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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, March 30, 2017


My current contemplation of the four potentialities leads me to return to the 2015 essay-series REFLECTIONS IN A MERCURIAL EYE. I wrote this series one month before I started using the terms "overthought," "underthought" and "lateral meaning" to describe my conception of the literary process.  In Part 3 I drew some general comparisons between Jung's ideas about his "four functions" and what parallels these did or did not have with said literary process.

Drawing on Jung's comment about the purpose of each function... in literature [I consider that]"sensation" refers to the readers' identification with the physical sensations of fictional characters, while "feeling" refers to the extrinsic value that the readers place upon the characters' actions.

By contrast, in the previous passage, I said that these were the functions through which the majority of audiences interact with fictional narrative, as opposed to the functions that concern either images and symbols (intuition) or discursive ideas (thinking). This prioritization is at odds with the ontogenesis Jung presents in PSYCHOLOGICAL TYPES, where the two irrational /perceptual functions, sensation and intuition, develop first in the human organism, and are only later followed by the rational / judgment-making functions, thinking and feeling.

In REFLECTIONS I did not so much dispute Jung's prioritization as declare it irrelevant to the literary process:

Now Jung calls intuition an "irrational, perceiving function" while thinking is a "rational function of judgment." Despite this difference, both of them seem to be secondary processes for purposes of literary identification.

The obvious reason for this-- though I didn't state it at the time-- is that while the human organism may have one ontogenetic order, a given literary narrative has another. In fact, it must have a different ontogenetic order, given that while humans are born as children and progress to adulthood, literary works are presented to their audiences in "adult" form. That is, not only are they supposed to have refined away all the confusions of their early conceptions, they are by and large produced by adults who have lived with all four functions since their own childhoods. It is for this fundamental reason that the functions of sensation and feeling are primary in both the artist's creation of his works and his audience's interactions with them, while the functions of thinking and intuition become secondary, requiring a great deal of education before one can navigate their more abstract depths.

In Part 3 I also said:

...I cited a Jung passage in which he spoke of the intuition's "mythological images" as "the precursors of ideas." Given Jung's love of symmetry, he probably contemplated a similar indebtedness between the other two functions, given that the base input of sensations-- as to whether they were agreeable or disagreeable-- can be easily seen as the basis of the feeling-function's more sophisticated decisions about what people and things ought to be accepted or rejected.

Leaving Jung's love of symmetry out of the matter, my own similar love prompts me to observe that I can see how narrative in its most elementary states-- say, stories in Golden Age comic books-- often seem to have nothing on their respective minds than establishing (1) the range of sensations possible and (2) basic (i.e., not "more sophisticated") judgments on whether people or things thus perceived should be accepted or rejected. Thus sensation retains its status as being a function both irrational and perceptual, and feeling keeps its nature as being a function both rational and judgment-oriented.

In my recent meditations on "complexity" and "density," I've come to the conclusion that all four functions, as they manifest in literature, must depend on complexity as a measure of merit. In COMPLEXITY, MEET DENSITY PT. 1  I rejected Raymond Durgnat's 'aesthetic of simplicity," in part because I think his notion of symmetry-- i.e., elementary myth-motifs must be opposed to more finely rendered renditions of verisimilitude-- was, ironically enough, too simple. Certainly I don't think of the free flow of images and symbols, as expressed by the function of intuition, is in any way less complex than any mimesis produced by any representative of realism, be it Henry James or Ben Katchor. Maybe if Durgnat had read more of Jung than of Levi-Strauss, he might have modified his stance.

I've already devoted many words to the ways in which the products of the human intuition provide the groundwork for the conceptualizations of the thinking-function. But only in this essay, THE QUANTUM THEORY OF DYNAMICITY, did I come close to verbalizing the potential connections between the sensation-function and the feeling-function as seen through my lit-crit lens. More on this in a separate essay.

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