Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Narrativve, Anagnorisis and Entity

Narrative as Experience, Experience as Narrative

So where to from here? (From here, here and here, that is, if you haven't been following along.) We've got substantia as a start point -- stuff actually instantiated within the frame of events, the flux of activity, material spatiotemporal reality. We've got the entire vocabulary of objects abandoned for one of collective entity as a conceit based on effect horizon. Before we even begin to abstract this stuff in terms of objects and classes then, picking out isomorphic relations between this and that gallimaufry of events, we have to abstract it to entities.

This is where the writer in me kicks in, and I trace that abstraction not to the organisational process of analysis, sorting the world into this form and that just because it's anal that way, but rather to a more organic process, one that's all about the events, at heart, but from which these conceits of entities naturally emerge: narrative.

An example: Across a series of innumerable feeding events, as experienced by a newborn babe, isomorphic relations are blatant; each episode is the same story retold. The narrative begins, as any conventional does in Todorov's schematics of story-structure, with disruption to equilibrium, in this case an event of hungering. There are ramifications to this event, bad ones, woes and miseries, which proliferate, exacerbate. However, those tensions invoke a focused reaction, a concerted engagement, an event of wailing. Still, the hungering continues, grows even, but the agon is fierce -- a new event of wailing comes, even bigger and bolder. Finally, the back-and-forth leads to a turning point -- anagnorisis! recognition! -- and the key event of feeding can take place, a victory, a resolution, a satiation. Equilibrium is restored.

This is the recurrent narrative as experience, the recurrent experience as narrative. It's the story blatant in the flux of activity, in the isomorphic relations. Hopefully, the wording captures the notion that at its base level this narrative is about pure dynamics. The disruption is a force acting on a dynamic homeostatic system. When we say "woes and miseries" this is not to imply a coherent Me that suffers as subject, just an inherent negativity to the disruptions born of disruption, the spreading destabilisations of the system. Nor does engagement imply a heroic Me consciously setting out to deal with the problem; rather it's that in the destabilised system, a focus of tensions at any point may render that the locus of homeostatic restorative (re)action. The agon may be considered a clash of forces, the finale less a victory of X over Y than simply a resolution of the tension.

In the previous post I said that there are no objects in the world. Here, there are still no objects in the world, not even the conceit of collective entities yet. But maybe we're moving toward it.

Entity out of Anagnoris

To me, the notion of anagnorisis -- recognition -- suggests that the very thrust of narrative may be the parsing of isomorphic relations into entities: the antagonist of the hunger; the protagonist agency forged in the crucible of the situation itself; a great other, monstrum or numena, to be conjured and bound, a congruity of sights and sounds that ultimately will be read, as the story is made sense of, not just as a coherent set of Doings but as a Being-Which-Does; and of course a prize, the taste of milk and the congruity of associated sensations, the isomorphic relations that make each finale the same finale, the outcome become a goal, the goal become another entity, bottle or breast.

The dynamics generates logical effect horizons, I mean, delineating antagonists and protagonists, obstacles/tools and goals. To say that a focus of tensions at any point may render that the locus of homeostatic restorative (re)action is to describe how agency emerges in the isolation of a portion of the system as agent, in the establishment of an effect horizon. Likewise entity, the conceit born from the moment of recognition, of re-cognition of narrative role.

Some tweaking of the classical notion of anagnorisis is in order here though. Arguably, where traditional poetics conceive of one point of anagnorisis in a narrative, we might be better to talk of multiple potential moments of anagnorisis. A recognition of protagonistic function can be seen as a typical feature of Field's plot-point #1 at the end of Act 1 in his Three Act Structure, I'd say. In Field's mid-point (halfway through Act 2) and plot-point #2 (end of Act 2,) we can see a recognition of antagonistic source, of ultimate goal, of obstacle/tool or any combination thereof. Indeed, the resolution itself may well be a point of anagnorisis in any of those senses.

Ditching the formalism of Field's stereotyped structure actually, I'd suggest that anagnorisis in those four flavours (and I don't exclude the possibility of other flavours) may come at any point, in any order, in any combination, and that where it does that's what a plot-point is. As establishment of an effect horizon, anagnorisis logically slingshots into peripeteia; it's essentially an identification of one or more of the key causal forces in the narrative as entity, automatically rendering it a new target of action. (As an aside, the Thickening of Clute's narrative grammar of horror is based on thwarted anagnorisis, I'd say, an ongoing disrecognition that renders the agon a futile flailing at wrong targets, building to a crunch point of complete revelation.)

Anyway, what this boils down to is, I reckon, a model of narrative dynamics as a sort of analytic framework readily projectable on the substantia, entity and agency established in the (natural) conceit of effect horizons. If we want to really get to grips with this rough model of ideas (i.e. conceits of entity) being processed from impressions (i.e. the flux of virtual activity we call experience), we need to get into the nitty-gritty of sensation and ideation.

Which I guess means there's another post to follow.

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