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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...

Thursday, November 2, 2017

SIX KEYS TO A LITERARY GENETIC CODE

In essays on the subject of centricity, I've most often used the image of a geometrical circle, which, as I explained here, owes something to statements by literary critic Northrop Frye. Frye chose this metaphor because he imagined a given literary work as having both an inward and outward motion. The former motion determines how the elements within the narrative interact with one another, while the latter determines how the "total vision" of the narrative relates to its readers.

The circle metaphor remains useful, but its invocation of centrifugal and centripetal motion may be a little too rooted in the domain of physics. The making of a work of art involves at least one creator-- let's assume just one, for convenience-- who may be seen as one part God and two parts Frankenstein. His artwork is akin to a living creature, and if it's anything like the ones we know, then the creature's biological nature is determined by its DNA sequences. The standard illustration of the DNA sequences is usually rendered as the familiar double helix. Yet some online sources have chosen to render the genetic code in circular form for purposes of illustration.



The reason for this, I assume, is that for purposes of illustration the circle still offers a strong image as to how the dominant influences on the organism's genetic code-- what I have called "centric will" in my "literary genetics"-- assume the centermost position. Consequently, the recessive influences on the organism's genetic code revolve outward from the center, akin to my "eccentric will."

The creator may use only "intelligent design" to bring forth his work, or he may create it, so to speak, by the seat of his pants. But whether in a given work conscious design plays a larger part than the subconscious variety, or vice versa, the work always evolves its own code, consisting of both the way the narrative elements interact and the way they impact upon readers.

Since this blog began, I've practiced my own study of "literary genetics," even though I only used this label a few times. It's occurred to me that the majority of my ruminations have been devoted to sussing out what elements in any narrative are the most centric, and thus dominate the work's character, and what role, if any, all the "eccentric" elements play. These ruminations have been complicated by the fact that sometimes the patterns assumed by all of these elements relates to the way they work inside the narrative-- what I'll call "intra-diegetical" in this essay-- while others relate to the way the elements work upon their readers, and perhaps even the creator himself, since he is, after all, "the first reader."

After scanning over my blog-entries for some time, I've determined six categories of "artistic alleles" I've been examining, in one form or another, since the blog began in 2007. The six are as follows:


(1) FOUR MYTH-RADICALS-- first addressed in detail in NOTES TOWARD A SUPERHERO IDIOM. I view these plot-and-character radicals underlying four corresponding literary mythoi as "Extra-Diegetical" because over time the literary mythoi have arisen from the four "ritual moods" identified by Theodore Gaster, whose work I last referenced here.

(2) THREE PHENOMENALITIES-- first codified as the AUM theory here, though I soon altered this into the preferred acronym NUM here. I should add that my phenomenology has been guided by Aristotle's original concept of "pity and terror," which with the help of C.S. Lewis I finessed these broad categories into the more precise ones of the sympathetic and affective affects, which in turn reflect the affective potentials of the phenomenalities. All three phenomenalities are created by patterns within narratives, and so are "Intra-Diegetical."

(3) TWO MODES, THE COMBATIVE AND THE SUBCOMBATIVE, first explored in detail in STALKING THE PERFECT TERM: THE COMBATIVE.  The exploration of the differences between combative and subcombative characters led me to distinguish three levels of dynamicity. as explained in MEGA, MESO, MICRO. This category is also "Intra-diegetical" in that it pertains only to how the dynamicity of fictional characters can be sorted out. I've devoted a fair amount of space to the thematic consequences to the work as a whole when it creates opposed characters with combative potential but then chooses not to resolve the conflict in a combative manner, cf. Wells' THE WAR OF THE WORLDS.

(4) FOUR PERSONA-TYPES, which originally started out as two "word-pairs," "hero-villain" and "monster-victim." I soon determined that "victim" was too limiting a term and modified it to "demihero." Persona-types follow patterns that descend, like Gaster's four moods, from ritual and religious sources, not to mention being influenced by my readings of Hobbes and Schopenhauer. Similarly, the deternination as to whether the central persona is *exothelic* or *endothelic* depends on "Extra-Diegetical" considerations.

(5) FOUR INFORMATION-BEARING FUNCTIONS: These functions, last elaborated here, are largely extensions of Joseph Campbell's four functions. Since they deal with information from the real world being translated into fictional terms, these are "Intra-Diegetical."

(6) The most recent-- and probably the last-- of my code-categories is the four potentialities, introduced in FOUR BY FOUR, though I'd been cogitating on the subject for many years previous. Since these all deal with the creative propensities of the authors themselves-- whether favoring Jung's concepts of sensation, intuition, thinking or feeling-- this category is clearly "Extra-Diegetical."

For good measure, I'll toss in that the terms "Intra-Diegetical" and "Extra-Diegetical" line up with Northrop Frye's "narrative values / significant values" distinction. but I chose not to use Frye's terms, since they don't adapt well to adjectival form.

I mentioned in CLEANING AROUND THE CENTER that I considered relating these various conceptions of centric and eccentric will to my rules for sussing out centricity, the 51 percent rule and the "active share/passive share" corollary. However, that will have to wait for another essay.

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