RE: memetics of the heroine

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Wed May 09 2001 - 14:41:34 BST

  • Next message: Ryan, Angela: "RE: memetics of the heroine"

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    From: Vincent Campbell <>
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    Subject: RE: memetics of the heroine
    Date: Wed, 9 May 2001 14:41:34 +0100 
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    Hi Angela,

    Welcome to the list.

    A couple of questions, with some comments you can take or leave in between.

    I've never heard the terms 'completative' and 'incompletative' before, can
    you explain what they mean? (and how they differ from complete and

    More broadly, empiricism is undoubtedly needed to utilise memetics to any
    kind of useful degree and all of us in the social sciences and humanities
    need to remember that. Extrapolating the social function of literary
    figures is difficult to do in anything other than a speculative manner
    without recourse, for example, to investigating audiences responses to and
    uses of such figures, or how public discourses draw on fictional
    representations (e.g. debates about the feminist backlash in the mid-80s
    related to films like Fatal Attraction; or the current post-feminist crisis
    (if that's the right term) around female identities as articulated by Ally
    McBeal in the US, and Bridget Jones' Diary in the UK).

    A good example, that doesn't use memetics at all, but broadly explores
    issues paralleling the kinds of things you're talking about here, is John
    Turney's 1998 book 'Frankenstein's Footsteps', which explores the importance
    of the Frankenstein story both in popular culture, but more significantly in
    terms of its impact on the shaping of debates around medicine and
    biotechnology (from concerns about mass vaccinations decades ago, to GM
    crops being described as 'Frankenstein Foods' much more recently).

    Unless you examine fictional representations in their social context then I
    don't how one demonstrates that such figures are 'memetically inscribed'.
    Following this, comes my other question- what does 'memetically inscribed'
    actually mean anyway?


    > ----------
    > From: Ryan, Angela
    > Reply To:
    > Sent: Tuesday, May 8, 2001 7:20 pm
    > To: ''
    > Subject: memetics of the heroine
    > 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
    > propositions:
    > 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
    > anti-structure);
    > 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
    > counterstructural).
    > 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
    > 2000;
    > 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
    > published).
    > 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,
    > Ireland.
    > ==============================================================This was
    > distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    > Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    > For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
    > see:

    This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)

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