The Reason For a Mimetic Criticism

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From "The Uses of Psychology" by Bernard Paris in Keesey's Contexts for Criticism:

"What I am suggesting, then, is that if we view him [the implied author] as a fictional persona, as another dramatized consciousness, rather than as an authoritative source of values, of experience.  What we have, in effect, is a deep inside view of his mind, a view which makes us phenomenologically aware of his experience of the world" (221).

If I am reading this right (I, as the implied author being flawed), I understand that Paris is trying to tell us that we need to realize that the implied author (definition provided on wikipedia) is not "a kind of god" but rather just another player in the game that is fiction.  He, too, is someone that we could psychoanalyze being a part of this experience (that we call literature) because as Lukacs points out "No writer is a true realist...if he can direct the evolution of his own character at will" (219).  The author, then, must leave his own body and become someone else, someone very different.  He must not lead his own work, but be lead by it as if the character in his story actually exists.  It is this separation from the real world that gives the implied author a different existence from the actual author and it is also the tidbit that allows us to analyze him. 

It seems to be Paris' point that we don't just read literature (or at least we shouldn't), we experience it.  We are supposed to submerge ourselves in the world of the characters.  Once we do this, we can understand the inner-workings of their minds and as a result of this, write about it. 

I also would like to comment about how well Paris emulates some of the same techniques he argues for.  He comments that "The problematic existential perception of reality, which Mimesis exists to celebrate, is one that is informed by the insights of Historicism" (218).  I admit that I was frustrated by all the quoting of other critics and history in the first pages of his article, but when I read this, I realized that he used it to uphold his claim about a form of criticism that needs history.  I don't know if he intended to do this, but it was very interesting nonetheless.  Also, five paragraphs from the end of his essay, Paris said, "I have tried to prove" which also annoyed me (221).  I thought, well if you're that unconfident about it, why should I give any credit to what you just said?  However, Paris emulates his opinion that the implied athor is not god through pointing out his own fallibility.

Because I am presenting on this article, I decided to create an outline of the article to help both the listeners and myself better understand Paris's article.  Check out My Outline for the Presentation of "The Uses of Psychology" 

In her blog, Greta raises some really good questions.  I tried to explain what I thought Paris would want us to get out of his article.  Also check out Greta's blog about Donovan's article.  She makes astute connections between Donovan's article and Paris's.  I also put my own two cents into it as well. 

Derek also raises good questions.  I commented on his blog about Batman and mimetic criticism.  Here I also explain why I chose to do this article if you were curious.

In fact, I responded to all of the entries because I wanted to make sure I knew what people were thinking about the article.  Check out the course webpage (I've linked it below) to see more. 

What do you think about the structural support he provides to uphold his argument?  Do you see mimesis connecting with any other kind of criticism besides historical?

Course webpage 

3 Comments

Greta Carroll said:

Angela, I agree with you. Paris’s constant quoting of other people kind of annoyed me too. More of his essay seemed to be him quoting people than his actual thoughts. But you do have a point; I suppose he was just trying to carefully support his point by quoting others. As for other types of criticism which could correspond to mimesis, I think reader-response would be one. For, if the author truly creates a “realistic” character, wouldn’t that really make the reader react to them strongly (whether in a positive of negative way)?

I think you explained Paris’s article well though in your blog. However, as you comment, “The author, then, must leave his own body and become someone else, someone very different. He must not lead his own work, but be lead by it as if the character in his story actually exists,” but how can this be the case? As I point out in my own blog entry on Paris, he says there are three different types of characters. And that the aesthetic and illustrative characters are pretty much one-dimensional, it is only the mimetic which are realistic. My problem is, if only some of the characters the author creates he can become, then what about all these other characters the author doesn’t become? Isn’t it rather unrealistic to have some characters who seem real and some who aren’t? Isn’t that like saying some people in real life are more important than other people? Or saying that we are allowed to be self-centered and only focus on ourselves? All people in the real world are complicated, so how is it possible for anything to truly be mimetic if some characters will not be mimetic but aesthetic or illustrative?

If you'd like to read what I said on my blog about this issue, you're welcome to:
http://blogs.setonhill.edu/GretaCarroll/2009/03/if_realistic_fiction_exists_ho.html

Greta, you made some great points. To answer your questions about the characters that are one-dimensional all you have to do is think about your life. I'm sure you've known someone that you can't help but stereotype because they seemingly fit into a perfect mold. For example, you probably knew "the dumb jock" or the "self-loathing emo" or someone like that. In real life, even though we know that all people have things that make them tick, we don't have the luxury of seeing everyone's thoughts like we sometimes get in literature. Because we don't have that ability, we put them in these molds to understand them as they are and the best way we know how to. Because of this, I guess that a truly realistic piece of literature would do the same. Some characters are just boring but that's what I'd like to call the main character or even the implied author's generalization of that person in order to try to "understand" them. Does that help?

Greta Carroll said:

Angela, yeah, that makes sense to me. I think you explained that well. I can definitely see what you are saying. I don’t have the power to read other people’s minds, I don’t know everyone else’s past, or what difficulties they may be going through. So by setting up these limits the author in a sense is making it a more realistic experience for us. In real life we don’t get to be omniscient, so it only makes sense that “realistic” characters wouldn’t get the advantage of being able to do this either. I think it makes more sense to me now, thanks : )

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