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Re: Question on the presentation of myth

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  • tghsaw
    I realize I m coming dangerously out of lurkdom here, but I find this whole area extremely interesting, maybe partly because I ve been doing some studying of
    Message 1 of 7 , Dec 18, 2004
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      I realize I'm coming dangerously out of lurkdom here, but I find this whole
      area extremely interesting, maybe partly because I've been doing some
      studying of "On Fairy-stories" lately. These are just thoughts, not
      answers; I'm not sure if answers really exist. But I've spent most of my
      Saturday morning writing them, so figured I might as well put them out
      there. 8-)

      BTW, Michael and Diane, I've moved some quotes around to try to get *my*
      thoughts in a bit of order. Hope you don't mind. 8-)


      > Date: Fri, 17 Dec 2004 05:54:05 -0000
      > From: "Michael Martinez" <Michaelm@...>
      > Subject: Re: Question on the presentation of myth
      > Like the holodeck concept. If you enter the world, can it still be
      > mythical? If the audience is drawn into the story, effectively
      > eliminating that fourth wall, can the story become mythical, or is it
      > merely realism?

      I doubt if Tolkien was thinking about holodecks ;-) , but that sounds a
      lot like his description of fully-realized secondary creation, such as
      mortals might find themselves within if they ventured into faërie. That is,
      the inhabitants could have the ability to draw mortals completely into their
      secondary creation, so that they experience it as primary creation. But I
      don't think Tolkien would have called that "realism," because it never
      actually becomes primary creation--the inhabitants don't have that
      power--and because some things that are real within the secondary creation
      wouldn't be able exist outside of it.

      >So, perhaps the audio-visual story-tellers cannot afford to leave as
      > much to the audience's imagination for fear of losing the audience?


      > So, the less you show the audience, the more mythical the work is
      > free to be. Which is not to say a more fully-revealing work cannot
      > be mythical, it just faces a greater challenge?

      On these questions, I'd refer back to that secondary creation in faërie,
      which completely involves all the senses of the "victim." That doesn't make
      it less mythical, but in order to keep it mythical the practitioners have to
      be very good at what they do. In a subcreation described in print, one
      wrong word or phrase can temporarily or permanently put that "fourth wall"
      back up as it reminds us that the subcreation isn't primarily real. IMHO,
      the more senses a subcreation tries to capture, the more chances it has to
      take a misstep in any one of them, throwing the "victim" out of the reality
      of the subcreation. That's why I think it's more difficult, or a greater
      challenge, to create believable myth in any medium that touches on multiple
      senses--*Each* sense has to handled correctly, or the whole house of cards
      falls down.

      >I suppose the question I posed relates to a broader issue of how is it best
      to tell
      > a story. Is the oral tradition still adequate? Literacy has become
      > a mainstay of our era, but it seems to be falling by the wayside as
      > Netspeak and Fox News Network lead new generations toward an
      > abbreviated form of communication.

      In a way, you could say that literacy has pre-empted the oral tradition. I
      had a theology professor who took us through the structure of the gospels,
      showing how they had been written to be heard, not read, as most people were
      illiterate. There are conventions within the structure that don't mean
      anything to us, but which would have told people who were part of that oral
      tradition such things as which passage is most important in a certain
      section of the gospel, or which story is meant to be paralleled or mirrored
      by another story. I assme there are similar conventions in other oral
      traditions, although I haven't studied them so can't really say. It
      certainly would have taken a lot of concentration on the listeners' part.
      Now that we can read printed words, so don't have to commit things to memory
      as we hear them, have we lost some of that ability? IMHO, we haven't lost
      the ability--children can be pretty good at it--but we're out of practice.
      Children who've been raised with the "short attention span" theory as seen
      on _Sesame Street_, etc., are now tiring out their eyes on
      multiple-hundred-page Harry Potter books. I think it depends on which
      abilities we decide to exercise, and that's going to depend a lot on whether
      we see any reasons to exercise them.

      > The tendency toward lengthy story arcs, as exemplified by BABYLON-5,
      > seems to have been reversed among science fiction television shows.
      > At least, things seem less complicated than they used to. Is that
      > because the producers depended too much upon the intellect of the
      > audience, and were driven to revert to a more point-of-contact
      > presentation mode?

      I'm not sure what new science fiction shows you're referring to, maybe
      because I don't have cable TV? The only current phenomenon I've paid any
      attention to is _Lost_, a show that definitely has *some* kind of a lengthy
      story arc, although we don't actually know what *kind* of story arc it is
      yet: science fiction? fantasy? espionage? meta-myth? realism? surrealism?
      none of the above? And I think that ambiguity is part of its attraction,
      for the audience it wants to attract (it's certainly not everyone's cup of
      tea). But what keeps the attraction going is the knowledge that there is a
      coherent explanation for everything--at least that's what the creator has
      said in interviews. I don't think it's a coincidence that a lot of avid
      _Lost_ fans are also people who've been reading Tolkien for years; the
      experience is somewhat similar. (And the really avid fans tape each episode
      so they can go back and watch them over and over because they always seem to
      discover something that they missed before... sound familiar?) I've seen
      only the first few years of Babylon 5 (before it moved to cable), but the
      earlier part of the series--with all the Tolkien allusions--was probably as
      much fantasy as it was science fiction. Maybe fantasy (or ambiguity?) is
      more story arc friendly than is straight science fiction? Just a thought--I
      really have no idea.


      > --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "dianejoy@e..." <dianejoy@e...> wrote:
      > >
      > > That does not apply to art (like Ted Naismith's); somehow,
      > > though I'm not sure why. Art like his acts as a springboard,
      > > allowing you to imagine something taking place; you enter
      > > that world.

      An interesting comparison, because Ted Nasmith's art, specifically, does not
      allow me to enter that world--because the way he imagines it is so different
      from how I imagine it that I can't see it as real. But I should qualify
      that: his landscapes can draw me into Middle-earth, but if I see the face
      of one of his characters, that's the end of it. They simply do not look
      like any of the characters I "know." Because the characters are so central
      for me, that's the quickest way to throw me out of my suspension of
      disbelief. Different artists have different talents (and different
      imaginations), I suppose. Nasmith's landscapes are wonderful for me, and as
      long as I avoid any faces, I'm okay (even seeing characters from the back is
      usually "safe"). Other artists do--or don't do--other things for me. It
      seems to depend on how closely their vision matches mine or, at least, on
      how *compatible* their vision is with mine. It's great if they show me
      something new, but not if they show me something that contradicts what I
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