memetics of the heroine

From: Ryan, Angela (
Date: Tue May 08 2001 - 19:20:18 BST

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    Dear Members,

    I write as a new subscriber: I have been working for some years in the area
    of literary and critical theory on the function of the heroine, especially
    the tragic heroine, on the hypothesis that our concept of heroism in
    representation is memetically inscribed. My idea is that the heroine and
    hero have a structural-counterstructural relationship*. I have been working
    through the literature on memetics, both on the wonderful Journal of
    Memetics site and on the equally wonderful Memes Central site, and would be
    happy to exchange ideas with any one interested.

    *Structure and counterstructure: this model is formulated in three

    1. Every structure (e.g. liberty; democracy; justice; comfortable
    lifestyle; free education, etc) is inadequate or incompletative in relation
    to the theoretical universal set or system in which it exists;
                    1.1. i.e. it is true, but not so - not implemented;
    humans do not actually all enjoy effective human rights, whilst they all
    have them;

    2. The gap between the structure(s) and the universal system is the
    domain of the counter-structure, i.e. the behaviours, mechanisms,
    strategies, often private, informal, covert, which tend to complete the
    incompletativity of the system;
                                    2.1. these counterstructures may be
    palliative, or philosophical, or reformist or transgressive, e.g.
    associations, political action, charitable works, or anacrostic
    philosophical reflection on society, action following efforts at reform, or
    crime and damage to others: their function and indeed their constitution is
    always relative rather than ontological since structure generates
    counterstructure (as distinct from Victor Turner's concept of

    3. When the counterstructures become strong enough, or the
    incompletativity becomes insupportable, or both, change happens, sometimes
    revolutionary change, by which some elements, generally the stronger ones,
    become incorporated into the structure - thus giving it new entropic energy;
                            3.1. Generally, and at any rate, thus far in
    human history, the reform is incompletative, the newly formed (reformed)
    structure rearticulates itself into structure and counter structure and
    entropic energy begins to generate itself within the domain of the
    counterstructure: e.g. the French revolution sees the new bourgeoisie take
    over many of the privileges of the ancien regime, distinctions between
    behaviours having been, at least to an extent, situational, and in any case

    Note A: this model would explain why the vécu of change is usually so
    difficult and even painful, even where the change was desired; it would also
    explain why a counterstructural group or part of group, relatively
    disempowered, is often wary of reform: e.g. if women leave behind their
    palliative counterstructures of 'feminine wiles' to become full citizens
    with civic rights, are they sure that the transfer to the structure, to
    public power, will be completative and will compensate for the loss of
    indirect counterstructural manipulative influence? If it does not, they
    might lose more than they gain, whence the reaction.
    Note B: Incompletativity is often articulated in social discourse as a
    'given': e.g. "Life isn't fair" when it is obviously what we decide it is
    and construct it to be. This overdetermination is characteristic of groups
    within the structure which most benefit from this rhetoric of what Bourdieu
    calls 'social magic' and who endeavour to sacralise the hierarchisation it
    implies; at the same time numerous examples exist of structural hierarchons,
    people of privilege who were reformers, who thus initiated transfer of
    energy from counterstructure to structure, given that absence of change,
    security, is impossible in an evolving universe, whilst happiness is not
    impossible - though popular social rhetoric alleges the contrary.

    v. Ryan, A.M.T., "The Body in the Library: Helene Cixous and the
    Question of the Subject". Public Seminar Series: The French Ideology.
    National University of Ireland, Cork, December 1995;
            Ryan, A.M.T., "The Body in the Library: Montaigne, Hume, Cixous"
    Public Research Seminar Series Europe and its Ideologies. Dublin Institute
    of Technology, February 1997;
            Ryan, A.M.T., "The King, the Goddess, her Prey and their Lover:
    Rhetoric of the Heroine in Euripides' Phaedra and Racine's Phèdre". Public
    lecture to the Classics Society, National University of Ireland, Cork, April
    Ryan, A.M.T. "Structure and Counterstructure, Bourdieu's Heretical Discourse
    and Leconte's Ridicule". Annual Conference of the British Society for
    Phenomenology, National University of Ireland, Cork, 28-30 July 2000 (to be
    Ryan, A.M.T.: "Structure and Counter-structure in Cixous' La Jeune née and
    Antoine Compagnon's Le Démon de la théorie" Department of French Research
    Seminar, National University of Ireland, Cork, 8 December 2000.

    Yours sincerely

    Angela Ryan
    Dr A.M.T. Ryan Agrégée de l'Université,
    Department of French,
    National University of Ireland, Cork,

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