016


The epic poet is all taken up with what he called klea andron, “glorious deeds of men,” of individual heroes; and what these heroes themselves ardently long and pray for is just this glory, this personal distinction, this deathless fame for their great deeds.-- ― Jane Ellen HarrisonAncient Art and Ritual

When I first coined the terms "centric and diffuse force" in this essay, I was seeking to provide a distinction that accounted for my observation that even narratives that possesses "opposed megadynamic forces" might not manifest the combative mode. 1953's WAR OF THE WORLDS employs the same narrative trope seen in 1954's GODZILLA: the spectacle of modern-day humankind hurling all of its technological forces against a metaphenomenal threat. However, because that contest is not the "focus," as I called it, of the former narrative, I stated that the 1953 film could not possess the narrative value of the combative mode.

In PERIPHERAL GENIES I invoked the centric/diffuse "word pair" only in a very limited sense, to suggest some of the ways in which a given protagonist might have access to megadynamic forces, even though he himself may not register as megadynamic. Drawing upon my "djinn-summoner" distinction, I said that the examples I cited in that essay failed to achieve the narrative value because their powerful "genies" were peripheral to their own spirits. "Peripheral," going by the definition I used, means pretty much the same in my system as "diffuse." Both connote for me the image of something either out from the center, or without a center-- which in its turn relates back to my use of the term "focus."

Without indulging in any orgies of cross-comparisons, I will now put forth the notion that the "types of narrative violence" I proposed in SACRED AND PROFANE VIOLENCE PART 1 might be better termed "centric and diffuse will," since "will," at least according to the Schopenhauer/Nietzsche model I've constructed, takes in all forms of sex and violence, in both their isothymic and megalothymic manifestations.

For instance, I've written numerous times about the disparate effects of different forms of violence, particularly "functional violence" and "spectacular violence." Either one of these can be centric in the formal sense: that the climax of a narrative depends on one form or the other, and in fact in this essay I contrasted two films which both had violent conclusions, though only one showed enough sense of "spectacle" to be labeled "combative." I stress "sense" of spectacle because the combative film displayed the intent to produce spectacle even though the execution of said spectacle was lousy.

 But I've been toying lately with the notion that there's another potential application of the centric/diffuse terminology, and that is to distinguish the ways in which the narrative impacts the audience, rather than dealing exclusively with the way dynamicity manifests within the diegesis of the narrative. In short, "diffuse will" can apply to all of the "forces" in the narrative that are peripheral to whatever holds the "center" in the narrative-- which is usually one of the radicals that describes the narrative's primary mythos-- which "centric will" can apply purely to those forces around which the narrative is truly centered. I suggest that the centricity of the primary radical has for modern audiences a ritualistic quality, not unlike the klea andron of which Harrison writes in the above quote. That manifestation of centric will is almost always the most important thing in the story and thus provides an imaginative center, even if a given author may choose to wander from that center to some extent.

ADDENDUM: I retooled this essay-- originally set down yesterday under the title "Centric and Diffuse Violence"-- because after a little thought I decided that the use of "narrative violence" as expressed by Bataille was interesting to explore somewhat, but was ultimately too confusing for prolonged usage. Therefore I revised the essay to speak of "narrative will" instead, to better reflect one of the cornerstones of my theory, first expressed here.

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