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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, January 23, 2018



Thus IVANHOE would seem to be an exception of a combative work that does not have the traditional climactic fight-scene, even though it's still thematically important that the hero be willing to undertake such a conflict. These formulations may also call for a modification of my positions on the narrative-significant schism as it related to the combative mode.

However, having re-read all of my posts that I tagged with the label "narrative-significant schism," I don't think any major modifications are necessary. Over the years I've tended to favor works to be combative if they satisfied both the narrative and significant values: that is, if they featured a major clash of spectacular forces toward the climax (narrative) which in turn the reader experienced with a sense of sublime satisfaction (significant). But I find that I didn't originally specify that this always had to be the case.

In early 2013 I posed this question at the end of MYTHOS AND MODE:

Whether or not the "narrarive/subjective" schism between meaning within and meaning without can influence the modes of the combative and subcombative will be seen in future installments of MYTHOS AND MODE.

I gave myself this answer in MYTHOS AND MODE 2:

In RISING AND FALLING STARS I established that it was possible for a work to fall into a given mythoi-category (say, “adventure”) even if one of its two major aspects—“plot” or “character” aligned better with another mythos.  This would only be the case when the “adventure-plot” dominated over the “drama-characters,” my chosen example being that of the James Robinson STARMAN. In a similar manner, narrative values can trump significant values in terms of determining whether or not a work is combative.  
So in my earliest meditations on the subject, I said that "narrative values can trump significant values," in contradistinction to the later notion that both had to be satisfied. My example in MYTHOS 2 was Shakespeare's MACBETH, which gives the reader a story which culminates in a battle between opposed figures (narrative value), even though the battle doesn't quite portray what I called "sublime dominance" (significant value) in that the reader/viewer doesn't see that both men are high-dynamicity figures.

That same year, I wrote TWICE THE MIGHT BUT LESS FILLING, and though I stressed examples where one of the two values was not satisfied, my wording doesn't make it inevitable that the failure of one value cancels the influence of the other.

...not every narrative that contains two opposed sources of "might" necessarily evokes the combative mode.  It's for that reason that I've distinguished the presence of both narrative and significant values within the combative mode.  The lack of one value or the other can cancel the narrative's potential for combative sublimity.
"Can"-- but not "will." Further, over the years I've cited a great number of combative works in which a final combat was mitigated by the presence of a hero's ally who actually delivered the killing blow: what I called "the triumph of the supporting ally" in this essay. In such cases, the narrative value is not quite fulfilled, in that the conflict is not directly resolved by the *agon* between protagonist and antagonist. However, there is at least a connection between the protagonist and his ally, and so the ally's actions are subsumed by the dynamicity of the protagonist, as long as said protagonist actually displays his/her own megadynamic power.

In essence, IVANHOE follows this pattern as well. Ivanhoe has the skill and power to thwart Bois-Guilbert, given that he has done so on previous occasions. His climactic victory over the villain is only put into question by wounds he sustained from a tournament-attack by all three of the book's principal evildoers. So the "significant value" is fulfilled, in that everything in the narrative sets up the potential for a clash between "two opposed sources of might." The "narrative value" is circumvented so that Scott can place emphasis on the internal conflict of Bois-Guilbert, who, over one hundred years before 1933's KING KONG, is another "beast" slain by a "beauty," since the knight dies of his "contending passions" rather than from Ivanhoe's weapons. Yet, Scott's novel, even though it critiques some of the problematic areas of medieval martial culture, still devotes so much space to other combative scenes that the reader can obtain the "narrative value" from other parts of the novel. I'd tend to think that this sort of "transitive effect" is only possible when it's been made quite clear that both protagonist and antagonist do possess the power to bring about a major combative clash in the narrative sense, even if that clash is forestalled for some reason. There's also a minor parallel in the 1956 FORBIDDEN PLANET, which I examined here, in that the protagonists, who possess megadynamic power but not as much as their enemy, must resort to strategy rather than force to win the war. In a sense, Walter Scott solves his hero's problem by giving the villain an "Achilles heel" that kills Bois-Guilbert-- though this wound would not have been fatal, if Ivanhoe had not shown up ready to fight.

ADDENDUM: I had intended to work in a reference to the title somewhere, but forgot it. FTR, "Mister In-Between" is just a metaphor for the intermediate state that a work falls into, when it satisfies an expected narrative value but not a similar significant one, and vice versa.

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