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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...

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

ARCHETYPE AND ARTIFICE PT. 3

So far the only thing I've written about any linkage between archetypes and the concept of artifice-- which should properly be considered a "mode" given that it, like verisimilitude, deals with ways that authors create their stuff-- is this section from EFFICACY, MEET MYTH:

if myth [NOTE: as Frye is using the term] is really defined by the transhuman powers of deities, then what is being transmitted from the clearly mythic story of "Euripides' Ion" (where the protagonist is the offspring of a god) to the verisimilitudinous story of Oliver Twist? It seems likely to me that the way myth [NOTE: by which *I* mean "archaic mythology"] interacts with "the constructive principles of story-telling" is that myth supplies archetypes that have an expressive, emotive appeal irrespective of their phenomenal context. Thus, Frye is much nearer to the truth later in the ANATOMY, when he defines archetypes as "complex variables." I believe that though the literary critic distanced himself from the psychological views of Jung, Frye may have been exposed to Jung's argument about the archetypes as a structuring principle.
So what Frye calls "the constructive principles of story-telling" should take in both "verisimilitude" and what I have renamed "artifice," since in the same section where he introduces his two terms, he states that, "Myth, then, is one extreme of literary design; naturalism is the other."   

Now, though Frye elsewhere defined archetypes as "complex variables," I don't think he's always consistent in emphasizing their complexity, be it potential or actual. For instance, I don't deem the use of the "birth-mystery plot" in OLIVER TWIST to be particularly complex, although the archetype by itself *can* be turned to more complex ends. Though I believe Frye had been exposed to some modern semiotic theory, such as I invoke in my differentiation between simple and complex variables, he sometimes uses the word "archetype" to describe any trope in a modern story that resembles a story from archaic myth.

I, however, favor the Segal definition of the archetype cited earlier, since I think it best coheres with Jung's writings on the subject:

An archetypal experience is not any emotional event but only an overwhelming one, the extraordinariness of which stems exactly from the power of the archetype encountered through projection.

What makes archetypes "overwhelming?" I would say that it is the same complexity of associations that I have elsewhere termed "the combinatory sublime." Simpler associations characterize simple variables, and I would say that the "birth-mystery" aspect of OLIVER TWIST is pretty simple, even compared to its use in, say, GREAT EXPECTATIONS.

We can easily imagine that Dickens, in composing both works, draws upon his knowledge of "birth-mystery" plots in earlier myths and literary works. But if OLIVER is a simple version of such plots, and EXPECTATIONS is a complex one, then it stands to reason that artifice as a mode embraces both simple variables ("stereotypes") and complex variables ("archetypes.")

More to come in Part 4.

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