Featured Post


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, October 25, 2016


From the beginnings of this blog I've maintained that a narrative's "mythicity" inheres in its ability to focus on *symbolic discourse;* which is another name for the author's use of narrative to explore the way his (or her) symbolic representations interact with one another. This creative propensity on the part of authors I've given the name of *mythopoesis,* one of the four potentialties.

But, given that I've sought to maintain some degree of symmetry between the mode of the dynamic and the mode of the combinatory, and their respective sublime affects, I must then ask: is dynamicity also a discourse, and if so, of what?

In one essay I denied the potential of dynamicity to be a discourse, but I'll retract that now.  When the focal presences of a narrative engage one another-- said presences ranging from sentient characters to inanimate objects-- these encounters will form a "discourse" composed of that interaction relating to the power, or lack of power, that characterizes each such presence.

In the majority of narratives, this encounter takes the form of violent conflict. However, violence is not necessary to portray a conflict of dynamicities. For instance, Ibsen's HEDDA GABLER culminates when the titular character faces the possibility that an unscrupulous character has gained the "power" to expose her to societal scandal. Hedda's only method of overcoming her opponent consists of a pyrrhic victory: she kills herself, leaving the extortionist with nothing.

Thus, regardless as to whether a character's dynamicity-- or, what I've called "might" in some older essays-- is expressed in violence or not, each character possesses a *quantum* of dynamicity. In stand-alone narratives, this quantum tends to be unchanging from the start to the finish of the narrative. With serial characters, however, the quantum may change any number of aspects from story to story.

Therefore, my symmetrical arrangement now reads:

Mythicity= the discourse of symbolic constructions

Dynamicity= the discourse of quantum constructions.

Now, further consideration of the aspects of quantum-dynamicity leads me back to the distinctions I've made between two particular types of violence: "functional" and "spectacular." One of my last observations on this subject appeared in CENTRIC AND DIFFUSE WILL PT. 2.  I stated that though the initial outings for Universal's DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN were both subcombative, the former displayed only functional violence because most of the violent interactions were merely "intimated," while the latter embodied spectacular violence because of that film's greater attention to the emotional effect of the conflict within the narrative. Now I would add that there is also more of a "quantum discourse" in FRANKENSTEIN simply because the intent behind the violent depictions is more efficacious, a point also made in INTENT VS. EXECUTION.

Within the sphere of works that do use literal violence, subcombative works cannot develop the full potential of the quantum discourse. Seeing the Frankenstein Monster pitted against mere villagers is never much of a challenge to his powers, even if on occasion they may be able to overpower him by sheer numbers, as in BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN.

In contrast, the sole combative work in the Universal Frankenstein series does give the Monster a viable opponent in the Wolf Man, short though the battle may be.

The battle between the Monster and the Wolf Man supplies a definite discourse in the sense that the authors must figure out how their respective powers will play off against one another; something that the authors of BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN need not do with the merely functional encounter of the Monster and the villagers.

Now, just because an author arranges a combative situation, that doesn't automatically mean he manages to arrange all the quanta in pleasing proportions. Jack Kirby, of course, was the master of all types of fight-scenes, and excelled all of his contemporaries in terms of the "multi-character battle," as seen in this spread from FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #3,

This isn't even Kirby's best multi-character "discourse," but one can see how skillfully the artist composes all the chaotic visual elements with considerable attention to the "quantum* of each one's powers.

As an example of a "bad discourse," we have this scene from the first SECRET WARS mini-series, in which penciller Mike Zeck was reportedly constrained to follow the artistic dictates of his editor and collaborator Jim Shooter.

Though one sees all of the dynamicity-quanta in play-- Spider-Man dodges Storm's lightning-bolt, catches Nightcrawler in webbing, etc.-- there's no sense of creative free play here.  The discourse, although it does belong within the domain of the spectacular and the combative, is so uninventive as to come as close to "functional violence" as one can come within a combative work. 

In any case, the formulation of functional and spectacular violence in terms of their energy-quanta also gives me a parallel to this 2014 statement on my distinction between symbols in their 
incarnations of "stereotype" and "archetype."

A stereotype is defined by bare functionality.
An archetype is defined by some degree of "super-functionality."

No comments: