every woman adores a fascist -- sylvia plath

Friday, January 27, 2012

An Immodest Proposal: Campbell-totle Part II

So, continuing along this playful line of thought, we can begin to see how Aristotle's theory of knowledge begins to shape our understanding of the Monomyth:

(1) The Monomyth's primary feature of the hero journeying "down-then-up" is an Epic journey. The first part of the hero's journey is tragic in nature (with conflicts, revelations, and potential or actual injury). The second part is comedic in nature. The hero now re-enters the world lower than he began, but with a new knowledge that will allow him to ascend either back to the heights he began, or even higher.

(1a) Here's the difference though. With the Monomyth, the hero must learn some supernatural / metaphysical / philosophical truth at the bottom of his journey (the height of his suffering) that he then brings back to the world. This is the key feature that unites the two parts of the story.

(2) The downward movement of the Monomyth (the tragedy), must excite in the audience wonder -- and this wonder is then answered by the knowledge learned by the hero. It is this new idea that not only unites the story, but also contextualizes (finally) the suffering the hero endured, and reshapes the world as he brings this idea to the world on his upward movement (the comedy).

(2a) For example, in The Odyssey, after his series of sufferings at the hands of nefarious hosts which causes him to yearn for home all the more, he learns in the underworld of Agamemnon's murder at the hands of his wife upon his homecoming. That knowledge puts into context Odysseus' sufferings: home, while yearned for to harbor him from his suffering, may very well be the place he suffers a horrible fate after 20 years of being away at war. The reality of home is different than the fantasy of it while suffering travails. Odysseus takes this new knowledge and applies it to his homecoming, killing the suitors instead of them killing him.

(3) This new knowledge is the driving force of the second part of the Monomyth. The comedy of a lowly man gaining great fortune is directly driven by his new knowledge and application of it to the world he has re-entered.

Next, we'll take a look at some of the problems of the Monomyth that Campbell points out and see how Aristotle would address them.