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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 someth...

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

NULL-MYTHS: THE OZ-WONDERLAND WAR (1985)


 


By coincidence, this mull-myth suffers from the same symbolic deficiency as the last one I reviewed here, WONDER WOMAN: WAR OF THE GODS.  Said deficiency might be called "the shoehorn problem," in which the creator becomes preoccupied (whether out of personal taste or from business considerations) with shoehorning so many disparate elements into the narrative that none of them possess any individual charm. But whereas as a multi-crossover work like WAR OF THE GODS had to tie into a dozen or more other DC comics features, the raconteurs behind this 1985 project-- plotter E. Nelson Bridwell, scripter Joey Cavalieri, and artist Carol Lay-- might have been able to trim away a lot of the extraneous elements in order to allow the strictly necessary characters some room to breathe. (To be sure, the project's editor was Roy Thomas, so based on his eighties writing, he too might have thought that "more is always better.")

Right off the bat, the project-- henceforth abbreviated to OZ-- has to work with a team of seven main characters, the members of "Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew." This group of anthropomorphic animal-superheroes debuted in 1982, written by Roy Thomas and penciled by Scott Shaw, and the OZ storyline was originally intended to appear in the regular magazine. The feature was cancelled, so the idea of the Zoo Crew countering a threat to both the fantasy-lands of L. Frank Baum's Oz and of Lewis Carroll's Wonderland became a stand-alone opus. The narrative consisted of three issues published in 1985, just one year before Captain Carrot's world of humanoid animals would be expunged (however temporarily) by the Crisis of Infinite Earths.

I should note here that I was not a fan of CAPTAIN CARROT at its best moments, for its creators tried to walk a tightrope between adventure and humor, and succeeded in neither arena. At most I experienced a mild liking for the design of the group's "Thing," a big porcine crusader named Pig Iron. But all the others were tedious in the extreme. If they weren't just blandly designed and poorly characterized-- Captain Carrot, Rubberduck, Fastback and Little Cheese-- they also had horribly punny names like Yankee Poodle and (ugh) Alley-Kat-Abra. So on top of finding deeds for all seven of these comical crusaders to accomplish in the narrative proper, Bridwell and Cavalieri-- possibly working to Thomas's specifications-- had to find a rationale for the beast-heroes to go adventuring in both Oz and Wonderland. But while the title seems to suggest a literal martial conflict between those two fantasy-domains, the truth is that there's just one evil overlord, the Oz-derived "Nome King," who's attempting to subjugate both realms.

I won't dilate upon the plot, which IMO is just a patchwork of episodes in which the Zoo Crew jaunts from one fantasy-realm to another for this or that forgettable errand. This extremely loose structure allows the writers to work in numerous characters from Baum and from Carroll, which might have worked out well if Bridwell or Cavalieri had shown any ability to continue the witty characterizations of such figures as the Mad Hatter or Dorothy Gale (who appears in OZ, though there's no accounting for Alice, the feminine muse for Wonderland). But the writers might as well have been attempting to emulate stock figures for a D&D game. As with the regular ZOO CREW comic, OZ is astoundingly unfunny and underwhelming in the adventure department.

Carol Lay's art is OZ's only saving grace, for her successful tightrope-act consists of rendering all the beast-heroes in typical bigfoot style, while the Carroll characters are all rendered along the lines of illustrator John Tenniel and the Oz characters follow the conceptualizations of illustrators Neill and Denslow. And there's one decent joke at the end of OZ, for after Captain Carrot has returned to his home from defeating the Nome King, the story ends with him getting yet more barely-welcome visitors: DC's klutz-heroes The Inferior Five. Their appearance is just a nod from Bridwell, since he wrote the Five's series, which I think is probably more fondly remembered than Captain Carrot even though the former didn't even rack up twenty issues. Frankly, since Bridwell seemed in my opinion more comfortable with writing the Five's baggy-pants comedy, a Five crossover with the Zoo Crew might have stood a slightly greater chance of being funny. 

I suppose that one other positive aspect of this project is that its concentration on Oz-mythology-- a necessary result of the multitude of Oz-books compared to the two canonical Carroll tomes-- might make some readers want to sample the Baum canon. 



Monday, June 27, 2022

ROE, ROE,-- WAIT, DON'T ROE THAT BOAT

So "Roe vs. Wade" was overturned last week. I've said little about the topic of abortion on this blog, aside from this conclusion from THE ILLEGITIMACY OF 'LEGITIMATE RAPE':

I am opposed categorically to the politicized sentiments of Akin's kind.  Their only solution to the multifarious problems relating to unwanted conception-- which include, but certainly are not limited to, conceptions through rape-- is an absolute refusal of the state's power to kill the unborn. 

And, unpleasant though it may seem, the unborn cannot be given special rights, despite any and all societal instincts to protect future generations.  It goes without saying that the state probably has made many mistakes in executing particular abortions, just as it has in executing particular prisoners.  But it does not follow that all of the executions were mistakes.  There are times when the unborn, innocent though they may be, simply have to suffer from living in an imperfect world.

I sympathize somewhat more with those individuals-- none of whom are affiliated with the anti-abortion crowd-- who recommend, not an absolute ban on abortion, but merely restrictions as to how *often* citizens might "choose" to have abortions.  But it's seems almost certain that our society, having become polarized between two extremes, will never explore this area of legal theory. 

Over the years I've heard many of those on the Far Right voice the opinion that the 1973 SCOTUS decision was rooted in "activism," and that its extrapolations of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Bill of Rights were out of line. I would agree only in one respect: of the various rights that the Constitution spells out, none of them relate to medical matters. One may speculate that lawmakers of the 18th and 19th centuries did not foresee the politicization of medical concerns, particularly abortion. So they never spelled out whether or not changing ethics regarding such subjects would truly fall under the so called penumbra of the "life, liberty, and property" guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment (that is, one could not be deprived of these without "due process of law.") This essay from CNN alleges that abortion was available under common law in the U.S. until 1880, though CNN may not be the best arbiter of our national history.

Though I may have become somewhat more conservative on this or that topic over the years, I've never had a problem, as shown above, with the notion that the state may expedite the termination of new life, simply because that state always has that power in essence. I favor neither of the hardcore absolutisms regarding the physical act, be it religion's arbitrary dictates about when the soul enters the fetus, or materialism's screeds about how the fetus just ain't alive until science says so. Neither are worthwhile guides as to whether a contemporary society should consider the option of abortion to be part of the "life, liberty and property" troika. 

I also noted in the segment above that I'm less than impressed with the extremism of some pro-choicers, who would not accept any restrictions whatsoever in their favored form of liberty. Yet it's possible that even if we lived in a time dominated by Classic Liberals rather than Progressives, the SCOTUS Judges would have made the same decision: that abortion could not be viewed as a federally mandated "right" that trumped the local politics of states. 

I do not know all the reasons that the Judges chose to nullify Roe v. Wade. I don't disbelieve their stated reasons, nor do I dismiss all of the animadversions expressed by those who hate the verdict. Nevertheless, I think it possible that, just as the 1973 decision had the effect of breaking down the power of the Religious Right, the 2022 decision may be a challenge to the power of the ultraliberal Left, which enjoyed a boost in cultural hegemony in response to the presidency of Trump and the devastation of Covid, which Lefties blamed on Trump.

In many ways, the Right's crocodile tears for the slain unborn are a way of stoking emotional response from the faithful, in much the same way that the Left sheds similar tears for the sufferings of marginalized women and POC. I think that in recent times the fanaticism of the Left has been more harmful to the culture as a whole, but I won't claim that a return to the values of the Right might not be worse. 

In other words, I cast a plague on both their houses-- albeit with the caveat that I don't really have a dog in the fight.




Thursday, June 23, 2022

MYTHCOMICS: "COURTSHIP, KRYPTONIAN STYLE" (LOIS LANE #78, 1967)

Silver Age LOIS LANE comics have taken a lot of heat for making the female protagonist look foolish, often by some contrivance brought about by her supposed boyfriend Superman, seeking to teach the impulsive lady reporter some sort of "lesson." Some commentators have jumped to the conclusion that the LOIS book was some sort of kiddie-level diatribe against the female of the species.

Of course, this doesn't entirely cohere with the fact that girls of middle school age were most likely the audience that made LOIS LANE a successful magazine throughout the sixties, though the title petered out in the early seventies. Certainly the conventional wisdom of the times asserted that boys did not buy comics that starred girls, with the possible exception of the more lubricious titles (SHEENA and the other jungle-girls, for example). I was brought up in that Silver Age culture, and I can remember feeling disdain for "girl comics," even though I have no idea where that perceived taboo came from. So assuming that most of LOIS's readers were young girls, it's hard to see why they would have supported a title that made their gender look bad, even in the days before full-fledged feminism took hold.

Now, LOIS LANE, like its companion spinoff JIMMY OLSEN, varied between showing the protagonist as foolish in some stories but clever in other ones. Thus any girls who consistently read the book would probably have twigged early on that Lois wasn't ALWAYS a goofball. Given that circumstance, it's possible that those contemporaneous readers just didn't subject their comics-characters to intense sociological scrutiny, precisely because "clever Lois" counteracted the influence of "foolish Lois." This meant that at times Lois-- despite being locked in to her permanent status as "Superman's girlfriend"-- was shown as having her own agency.



"Courtship, Kryptonian Style" (whose title was borrowed from at least one of two similarly titled Italian films of the sixties) straddles the "Clever Lois/ Foolish Lois" categories, as well as extending the same largesse to the protagonist's frequent rival/guest-star, Lana Lang. Writer Leo Dorfman and penciler Kurt Schaffenberger jockey back and forth in their depictions of Lois and Lana, who both seek to free themselves from their enthrallment to Superman but still end up competing for his "hand" in the end.



"Courtship" is technically the second half of a two-part story, but the first part, from LOIS #76, is really just a set-up for Part Two. In #76, both Lois and Lana come across what seems to be a magical genie in a bottle. This genie comes complete with Middle Eastern garments and orange-hued skin (maybe brown skin was a bit too suggestive for the time?), and he calls himself Vitar. Lois and Lana both use Vitar to make frivolous wishes designed to gain attention from Superman, and each explicitly wants to trump her rival. However, it turns out that Vitar's origins lay in a totally different type of bottle-- the Bottle City of Kandor, a Kryptonian city preserved as it were "under glass." Vitar, using some sort of cosmic viewscope to follow Superman's exploits, resents the fact that the hero keeps two women on the string (harem envy, anyone?). 



Vitar's genie-imposture doesn't make any sense, even for a Silver Age story. But Vitar's apparent sincerity-- that he would like to marry either Lois or Lana if they all get the chance to know one another well-- impresses the women. So, since any woman who married Vitar would have to join him in the Bottle City, both Lois and Lana elect to leave their regular lives behind and emigrate to Kandor. Dorfman, knowing that this is not a permanent change, expends no effort on explaining their mind-set. The only important thing was to show the women making an attempt to distance themselves from the man who repeatedly claims he can't marry any mortal woman, lest she be slain by one of the hero's many enemies.



All that said, Dorfman hedges his bets. No sooner do Lois and Lana begin their new life in Kandor than they start missing Superman, just as he is seen (however briefly) yearning after them. To their consternation, the ladies becomes jealous when they observe (via another cosmic viewscope) one of Superman's heroic deeds. They witness the Man of Steel enjoying the presence of two Kandorian girls who are exact doubles of Lois and Lana, who are allowed to leave Kandor to lend the hero a helping hand. (It's the Kandorian double of Lois that the reader sees on the issue's cover, bouncing bullets off her boobs, and neither she nor Kandor-Lana has any real designs on Superman.)



 The only real romance-oriented threat comes from Vitar's ex-girlfriend Serena Vol, who tries to sabotage the ladies' entrance into Kandorian society in a fatal fashion.

The ladies are told that Kandor does not allow "idleness" on the part of its citizens, so Lois and Lana have to have their aptitudes analyzed by an "analyzer beam" in the "psychodrome." The women are told that their real aptitudes are not their actual jobs-- reporter and newscaster-- but rather, that Lois would be best off as a detective and Lana as an archaeologist. This development is the psychological core of the story, for even though the ladies get their talents boosted by Kandorian info-downloads, the change gives readers the chance to see Lois and Lana living lives independent of Superman. 



Not for very long, though. Vitar (who no longer has orange skin, BTW) dates both women briefly, but he quickly intuits that they're still batty for the Metropolis Marvel. So he reveals, out of nowhere, that he has an invulnerability serum, but only enough for one of the ladies. It's presented as a given that if one of them becomes immune from harm, Superman will just have to marry the Invulnerable Girl, irrespectively of whether he really loves her better than Non-Invulnerable Girl. Vitar proposes a test-- like Superman, Vitar is big on testing his loved ones-- saying that the woman who can solve a recent crime, the theft of a Kandorian artifact-- will get the serum, and by extension, the Man of Steel. (Does Vitar contemplate making up to the less successful woman? Dorfman does not say so, but it would be a logical conclusion.)





So Detective Lois and Archaeologist Lana begin their separate paths to track down the artifact-thief, and Dorfman is at his most clever in figuring out ways in which both girls' specialties can shine. While they're still separate, both ladies are briefly menaced, and though neither woman sees her assailant clearly, they both assume it's that ex-girlfriend Serena Vol. It's strange that neither Earth-woman suspects the other Earth-woman, given that their history is one of undercutting one another. The two women come together and track down the thief together, though Lois technically wins the contest because she's had Kandorian karate-skills downloaded into her brain, allowing her to beat the guy up. Winning the contest means nothing, though, because Vitar then reveals that his invulnerable serum just wears off in a short time.



And what mysterious women were menacing the lady sleuths? No, not red herring Serena Vol. It was the two Kandorian doubles, with "Kandor-Lois" trying to help "Earth-Lois" win the contest while "Kandor-Lana" did the same for "Earth-Lana." This may have restored the readers' expectations in the tendency of Lois and Lana to trump each other-- even if their doubles do the dirty deeds. But this last bit of craziness turns the Earth-girls off Kandor, and they implore Superman to bring them back to their home, their status quo, and, one assumes, their uninterrupted day-jobs. For a romantic finish, Vitar marries Serena Vol, forgiving her for her rash actions because 'twas all for love, I guess. 

Having devoted all this time to the psychological myth of the empowered love-slave, I have to add the non-mythic note that I thought the name "Serena Vol" was unusually resonant for a nothing character who doesn't even have a line of dialogue. I finally recalled that about a year before this story, Leo Dorfman scripted the first Silver Age appearance of The Catwoman for two issues of LOIS LANE. And for one panel, Dorfman does use the canonical real-world cognomen for the Feline Felon-- "Selina Kyle." Perhaps he came up with a similar name because he subconsciously thought of Serena Vol as-- "catty?"

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

ABUNDANT EXCHANGES

I've now finished the remainder of Stuart A. Kaufman's INVESTIGATIONS. To be sure, I had to skip most of the heavily statistical stuff, but I flatter myself that I understood most if not all of Kauffman's abstruse concepts. 

In THE WHOLENESS OF HALF-TRUTHS PT. 1, I primarily contemplated Kauffman's response to Wittgenstein's philosophy vis-a-vis "codefinition," which parallels Kauffman's concept of "coevolution." Briefly summarized, Kauffman believes that evolution is not always, as in the popular paradigm, a matter of each individual organism blindly chancing upon whatever adaptations help that organism survive. Survival is still paramount in Kauffman's universe, but in some situations evolution may have taken place due to an exchange between two separate entities-- for instance, as may have happened when some prokaryotic cells bonded with others in order to produce eukaryotic cells. which unlike the earlier type of cell possess a nucleus and mitochondria. I note in passing that in 1967 Lynn Sagan/Margulis termed this process "endosymbiosis," but for whatever reason Kauffman does not use this term or mention Margulis in the bibliography to INVESTIGATIONS. 

Kauffman devotes most of the book to coevolution. This doctrine hinges on the concept that organisms co-evolve not by blind chance alone-- though Kauffman does not deny the chance-factor of mutations-- but out of some prehension (as Whitehead would term it) of a need for greater diversity and therefore abundance. From page 150:

...at the high risk of saying something that might be related to the subject of consciousness, the persistent decoherence of persistently propagating superpositions of quantum possibility amplitudes such that the decoherent alternative becomes actualized as the now classical choice does have at least the feel of mind acting on matter. Perhaps cells "prehend" their adjacent possible quantum mechanically, decohere, and act classically. Perhaps there is an internal perspective from which cells know their world.

The idea of such a "knowing" is of course anathema to reductive science, which cannot imagine organisms without brains as manifesting anything like consciousness, much less a desire for abundance. I interpose that word, which is not in INVESTIGATIONS, in keeping with my one use of it in the essay ABUNDANCE AND EXPRESSIVITY, just to keep myself on track about relating Kauffman's biological theories to my cultural/literary theories.

Kauffman devotes his next to last chapter, "The Persistently Innovative Econosphere," to a sustained comparison of biological exchange (in the "biosphere") with the human custom of trade (in the "econosphere," saying:

The advantages of trade predate the human condition among autonomous agents. Advantages of trade are found in the metabolic exchange of legume root nodule and fungi, sugar for fixed nitrogen carried in amino acids. Advantages of trade were found among the mixed microbial and algal communities along the littoral of the earth's oceans four billion years ago. The trading of the econosphere is an outgrowth of the trading of the biosphere.

Kauffman also disputes the definition of exchange as based in the scarcity of goods, and instead champions an aesthetic of diversity/abundance, saying on page 227: 

Think of the Wright Brothers' airplane. It was a recombination between an airfoil, a light gasoline engine, bicycle wheels, and a propeller. The more objects an economy has, the more novel objects can be constructed.

This statement bears on what I deem the "narratosphere"s" need for novel objects, which also depends on the recombination of elements taken from the co-defined spheres of "affective freedom" and "cognitive restraint," as discussed in WHOLENESS OF HALF-TRUTHS PART 2.  This is why, throughout the history of this blog, I have disputed "Iliad critics" who interpret fictional narrative as comprising a vast series of moral or rational lectures. While the contemplations of cognitive restraint are indispensable to fiction, said contemplations cannot produce novel objects in themselves. The correlations of affective freedom are necessary to break through habitual patterns of thought. (I note in passing a possible comparison between Kant's distinctions between productive and reproductive imagination, explored in 2011's FINDING SIGMUND PART 1.)

The belief that literature can and should pursue all imaginative linkages-- even those that some may find tainted by racial or sexual chauvinism-- lies at the heart of my devotion to the practice of archetypal criticism.




Sunday, June 12, 2022

EFFICACY AND THE NUM FORMULA PT. 2

I should build on the formulations from Part 1 to clarify exactly what sort of freedom I've been describing.

Without doubt the intellectual ramifications of my NUM formula were spawned in reaction against Tzvetan Todorov's attempt to subsume all categories of fantasy under a conceptual umbrella he called "the real," which was very much in keeping with his Freudian leanings. In contrast, I assert that every literary phenomenality has its own unique nature, regardless of what one thinks about the configuration of one's lived experience.

All that said, the base purpose of fictional narrative is expressive, not intellectual, so the primary importance of the three phenomenalities is not their value as thought experiments, but as conjurations of the six forms of affect I last described in 2017's ONE PART ARTIFICE, TWO PARTS AFFECT:


THE NATURALISTIC-- antipathetic aspect FEAR, sympathetic aspect ADMIRATION

THE UNCANNY-- antipathetic aspect DREAD, sympathetic aspect FASCINATION

THE MARVELOUS-- antipathetic aspect TERROR, sympathetic aspect WONDER.


Being one mortal reader, I cannot know precisely what affects dominate the minds of other readers. However, I can use deductive reasoning to discern common ground. For instance, Todorov insists that because Poe's HOUSE OF USHER does not actually reveal any marvelous phenomena, its manifestation of the uncanny is subsumed by "the real." But if this was an accurate deduction that one could apply to other readers, why would cinematic versions of the story appear in practically every fantasy-film concordance? Are there any concordances of fantasy-films that go out of their way to emphasize only films of the marvelous; that keep only the sirens and the psychics but exclude all of the serial killers? I will go out on a limb and state that there are none, for the simple reason that the compilers of these works are not blinded by ideology as was Todorov. Even if none compilers of concordances would look with favor upon my overall system, the automatic association of Norman Bates with Odysseus demonstrates that the affects aligned with the uncanny are closer in spirit to those of the marvelous. 

There will still be disagreements. In MASKED MAVERICKS AND SUCH, I noted how Peter Green's ENCYCLOPEDIA OF WEIRD WESTERNS did not subscribe to my belief that costumed heroes automatically had a "weird" vibe, though he would include any characters garbed in macabre attire (skulls; phantom-like clothing, etc.) But he unequivocally covered both truly marvelous westerns alongside those that only suggested marvelous phenomena-- and that in my opinion is enough to suggest his awareness of a fundamental "strangeness" linking those categories; a strangeness one cannot find even in westerns with odd content (say, 1942's REAP THE WILD WIND, best remembered these days as the film where John Wayne fights an octopus).

Playful, expressive freedom is the essence of what makes fictional narrative valuable to human beings, in contradistinction of the "work ethic" that dominates non-fiction, no matter the quality of the reporting involved in a given screed. Thus I will stipulate that efficacy in my system concerns "a free selection of causes" with respect to all the affective and cognitive aspects of fictional narrative, but that the affective ones are somewhat more consequential.

Friday, June 10, 2022

EFFICACY AND THE NUM FORMULA

 I've only touched upon Ernst Cassirer's concept of efficacy in passing in previous essays, but I did recently conceive of a possible adaptation of the term for my own system.

Once more with feeling, here's what Cassirer wrote of the concept in MYTHICAL THOUGHT:

…the world of mythical ideas… appears closely bound up with the world of efficacy. Here lies the core of the magical worldview… which is indeed nothing more than a translation and transposition of the world of subjective emotions and drives into a sensuous, objective existence.

Cassirer is concerned only with contrasting efficacy, elsewhere described as a "free selection of causes," with the scientific concept of limited causality, so I have no reason to think that the philosopher would have had any reason to apply his categories to the subject of literary phenomenality. But it occurred to me recently that "free selection of causes" is a choice that potentially faces any reader/audience-member when presented with any narrative: that it may be dominated by either the naturalistic, the uncanny, or the marvelous phenomenality.

For once I won't put forth new examples of each phenomenality, but will default to the statement I made in last year's LIKE A TROPE, ON THE WIRE:

In my discussion of Aristotle I mentioned that Classic Greek literature could embrace both “naturalistic tropes,” which were often with the limitations of human fallibility and mortality,” and with “marvelous tropes” about gods and ghosts, describing imagined states of existence beyond the realm of human limitations. Gothic fiction was instrumental, however, in promulgating the interstitial category of “uncanny tropes.” Such tropes had existed even in mankind’s prehistory, and in my essay UNCANNY GENESIS I cited some examples of uncanny tropes from archaic story-cycles, such as the extra-Biblical “Bel and the Dragon” and “the Six Labors of Theseus.” But there’s no doubt that Gothic practitioners like Ann Radcliffe had a much more sustained effect in elaborating stories in which supernatural occurrences were “explained rationally.” In truth, though, the “rationality” of uncanny stories like THE ITALIAN and THE MYSTERIES OF UDOLPHO is compromised from the start by even allowing for the possibility of the supernatural, in contrast, say, to Jane Austen’s Gothic spoof NORTHANGER ABBEY, in which the existence of the supernatural is not even slightly validated.

 All of these examples require that the reader fall into sympathy with whatever attitude the author projects regarding "the world of subjective emotions," even if that attitude may include total dismissal of said emotions. 

In life, each person makes a similar choice: whether or not to believe that emotions have "objective existence," or to credence that whatever abstract forms those emotional continua may assume-- Heaven, Hell, the astral plane-- have any meaning to them. But in fiction, the choice always remains open to interpretation with each new text-- which is one reason literature will always be oriented more toward freedom than to restraint.

THE WHOLENESS OF HALF-TRUTHS PT. 2

 At the end of the previous essay I wrote:

But the idea of codefinition has some interesting permutations for my notions of literature as a place where truth and non-truth, perata and apeiron, continually co-exist and play off one another.

The ancient Greek terms "perata and apeiron" appeared before in a round of essays I wrote back in January, entitled LIMITED AND LIMITLESS CREATED HE THEM, starting here.

Simply put, the Greek terms connote respectively "things that have limits" and "things that are boundless." I used them thusly: 

 For my system "the boundless" is not the physical universe  -- "infinite space" though it may be-- but the universe of the human mind, as it stands in comparison to humanity's physical environment.

I went on to explore this dichotomy through the lens of Georges Bataille's distinction between "work" (productive activity, oriented upon humans dealing with the limited physical world) and "play" (unproductive activity, oriented upon humans taking a vacation from work and its attendant moralities). It should be noted that both of these dichotomies-- limited/limitless and work/play-- might be deemed as "codefinitional" in the sense seen in Kauffman's quote in the previous essay: that one concept generates the other. (Back in the 2012 essay PERSONAS OF GRATIFICATION I employed Martin Buber's term "word pairs" to much the same end.)

Yet another pair of linked concepts relevant to this discussion are the opposed concepts of "verisimilitude" and "artifice" that I formulated (or re-interpreted) in the 2016 essay EFFICACY, MEET MYTH. "Verisimilitude" includes everything in a narrative allied to the limits of the physical continuum, while "artifice" includes everything in a narrative allied to the limitless nature of the continuum of abstract concepts. 

With all that in mind, I go back to the two versions of Ludwig Wittgenstein discussed by Stuart A. Kauffman in INVESTIGATIONS. The first version of Wittgenstein was one who, in accordance with the prevalent mood of the period, valued the concept of "logical atomism." Kauffman wrote:

Logical atomism sought to reconstruct statements about the external world from logical combinations of atomic statements about sense data.

Before going on Wittgenstein 2.0, I pose the question" does the philosophy of "logical atomism" parallel anything with the corpus of literary criticism. And, perhaps not surprisingly, the parallel I draw is to a type of criticism described by Northrop Frye:

Many of our best and wisest critics tend to think of literature as primarily instructive... They feel that its essential function is to illuminate something about life, or reality, or experience, or whatever we call the immediate world outside literature. Thus they tend... to think of literature, taken as a whole, as a vast imaginative allegory, the end of which is a deeper understanding of the nonliterary center of experience... They value lifelike characterization, incidents close enough to actual experience to be imaginatively credible, and above all they value 'high seriousness' in theme..."-- Northrop Frye, "Mouldy Tales," A NATURAL PERSPECTIVE, pp. 1-2.

Since Frye is the luminary from whom I partly borrowed my verisimilitude-artifice word-pair, it should be clear that I'm saying that the "high seriousness" critic is the one who values verisimilitude above everything else, and that this type of thinking parallels that of the logical atomists. 

Now for a return appearance, here's Kauffman on Wittgenstein's rejection of the atomist attitude:

Wittgenstein's point is that one cannot, in general, reduce statements at a higher level to a finitely specified set of necessary and sufficient statements at a lower level, Instead, the concepts at the higher level are codefined.

And is there a parallel between this attitude and the opposing critical tendency described in Frye's essay? Let's see.

Reading a detective story indicates a liking for comic and romantic forms, and for the contemplation of a fiction for its own sake. We begin by shutting out or deliberately excluding our ordinary experience, for we accept, as part of the convention of the form, things that we know are not often found in actual experience, such as an ingenious murderer and an imaginative policeman. We do no want to think about the truth or likelihood of what we are reading, as long as it does not utterly outrage us; we simply want to see what is going to happen in the story.

 

Certainly Frye has ably contrasted the critic who wants "verisimilitude" as against the critic who wants "conventions." I would extend this to say that the appeal of the first is also, as stated before, the appeal of "cognitive restraint," and therefore perata, while the latter appeals in terms of "affective freedom," and therefore apeiron. I've already stated my own allegiance, but not without having noted that myth and literature are all about propounding "half-truths," responsive to both the truths we encounter through physical experience and truths we encounter through abstract contemplation. And it is through being able to experience both of these proclivities that the often divided minds of humankind may potentially find at least a conditional wholeness.