February 25, 2007

Inside the mind

The mind of a person is a very sacred place. In fantasy, mind reading is often a power that authors give to characters so that they can see inside the minds of other characters, but is only used occasionally due to the intrusion that people feel when mind reading is taking place. However, Paris is telling us that by getting inside the mind of the character we can learn much more than we ever did before. He believes that the character should create itself. He summarizes EM Forester about the problem realist authors face when creating their characters.

If his characters are truly alive they will have a motivational life of their own and will tend to subvert the main scheme of the book. If he keeps his characters subordinated to their aesthetic and thematic functions, however, they will be lifeless puppets and his book will be flawless in a different and more serious way.

The author must then find a way for all three of these story values to work together and that is often the most difficult part.

The psyche of the character is of great interest to Paris in this essay. The psychological realism that Paris is promoting is one that the realist authors attempt to create. When I read, this is what I hope to see. Oftentimes in the fantasy novels I read for pleasure the only way to understand a section of a novel or even a series is to get inside a character's mind and understand what he or she is thinking. This sometimes means that we need to get inside the mind of the antagonist of a story and get the evil plot that doesn't seem so evil to the character. It is important, I think, when reading a book of this nature to understand all aspects of the characters. I liked that in the essay that Paris brought up Wayne Booth's observations on deep views of the characters. He summarized Booth's concerns that

When we are immersed in the 'indomitable mental reality' of a character, we adopt his perspective and experience his feelings as though they were our own. This kind of experience...is acceptable to booth only when the character's perspective is, in his view, an ethically acceptable one.

I also liked that he disagreed with this idea. Not all books are written the "ethically acceptable" point of view. If we as readers shy away from novels that always give us a one sided look at life we are not being very real or truthful with ourselves which is really what mimetic criticism is all about. If realist authors only wrote about things that were acceptable then we would not be able to get all aspects of reality and then what would be the point of mimetic criticism. I used to live a life that was very one sided. I didn't want to give any work that I read a chance because it was outside of my norm, but, as Dr. Jerz said in class last week, we can't do that. We have to be able to look at different works and see that there is value in them even if we don't enjoy reading them.

The same goes for teaching works that may not be generally accepted or have even been black listed in the past. I thank my lucky stars that I had a teacher in high school that pushed us to read controversial novels. These novels give high school kids a look at reality or what reality could be. Through the discussion of these books, such as 1984 or Fahrenheit 451, the students are given the opportunity to see what people some fascist countries are living through and are given a reality that they may not be able to get at home.

Well, I apologize for my rant, but I really was taken by this essay. As I said before, I think that I'm really going to like mimetic criticism.

Paris, ''The Uses of Psychology'' -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

Posted by Tiffany Brattina at February 25, 2007 1:14 PM | TrackBack

By "getting inside of the mind" of characters, are you suggesting that the reader simply try to identify with the character, or are you suggesting that the reader perform a psycho-analysis of the character to determine the authenticity of their actions? I think the former is okay while the latter is foolish.

Posted by: Dave Moio at February 28, 2007 8:39 PM

I would like to respond to Dave statement....

It would be impossable to perform to latter part of you question due to the fact that it is a fictional character that you are talking about.

Now to Tiffany...
"I read for pleasure the only way to understand a section of a novel or even a series is to get inside a character's mind and understand what he or she is thinking."

At least you are able to admit it. We look into minds of characters everytime we read novels. That is what we do when we want to know a new person...we learn about THEM..ALL about them. Even though we are talking about fictional characters, there are parts of them (the author's part, the society's part, and the time's part) that we can relate to and pick apart.

Posted by: Kevin "Kelo The Great" Hinton at March 1, 2007 12:46 AM

See I didn't get that they showed reality, but more of an idea. The thing that had me wondering was about no moral wisdoms. Now I don't see how that can be true on all instances. I think well written works can give moral wisdoms. Didn't Everyman have moral wisdom in it? That was my question to this essay.

Posted by: Mitchell Steele at March 1, 2007 3:29 PM

Mitchell -

I think that Everyman did have moral wisdom, but I also think that it was more of the journey to moral wisdom that the play was looking at. It was the journey of the character that we saw and we were given his feelings when the play was occuring.

Posted by: Tiffany at March 1, 2007 5:45 PM
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