A Comment That Grew Too Much; After an Absence That Grew Too Much

So, after blazin’ through a fair share over <memetic number> words on Kannagi, plot, art and discourse – I condemn timezones and odd sleeping habits for not allowing me to participate – I thought a proper response is due. I’m aware I’ve been absent for quite some while, and while my excuses are legion (depression, writer’s block, nonstimulating schoolwork soaking up time like a sponge and constant travelling) they matter little. What matter is gettin’ it on, and now.

I’ll respond on three seperate points I thought I had something at least semi-worthwhile to utter comments about. Being steeped deep in analytical philosophy is interesting in an environment veering more towards continental theory. It is quite giving, since it’s long been a desire of mine to join the two once again, finding the divide unnecessary, harmful even. This’ll also mean that my viewpoints will be at times quite… incongruous to the discourse the others are in (as opposed to disagreeing), but nothing is more beautiful than the harmony of dissonance. Oh and at times (read: most of the time) I won’t respond at all, but only go on about my view on things without really addressing theirs.

First Response-point: On Plot and Metaphor

Ghostlightning and lelangir touch upon what relationship plot and metaphor has; specifically in the case of Kannagi.

lelangir: I think the fanservice superficial plot is more vehicular to the metaphorical content

Ghostlightning: consequence of conflict: complication of ordinary high school life

lelangir: in the anime, what we see first and foremost is Nagi years ago

Ghostlightning: the metaphorical content does not equal plot

lelangir: clad in traditional clothing as goddess

hmm

Ghostlightning: plot can be ‘bad’ but metaphorical content can be awesome

kannagi’s metaphorical content is awesome imo

plot is ordinary

not a value judgment

lelangir: but the metaphorical content is so well lined up that I dont think it cant be anything but plot

To clarify: I don’t use plot in the way Ghostlightning and lelangir does; I use ”plot” for the presentation (”narrative” – Ghostlightning does point this out), and ”story” for the content, their ”plot”. Plot(Use)l+G = Story(Use)k.

To further elaborate, unlike the poststructuralists, I think that it is possible to discern between signified and signifier: in this case, the signifier is the plot, hiding within itself the story – the events as they ”actually” are in diegesis. It gets very interesting when one adds in metaphor as being plot – I agree more with lelangir there than I do with Ghostlightning, not that I’d ever thought of making the equation myself – since metaphor in itself is a signifier of the signified material, the -phoros. (While I am using Sausserean terminology, I have a good deal of Pierce in me – it’s just that his triad is not necessary to make clear what I mean here and I believe Saussures terms are more well-known.)

Without the story, the metaphor doesn’t work. The story as a vehicle for the metaphor establishes soundly that it is a signifier/signified relation. Words are ”vehicles” for meaning – meaning being, as I’ll get into later, a reference to an object (quite possibly another sign).

So the fictional work is a lattice-leaf within the greater semiotic complex-lattice of anime (which is part of the different fields of Western otaku subculture and Eastern, each part of their own greater complexes of nerddom and fiction, which are ultimately part of the semiosphere – the totality of all signs and sign-systems in use). They are all great masses of signs and their ordinary, accepted and controversial relations, all a bit skewed since they lie in the heads of different people, all with slightly different intra-sign relationships due to differing interpretations and experiences.

I have gay colours in my diagrams and schematics because no one else does and I think that’s a shame.

Putting this into a hierarchy and schematizing it (you can atomize it a good bit more – I stop at the objects of metaphor since I won’t adress lower-level signs) as I did above, one might think that they are separate entities, but they are quite inextractable from eachother. Or at least, down to the metaphor – it is not a necessary subdivision of a story. Note, though, that as we go lower down the hierarchy, we also go closer the fictional world and its reality – is perhaps the metaphor-plane where this stops and the false reality again gazes up at ours, slowly becoming more and more part of what is again, to culminate in the signifieds of the smallest signs? Perhaps a fictional world is trapped inbetween the larger social construct from whence it originated and the elements of that construct – or is it a mirage, that the real lies only in the smallest of propositions, and as we craft larger and larger semiotic webs, we lose reality1?

Whether this applies to Kannagi, I am not quite sure myself yet – so while I am defending the viability of lelangir’s original thesis being a viable model for some fiction, I am not arguing that he shouldn’t have abandoned it when it comes to Kannagi in lieu of the two-coexistant-stories view. At least not yet.

Second Response-point: On Genera

I find genera (proper latin plural, biatches, because it looks better, which generoi doesn’t) to be a self-fulfilling, self-perpetuating and harmful practice. The way they originate is wholly arbitrary: while fantasy and sci-fi are named after the elements that appear in the stories, tragedy and comedy are named after what emotional effect they have, and ‘slife after what situations the story is about (yes, Lucky Star has a story. Shock ain’t it?). We could just as well have a genre which went after if there are cellphones or close analogies and an associated set of tropes/clichés – after all, we already have mecha series, with their associated tropes and clichés. That is, unlike the hierarchy of Work-Plot-Story in a signifier-signified sense, genre is a set, with elements being some of the atoms of story.

lelangir: and that’s where I thought the heirarchy of plot/genre was upset

Ghostlightning: particular to specific works

lelangir: ok

yeah

Ghostlightning: yeah

lelangir: so which form does kannagi utilize

I’m just having a hard time articulating this

Ghostlightning: i can imagine

lelangir: the first case is how plot is a glue that connects genre

the second is how everything is already cohesive in the first place

but it’s not visible

it takes something more to realize it

Rather than ”genre” being part of the hierarchy of narrative fiction, it’s an overlapping, intrusive set. It overlaps the whole area of fiction but only contains certain elements – tropes, clichés, conventions, emotive effects. Unlike the internal hierarchy of the work in question, genre only makes sense when it’s an comparison between several works. It is not extractable, not an atom, within a work, as narrative form, events, signs and so on are. But I’d still not say that it is higher in the hierarchy – as I’ve implied, it’s not on the same ”plane” of sign-relations, instead of signifier/signified-relations it is about similarity (belonging to the same set). When a large enough amount – relatively speaking – of signs belong to genre X, the work is now called being a X-show.

Genera give birth to themselves through the prevalence of their cells within a work.

Ghostlightning: use sets

^ The man’s got it all down.

Of course, they are still members of the field of narrative art. They work on the plane of intertextuality, being inplicit, inexact references to a wealth of other work sharing the same interreferences and elements. They are not much different from, say, Neon Genesis Evangelion‘s endless Judeo-Christian references or the whole of Ulysses.

lelangir: so there’s a distinction here

between style and genre

style is romance

genre is mecha

mecha romance

slice of life romance

mecha comedy

’slife comedy

And here I’d sort-of-disagree sort-of-totally-agree: styles are pretty much the same as genera. Since genera are defined by elements that fall under the umbrella term, works have small doses of genera here and there, of all manners and types. Style is simply renaming; a different kind of similarity cross-works-in-the-discourse.

The harm of pidgeonholing art into genera is the effect it has on the production of it. In further establishing that ”if element A appears, so must element B since they are both members of the same genre”, a self-fulfilling prophecy. Acidic on creativity, and worse, it leads to snobbism of the worst kind (”genre fiction” vs. ”literary fiction”).

praetera censeo genera esse delendam

Third Response-point: On Art and What it Means

Or just ”Meaning”, since I do not fancy aesthetics and go hard for Wittgenstein/Russell/Pierce.

lelangir: things have no meaning until it is represented

representation is CONSTITUTIVE of meaning

Ghostlightning: YES

lelangir: there is no “thing” before it is represented

representation MAKES the thing

Ghostlightning: there is NO KNOWLEDGE WITHOUT LANGUAGE

Total agreement here. Just had to say that. Or well, ”refer” is a bit different than ”represent” (and the theory of meaning I mostly adhere to is referring), but not by many nontechnical shades.

Pontifus: art has no intrinsic value, which makes it infinitely valuable

Same thing again. I’d extend it to ”everything”.

Cuchlann: Answers, though, real quick: does a book have content if no one reads it?

[...]

Cuchlann: You’re unaware of the social mores concerning books.

Pontifus: well, then the book might mean firewood, but we’re talking about the text, i guess, lol

A text, can it mean anything when it is not read or thought of? Once again, I agree with their conclusions (in some sense). I agree too much. Must be my nationality.

Because what does ”mean” mean2? Being the generous semiotician I am, to ”mean” something is to be a referrant relevant to a certain decoding system. Languages are decoding systems, our base cognitive functions are decoding systems (sorted into fear-recognizing areas routing impulses to the amygdala, arousing-specific centra responsible for getting things in order for lovin’ and so on), RNA is the language that decodes DNA into a full human being and so on.

Is the mere possibility of being possible for a decoding system to ”extract” meaning from sign-complex A enough to give A a latent meaning? No, and here Pierce makes an entrance – the interpretor is a necessary part of the sign.

This ”referrant”, the property of referring, is pretty much an atom. It cannot, at all, be described in lower terms, cannot be made an atom.

Of course, this makes the distinction between all possible sorts of meaning sort of fuzzy – the text is meaningful in being decoded by an automaton, prior to that it has still meaning though – it still has an effect on our vision, on our thinking and our relating to the thing, even if we can’t read the pertinent alphabet.

Cuchlann: Discourse is about making meaning. Art makes no meaning on its own, and cannot take part in discourse, as discourse is a two-way street.

Here I’ll disagree on a technicality. Meaning isn’t made – it is decoded after a set of rules. We do not, once in possession of a text, see to the creatio ex nihil of a signified complex. Nay, given the rules for decoding it we have, we conclude the meaning that is decodable by the given set of rules. This is of course possibly a misinterpretation on my part given semantics. Suffice to say, I do not see the reader as ”active” in creating the meaning , and that is what I disagree with – she is on the other hand definitely necessary, no sign without an interpretant. (I need to learn some reader-response and phenomenology, I blame Husserl for being incomprehensible enough for me not to want to get deeper into it).

This is a bit similar, but stated in a very different terminology, to this:

Cuchlann: Art can be considered a product of discourse.

lelangir: but the aesthetic experience can be discursisve

Cuchlann: True.

Pontifus: insofar as discourse is one person agreeing with himself…is, i think, the idea, correct me if i’m wrong, o mighty cuchlann

[...]

Ghostlightning: the discourse with the self

is between one’s memories

lelangir: nice

Ghostlightning: and the idea at hand

lelangir: your habitus

oh shi-

your habits

your consciousness

[...]

lelangir: because

your identity is not stable

Ghostlightning: does the idea at hand, FIT?

lelangir: always morphing

being changed by external forces

Imagination is a bitch though, I am still not quite sure it has any semiotic language per se, even if it works with signs and nothing but signs. I am therefore forced to admit a leeeway there that allows for the active creation of meaning.

And what is more important in fiction than imagination?

Notes

1) Just me rambling. Seeds of thought, probably already rotten, to be tossed to fat birds, or for the connoisseur with sharper eye than I to breed into a lively and vital tree. (Ooh, metaphor in a discussion about metaphor. How meta).

2) …Sorry, I felt as if I had to ; . ;

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21 Comments

  1. I will, predictably, disagree with you about your judgment of genre — I feel it is necessary to interpreting texts. A text will have signals in it that signify a certain genre; they’re not implied after the fact, they are purposefully present within the text itself. As such, “membership” in a genre helps create a meaning that the reader would not take away if the text was a “member” of a different genre. Something that self-identifies as fantasy or sci-fi, for example, isn’t just telling the reader it’s going to have unicorns or black holes; it’s telling the reader part of the aesthetic experience is to be removed from the reader’s own society and mores, often to be led back around to them in a roundabout way (such as the dystopian sci-fi novel that creates an incredibly strange world only to reveal its strange foundations are social problems prevalent in modern society).

    Of course, texts mix and match genre signifiers willfully. Many fantasies also use the traditions of the bildungs-roman (the education of a youth), or the transformative green spaces of traditional comedy.

    [I said "predictably" because I'm, at least in part, a genre critic, so obviously I'm going to disagree. ^_^]

    So if the reader isn’t active, doesn’t that necessarily mean he or she is passive? And if the reader is passive, the experience shouldn’t be individual — and as such, every single person would react the same way to a text, as it broadcasts the same things every time. I know that’s not actually what you’re saying, but it seems (to me) to be the eventual conclusion of claiming the act of reading isn’t active. If you want to get the good versions of “active reader” theory under you belt to see what all the hoopla is, try out Wolfgang Iser (reader-response) and Georges Poulet (phenomenology). Or, alternately, read the chapter titled “Blood in the Gutter” in Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. I’m not saying that you must agree with them, but you were saying yourself you’d like to try them out, see what’s going on.

    Despite the fact that you forced me to disagree — according the the idea that the reader is passive ; ) — great post. We regretted, at the time, that you weren’t there. I’m glad you responded here, at least.

    Reply
  2. lelangir

     /  1 January 2009

    Without the story, the metaphor doesn’t work. The story as a vehicle for the metaphor establishes soundly that it is a signifier/signified relation. Words are ”vehicles” for meaning – meaning being, as I’ll get into later, a reference to an object (quite possibly another sign).

    Hmmm I’d disagree. Just because the signified is contingent upon a concrete signifier doesn’t mean the closest one is the thing to which we establish causality. This depends, and I’m confused as per your distinctions between plot/story/metaphor. I’d say that the story can proceed in one vector and the the story/signifier to which the signified-metaphor refers to can proceed in a totally opposite direction. It’s not like the container must be coextensive with the contained – the two are autonomous.

    Note, though, that as we go lower down the hierarchy, we also go closer the fictional world and its reality – is perhaps the metaphor-plane where this stops and the false reality again gazes up at ours, slowly bexoming more and more part of what is again, to culminate in the signifieds of the smallest signs? Perhaps a fictional world is trapped inbetween the larger social construct from whence it originated and the elements of that construct – or is it a mirage, that the real lies only in the smallest of propositions, and as we craft larger and larger semiotic webs, we lose reality1?

    I don’t get it…

    Rather than ”genre” being part of the hierarchy of narrative fiction, it’s an overlapping, intrusive set. It overlaps the whole area of fiction but only contains certain elements – tropes, clichés, conventions, emotive effects. Unlike the internal hierarchy of the work in question, genre only makes sense when it’s an comparison between several works. It is not extractable, not an atom, within a work, as narrative form, events, signs and so on are.

    Noooo you took me out of context. I really didn’t want to use the word “genre” there – I would have preferred “style” but both are equally confusing. What I meant, and I termed it as “intra-paradigmatic”, was how, really, stylistically disparate events are related. Within TTGL you have both drama (Kamina dies), comedy (Yoko’s boobs), GAR (everything else), angst (Rossieu suicide) – so what is the pervasive gel that glues it all together? Story, I thought (the progression of events). In this sense, you can indeed use “genre” (idiolectically speaking, style) operatively within the same piece: it is extractable, quantifiable, “atomic”, as you put it.

    And so really it’s just appropriate to have different styles according to the story. When things get sad, you need drama. etc. Shit…Perhaps a good term would be stylistic events?

    Just for shits and giggles, I really don’t like Richard & Ogden’s model. I’ve been inculcated in Saussure, and I’m a bit lazy to re-learn Pierce.

    Nice response anyway, you should definitely participate in these spontaneous jerk circles.

    Reply
    • lelangir

       /  1 January 2009

      Hmmm I’d disagree. Just because the signified is contingent upon a concrete signifier doesn’t mean the closest one is the thing to which we establish causality. This depends, and I’m confused as per your distinctions between plot/story/metaphor. I’d say that the story can proceed in one vector and the the story/signifier to which the signified-metaphor refers to can proceed in a totally opposite direction. It’s not like the container must be coextensive with the contained – the two are autonomous.

      To rephrase, vehicularity is not causality.

      maybe…….

      Reply
  3. lelangir

     /  1 January 2009

    And I’m infinitely glad you read the thing!

    Reply
  4. @lelangir: you may be able to describe different events according to different styles (re: your TTGL example), but I’m not sure how useful it is to the work as a whole to do so. Maybe I’m just sticking on your examples, though, as it’s much the same as my comment about how a piece will borrow signifiers from different genres. Hm.

    I will say that I generally use Tolkien’s idea of a secondary world to deal with the world of the fiction — and as such, everything that happens in the fiction (assuming it is skillful enough to avoid violating the reader’s belief in the secondary world) is perfectly believable, because it’s not a construction as you read it, it’s an event that happened in the secondary world. As such it feels difficult to claim it varies in style, as the aesthetic experience is simply one of seeing events in a secondary world. But then, I haven’t put a lot of thought into this, so it’s probably counter to other things I’ve said, and likely quibbling thrown into the bargain. Just thought I’d mention it.

    Reply
  5. Taxonomy, categorization, hell – naming itself! It’s but an exercise of our will to power over the subject, and perhaps those who will interact with it.

    My question, and this is how I frame my inquiries and discourse: is it useful?

    Even if posterity is within the realm of my ambition, I seek the model(s) that we arrive at to be of use to participants (consumers, readers), that they can create from the sign set we arrive at; that they derive considerable utility from interfacing with it.

    So is genera useful more than it is harmful? Is organizing anime within genera more enlightening than it is confusing? Does it benevolently unify more than it harmfully divides? If so, then let us persist. If not…

    …any suggestions?

    Reply
  6. @ghostlightning: Well, the simplest answer is that I seriously doubt it’s possible for more than a few humans to keep themselves from categorizing, and so we might as well make use of it, rather than letting it be a hindrance.

    Also, though, I do believe it’s helpful to categorize into genre. It does matter that something is or isn’t a comedy, for example. Take Hamlet. If it were a comedy, then the gravedigger scene, with exactly the same lines, would be entirely different than it is in Hamlet the tragedy, and it’s a funny scene. There are actually a lot of funny moments in the play (“Eat an alligator? I’d do it!”), and the meanings gleaned from them would alter if the audience were watching a comedy rather than a tragedy. The genre is, I would say, a kind of mindset the reader is put into by the moves of the text. Genre could be seen as another manifestation of tone.

    Reply
    • ghostlightning

       /  1 January 2009

      Then let’s do it! Let’s have a project:

      A Superfanicomic Taxonomy of Anime. It shouldn’t have only the best (i.e. critically acclaimed, and/or popular) titles, but the examples that fit the most within the tones, genera, styles and “prefix: sub” of the same.

      We can offer it to MAL or some such service, for the purpose of being of service. We must do it. LET’S DO IT!!!

      Reply
    • ghostlightning

       /  1 January 2009

      It could extend to characters! A taxonomy of villains, etc. etc. TV tropes (the website) can be a resource! And other elements. Oh people this is a clear contribution to the experience of anime as a cultural product.

      Also, it will be useful for future attempts to deal with anime as an academic subject amirite?

      Let’s do this! I will add mechafetish of WRL as one of the resources. He’s useful!

      Reply
      • lelangir

         /  1 January 2009

        hey hey I still need to discuss my metadventures and new blogging styles. maybe l8r, for now i must take a shit

      • I’m not sure whether to be frightened or giddy at the prospect of this project… I *function* on a level of archetypes, but an archetype taxonomy, to avoid being reductionist, must necessarily be massive. Maybe we should consider a wiki-style page for convenience. I’m not arguing one way or another for group participation (that is, the wiki style of open editing), but I would want a place to pop up ideas, discuss them individually, offer suggestions, and pop up new ideas. Is it even possible to lock a wiki to require sign-in? If Pontifus is reading — his lack of comments, as always, could symbolize simply his laze — he should get on that. ^_^

      • Pontifus

         /  2 January 2009

        his lack of comments, as always, could symbolize simply his laze — he should get on that. ^_^

        I was out, actually, with a friend of mine I don’t see often. With that said, though, goddamn you people have a way of proposing ideas I’ve had all along but can’t think of a good reason to propose. It’s like you were all born of my mind, and quickly became smarter than I am. First the podcast, now this master wiki, this ur-TV-Tropian attempt to map the webs that bind and sustain our arts.

        tl;dr YOU HAVE MY SWORD

      • And my bow — which I should probably re-string.

      • lelangir

         /  2 January 2009

        I’ll just psycho-materialize my legendary Arthurian sheath.

  7. ghostlightning

     /  2 January 2009

    A wiki is a good way to do it, from a logistics point of view. The final usefulness to the general public (distribution strategy) can be figured out later.

    In the mean time, I suggest that we set up Google Docs/Spreadsheets, as these too are useful collaboration tools. I favor spreadsheets for the ease of creating tables and manipulating data. At no charge lol.

    Reply
    • True enough. We all have google accounts at SF, right? Good idea. I’ve never used a Google document before, of course. Hm.

      Reply
  8. Kaiserpingvin

     /  2 January 2009

    YOUR COMMENTS ARE BANQUET

    *touches comments*

    I will, predictably, disagree with you about your judgment of genre — I feel it is necessary to interpreting texts. A text will have signals in it that signify a certain genre; they’re not implied after the fact, they are purposefully present within the text itself. As such, “membership” in a genre helps create a meaning that the reader would not take away if the text was a “member” of a different genre. Something that self-identifies as fantasy or sci-fi, for example, isn’t just telling the reader it’s going to have unicorns or black holes; it’s telling the reader part of the aesthetic experience is to be removed from the reader’s own society and mores, often to be led back around to them in a roundabout way (such as the dystopian sci-fi novel that creates an incredibly strange world only to reveal its strange foundations are social problems prevalent in modern society).

    Of course, texts mix and match genre signifiers willfully. Many fantasies also use the traditions of the bildungs-roman (the education of a youth), or the transformative green spaces of traditional comedy.

    [I said "predictably" because I'm, at least in part, a genre critic, so obviously I'm going to disagree. ^_^]

    So if the reader isn’t active, doesn’t that necessarily mean he or she is passive? And if the reader is passive, the experience shouldn’t be individual — and as such, every single person would react the same way to a text, as it broadcasts the same things every time. I know that’s not actually what you’re saying, but it seems (to me) to be the eventual conclusion of claiming the act of reading isn’t active. If you want to get the good versions of “active reader” theory under you belt to see what all the hoopla is, try out Wolfgang Iser (reader-response) and Georges Poulet (phenomenology). Or, alternately, read the chapter titled “Blood in the Gutter” in Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics. I’m not saying that you must agree with them, but you were saying yourself you’d like to try them out, see what’s going on.

    Despite the fact that you forced me to disagree — according the the idea that the reader is passive ; ) — great post. We regretted, at the time, that you weren’t there. I’m glad you responded here, at least.

    Opposing theses meeting are what makes the world go ’round and Hegel go all giddy!

    Or well, at least they make Hegel go giddy.

    I was a tad harsher on genre than I should have been, I guess. The act of assigning genre doesn’t irk me as such – as you say, humans can’t help but generalize (and most concepts are generalizations – making equal that which is not, as Nietzsche said) – it is rather the act of hardwiring tropes together, gluing them into a stagnant lump that hinders creativity. If they’re rather a tool to adjust reader expectations/attitude of the text I’ll change my view and agree that they are useful (no idea why I didn’t consider that option at first really…).

    praetera censeo genera non esse delendam?

    I’ll still disagree with the necessity with them purposefully put there – but nevermind that, we’ll agree to disagree I hope.

    Oh, and yeah, on the passivity of the reader, I’d say that everyone have their own, peculiar decoding mechanisms for meaning and sign systems, partly because the decoding mechanisms aren’t naturally within us but learnt (allowing for varying especially since most signs are not directly translatable to a signified entity which is not a sign. The signs refer to eachother, and the relations are not a “thing” per se, they are contigent on what experiences you’ve had. Hence the reader being a part of the sign, as per Pierce – without him/it, there is no meaning at all. So I am mostly determinist in what meaning a person will extract from something – they aren’t “free” to read it as they “like” – I also think that everyone interpret everything differently since we have different “decoding mechanisms”. And then imagination makes its entrance and allows us some freedom, with any luck, but alas, as of yet I have no hypothesis of how it works so I’ll stay negative.

    Hmmm I’d disagree. Just because the signified is contingent upon a concrete signifier doesn’t mean the closest one is the thing to which we establish causality. This depends, and I’m confused as per your distinctions between plot/story/metaphor. I’d say that the story can proceed in one vector and the the story/signifier to which the signified-metaphor refers to can proceed in a totally opposite direction. It’s not like the container must be coextensive with the contained – the two are autonomous.
    [addition]
    To rephrase, vehicularity is not causality.

    maybe…….

    Hmmm… But signifiers do not cause signifieds? Vehicularity is the only relationship they have, so what you’re saying is what I agree with. But then I have never pondered the causation of signs, so I might interpret you totally wrong here or something…

    And yeah, story and story-signifying-metaphor can extend in different directions, like you decided to do with Kannagi. I just sketched a possible model for some fiction to take, while others can choose coextensive stories, one of which is metaphorical and the other literal (Orwell’s Animal Farm is an excellent example of a work where the story is a vehicle for a metaphor – well, analogy).

    I don’t get it…

    Haha, I should’ave been clearer, yeah… I’ll see if I can explain it clearer: We start at Art, the highest in the hierarchy of a work that I cared diagrammatizing (a word just about stupid enough to work). Art is wholly of our “own” reality, as opposed to the alternate reality of fiction. So as we descend – to the Work, then to Plot – we go closer to the fictional “world”, culminating at the story, which is the bread and butter of the fictional world. It is a semiotic complex not about our world, but about another one, which is not “real”. Then as we go lower down, we get “more real” – the signs begin referring to “actual” things again. The Metaphor is about this world but stated in the signs of the other one, and then lower down to the signs used to construct the story in the first place – the words, images, sounds of the fictional work. Those refer to things in our world/reality, they’re the atoms of our thinking of the real world.

    The question at the end was just posed regarding the possible illusion that the levels above the fictional work are “in reality”. I hope it’s clear now… it’s possible it is not, in which case I’ll just have to try again/give up :P

    So yeah it was just rambling, I just played with the concepts for no real purpose lol

    Noooo you took me out of context. I really didn’t want to use the word “genre” there – I would have preferred “style” but both are equally confusing. What I meant, and I termed it as “intra-paradigmatic”, was how, really, stylistically disparate events are related. Within TTGL you have both drama (Kamina dies), comedy (Yoko’s boobs), GAR (everything else), angst (Rossieu suicide) – so what is the pervasive gel that glues it all together? Story, I thought (the progression of events). In this sense, you can indeed use “genre” (idiolectically speaking, style) operatively within the same piece: it is extractable, quantifiable, “atomic”, as you put it.

    And so really it’s just appropriate to have different styles according to the story. When things get sad, you need drama. etc. Shit…Perhaps a good term would be stylistic events?

    Oh… Now I get it. *hand to head* I’m such an dojikko, te-he~

    Stylistic events sounds spiffy. I might abduct the term.

    I will say that I generally use Tolkien’s idea of a secondary world to deal with the world of the fiction — and as such, everything that happens in the fiction (assuming it is skillful enough to avoid violating the reader’s belief in the secondary world) is perfectly believable, because it’s not a construction as you read it, it’s an event that happened in the secondary world. As such it feels difficult to claim it varies in style, as the aesthetic experience is simply one of seeing events in a secondary world. But then, I haven’t put a lot of thought into this, so it’s probably counter to other things I’ve said, and likely quibbling thrown into the bargain. Just thought I’d mention it.

    *scribbles frenetically* Awesome, this is pretty darn close to my own theory of fictional worlds… Tolkien was so badass.

    Then let’s do it! Let’s have a project:

    A Superfanicomic Taxonomy of Anime. It shouldn’t have only the best (i.e. critically acclaimed, and/or popular) titles, but the examples that fit the most within the tones, genera, styles and “prefix: sub” of the same.

    We can offer it to MAL or some such service, for the purpose of being of service. We must do it. LET’S DO IT!!!

    I SHALL JOIN THIS GREAT CRUSADE.

    I always thought the worst part of TVTropes was the disdain of intellectualism that creeped up here and there… so this’ll be like perfect.

    Reply
  9. It sounds like we actually don’t disagree all that much concerning genre — I would just say the “hardwiring” you’re talking about (nice term for it) is crappy use of genre criticism. Long ago, internet-time-wise, IKnight worried for a second I would do what you’re referring to. It’s my particular cross to bear that most people who like Joseph Campbell are guilty of it, and I try very hard to use him intelligently without assuming things must be. The only things that “must be” would be the signals that make the text what it is — and the only way to know enough to realize what’s going on would be to ask the author. That is, “I meant for this to be a comedy” but the text doesn’t have any of the comedy signals. So, for purposes of criticism, there’s never a moment when there “must be” certain things, because the author’s dead. :)

    I lift that Tolkien bit wholesale (altering it for the worse, I’m sure) from his essay “On Fairy Stories.” It’s readily available in The Tolkien Reader, but I heard recently that a British publisher released a really swanky, annotated edition of just the essay and its backgrounds, and it’s hard as fuck to get in America. Sigh.

    Usually I go to TV Tropes for the “lulz,” but if I ever wanted it for anything else I would feel the same way. So I think our taxonomy will be fun, perhaps, for all I know.

    Reply
  10. Pontifus

     /  2 January 2009

    Alright, given that I agree with Kaiser to a certain point when he says…

    I find genera (proper latin plural, biatches, because it looks better, which generoi doesn’t) to be a self-fulfilling, self-perpetuating and harmful practice. The way they originate is wholly arbitrary: while fantasy and sci-fi are named after the elements that appear in the stories, tragedy and comedy are named after what emotional effect they have, and ’slife after what situations the story is about (yes, Lucky Star has a story. Shock ain’t it?). We could just as well have a genre which went after if there are cellphones or close analogies and an associated set of tropes/clichés – after all, we already have mecha series, with their associated tropes and clichés. That is, unlike the hierarchy of Work-Plot-Story in a signifier-signified sense, genre is a set, with elements being some of the atoms of story.

    …let me explain why I’m still so willing to engage in a taxonomy project with you all.

    I think that any system of classification and organization can be useful to a critic. I’m one who likes to compare one thing to another, being a believer in each example of literature having implications on all things before and after as per T. S. Eliot, and genre can help with that — hell, the evolution of genre can serve as a prime example of that (says Kaiser, “genre only makes sense when it’s an comparison between several works”). I think that what Kaiser seems to denounce, the use of genre to designate “high” and “low” literature, is taxonomic abuse. I don’t think there’s anything inherent in any genre that says “I’m better than you;” it’s probably the case that genres (or genera, I guess) coexist horizontally, even if certain people want to take them vertically, insofar as they’re “readings” of a text, and (I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again) all readings have equal literary value (but not social value, which varies) in that they have value at all. And, yeah, I’d agree that genre is pretty arbitrary, that we could have a genre based on cellphones, but that in itself isn’t such a bad thing; it’s when people get the crazy idea that one genre can be “better” than another, in a literary sense, that problems arise.

    Reply
  11. @Pontifus: I actually just got to the point in Anatomy of Criticism where Frye complains about using social readings in place of literary readings. Fun times.

    The tradition of certain genres (a perfectly acceptable plural in English, as it’s correct to pluralize any word by using English’s inflectional endings — yes, even “syllabus” and “octopus” [syllabuses and octopuses, respectively, though the proper Latin plural of "octopus" is "octopodes" and not "octopi," which is dog Latin]) being better than others is basically classist. Tragedy was considered better than comedy because its subject, in terms of genre, was kings and kingdoms, while comedy focuses on the “working classes.” Epics dealt with the founding of kingdoms. These are all the markers that signal the genre, they are correctly tied to those forms — it’s the assumption that one is better than the other because it deals with a “better class” of people that is the fallacy.

    Fun fact: I was reading a recent issue of The Writer’s Chronicle about MFA programs and “popular” fiction, and some casual research has shown a link to class upbringing and preference. Specifically, upper-class and upper-middle-class people tend to look down on sci-fi and fantasy, while working class and lower-middle-class people tend to want to do specifically SF and fantasy (along with mystery, &c.). So it continues to this day.

    Reply
  12. ghostlightning

     /  5 January 2009

    Yessss, we must do it! It should be obvious that we are not distinguishing for the purpose of hierarchy. The objective is utility; it should be of use to people who are looking for something to watch, and for writers seeking to compare. Imagine the reduction of messy preambles in essays, lazy assumptions, etc. This is what I’m high on. It’s a service, not a means to subjugate the users under our intellects.

    Reply

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