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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...

Friday, March 14, 2008

STALKING THE PERFECT TERM: "THE NULL- MYTH"

Before downloading my next essay dealing with the history of Marvel's Valkyrie character, I have to pause to introduce a new term to deal with the simple, as opposed to the complex, manifestations of mythicity.

In my introductory essay I said that there was "a hierarchy between simple and complex manifestations of the units of communication—whatever one chooses to call them—that make up a narrative." And inasmuch as I define "mythicity" in terms of its complexity, it follows that any time I speak of any narrative element as possessing full-fledged mythicity, I am imputing to that element a significant degree of symbolic complexity. But then, how should one speak of the simple manifestation of narrative elements?

In a messboard-argument some time back, one poster challenged me to show the difference between a mythic and a non-mythic element. The next essay, "Female Trouble," will provide an example of a narrative that possesses simple symbolism but not true mythicity. However, the lack of developed mythicity in a given element does not mean that the element is "non-mythic," for I view it as a given that nothing in narrative is incapable of taking on mythic dimension. Thus, to call any element "non-mythic" would be a terminological mistake. It would be like defining a sunlit sky as a "non-raining sky" simply because it doesn't happen to be raining at a particular moment in time. Roughly the same problems inhere with comparable terms like "un-myth" or, Thoth help me, Ursula LeGuin's dunderheaded conception, "the false myth," from the same Le Guin essay I reference in THEMATIC REALISM II.

I have settled on a new term, "the null-myth" as descriptive of an element that does not happen to be mythic in a particular iteration. Not unlike Frye's use of the mathematical term "complex variable" to define the literary archetype-- also noted in the intro essay-- "null-myth" is a derivation from a mathematical term, "the null set."

Here's Wikipedia's definition of the null set, which may not be exacting by the standards of mathematicians but is sufficient for the needs of a literary adaptation:

"In mathematics, a null set is a set that is negligible in some sense. For different applications, the meaning of "negligible" varies. In set theory, there is only one null set, and it is the empty set. In measure theory, any set of measure 0 is called a null set (or simply a zero measure set). More generally, whenever an ideal is taken as understood, then a null set is any element of that ideal."

No narrative element is literally empty, of course, any more than "zero" exists as more than an abstraction in this our macroverse. But it's certainly possible for a narrative element to be "negligible in some sense," and it is in that sense that henceforth I'll be using the term "null-myth."

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