Tuesday, July 14, 2020


Having received a comment about defining the terms herein, I see there's no single page that really covers them all, so here goes:

Like the header says, my first priority is to talk about how the elements of various types of shows tend to fall into one of three phenomenalities: naturalistic, uncanny, and marvelous. I recently conceived of them as three concentric circles. The innermost circle is the sphere of everything we pattern directly on perceived reality, both in cognitive and affective terms. The midmost circle is about the same size, because it reproduces all the same cognitive patterns, but the affective patterns suggest the larger-than-life without actually violating the limitations on what the audience dominantly believes to be naturalistically possible. The third circle, the marvelous, is actually as close as we can get to an infinitely expanding sphere, since the creators of the marvelous combine cognitive and affective patterns both from perceived reality and from conceived reality.

Mythicity denotes how well each story deals with symbolic discourse. I distinguish four levels-- poor, fair, good and the very rare superior (BLADE RUNNER, for example).

What I term the Fryean mythoi are four patterns of storytelling I adapted from the works of Northrop Frye, and these are based on what sort of conflict is most important to the story: that of the adventure, the drama, the comedy and the irony. Again, almost impossible to sum up without reference to the other blog.

Having heard that Joseph Campbell's heirs might be a bit on the litigious side, I might someday have to drop the references to his work. But to me his best insight stems from his "four functions," which were meant to address the types of knowledge encoded in myths: cosmological (dealing with physical reality), metaphysical (dealing with whatever is believed to underlie physical reality), psychological (dealing with the individual's internal dynamics), and sociological (dealing with the dynamics of the society). I've termed all of these "epistemological patterns" because they deal with analyzing the nature of knowledge in fiction-- which is, to be sure, not homologous with the nature of knowledge in philosophy and other forms of alleged non-fiction. In some ways I think the insight might be even more relevant to literature than to religion, myth and folklore, but since Campbell didn't choose to devote much attention to literature I decided to apply his criteria here for the sake of an experiment-- even if it means I can't ever reproduce the experiment, say in book-form.


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  2. About five years, I posted COSMOLOGICAL CONSIDERATIONS--


    -- in which I wrote:

    "Thus it should be seen that the forms of knowledge within a fictional universe should not be downgraded because they do not align with what is deemed "scientific knowledge" in the real world. All forms of knowledge in a fictional universe should be deemed *simulacra of knowledge.* The same holds true for the other functions. Audiences need not believe in Jung's psychological concepts to regard Fellini's Jung-influenced films as illuminating the human condition; need not validate the socialist fallacy of "the rise of the proletariat" in order to derive pleasure from Jack London's IRON HEEL, nor even credit Dave Sim's fusion of Judaism, Islam and Christianity to get insights out of CEREBUS THE AARDVARK."

    By this line of logic, I don't regard references to scientific phenomena in fiction to be the same as scientific phenomena in life as the human race experiences it. A "naturalistic" use of the cosmological function might seek, for instance, to expound on the majesty of nature as it exists in the real world, like say the mighty redwoods in Hitchcock's VERTIGO, which I deem a naturalistic work. But everything in the film that aligns with scientific law is not in itself cosmological in nature.

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  4. Not quite. I'm not propounding any terms for things in the real world, I'm describing the extent to which a fictional analogue adheres to, or does not adhere to, what we expect of the real world.

    "Naturalistic" applies to all four functions, and it signifies that whatever narrative phenomena being described adheres closely to our ideas about natural law and causation. A naturalistic psychology would be one that appears to be a pure result of cause and effect, as would a naturalistic society. Naturalistic metaphysics might sound like a contradiction in terms, but here it simply means that whatever metaphysical system is propounded can be entirely explained by cause and effect. I've labeled almost none of the naturalistic films reviewed here with the metaphysical function, but one of the few I did review was ONDINE, which concerns a hoax about Irish mythology. The more famous GUNGA DIN might earn such a label as well, since it's implied that the Thugs' belief in a bloodthirsty goddess merely evolves out of their leaders' desire for carnage, and has no validity as a metaphysics.

    Thanks for the dialogue.

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  6. I started to write an addenda to my remarks above about the category of the "uncanny," but decided to expand it into its own essay,here: