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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, September 6, 2016


I've added the tag "environment" to the blog because I've decided that some of my formulations on that subject don't fit neatly under the tag "focal presences."

In the first ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS, I examined the trope "exotic lands and customs" from the standpoint of phenomenality, while the second part of the "essay-series" focused on the topic of environments in terms of mythicity. This third essay is closer to the first part, in that here I'm concerned with phenomenality again, but in a more restricted fashion, along the lines of PURPLE SAGE OBSERVATIONS.

When I first formulated my ten tropes, I lumped together "lands and customs" as being functionally part of the same trope. That is, in most cases audiences are most interested in "exotic lands" because of the "exotic peoples" who live in them. A given narrative may of course separate the exoticism of the physical land from that of the people living in it. The 1942 serial PERILS OF NYOKA was one of the many films I labeled with the trope-title "exotic lands and customs." The trope applied to both Nyoka's adversaries-- a tribe of Arab bandits, led by exotic-looking Vultura, a female chieftain who keeps a pet gorilla-- and to a bizarre wind-tunnel created by a freak geological formation. It would be possible, though, that by drawing on Spinoza's distinction between "nature in the active sense," the uncanny people of the land, and "nature in the passive sense," the uncanny land itself can be conceptually separated from any of the people occupying the land or making use of the terrain to kill their enemies.

Though I currently don't plan to change my trope-terminology on the film-blog, I want to specify here, in line with my writings on focal presences, that what I'm calling "environment" primarily applies to "nature in the passive sense," and that this form of nature falls into three necessary categories.

(1) TERRAIN-- this applies to the formations of the land proper, and anything under it. The aforementioned NYOKA wind-tunnel belongs here, and so do the two examples cited in PURPLE SAGE OBSERVATIONS, even though I determined that the land of Surprise Valley registered as naturalistic while the description of "Sheba's Breasts" in KING SOLOMON'S MINES registered as uncanny. In Conan Doyle's LOST WORLD novel, the entire terrain of the prehistoric plateau registers as marvelous, but only because it harbors so many fantastic forms of extinct life. Alice's Wonderland is technically uncanny, since all of its incomprehensible inhabitants are figures within a dreamer's dream.

(2) FLORA-- as far as visible life goes, you don't get much more passive than plants. Marvelous flora are the best known type, like the man-eating plants of both TARZAN'S DESERT MYSTERY and THE LAND UNKNOWN. I can't think of too many uncanny plants, unless it would be a plant that appears marvelous within the context of an uncanny dream--

Like the magic mushroom in ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND--

And the poppies in the 1939 WIZARD OF OZ.

(However, the poppies are not uncanny in the original Baum book, because they exist in a marvelous universe.)

(3) FAUNA-- Animals, unless they come off as distinct characters in their own right, are often coterminous with their environment. I've usually assigned the trope-title "astounding animals" to creatures who generate an uncanny phenomenality. Often they have no overt connection to the environment in which they dwell, but there are works in which there is something of an overlap between the animals and their setting, such as can be seen in the 1972 "uncanny" film FROGS.

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