FW: memetics of the heroine

From: Ryan, Angela (ARyan@french.ucc.ie)
Date: Wed May 09 2001 - 19:19:37 BST

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    Date: Wed, 09 May 2001 19:19:37 +0100
    From: "Ryan, Angela" <ARyan@french.ucc.ie>
    Subject: FW: memetics of the heroine
    To: "'memetics@mmu.ac.uk'" <memetics@mmu.ac.uk>
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    I am resending this reply because it arrived in jumbled page layout: I hope
    the original/reply distinctions are now clearer

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Ryan, Angela [mailto:ARyan@french.ucc.ie]
    Sent: Wednesday, May 09, 2001 3:43 PM
    To: 'memetics@mmu.ac.uk'
    Subject: RE: memetics of the heroine

    Dear Vincent,

    Many thanks for your welcome, comments and questions. I am sure that
    addressing them will help my research a good deal.
    I've never heard the terms 'completative' and 'incompletative' before, can
    you explain what they mean? (and how they differ from complete and
    How right you are. Like the White Knight his cure for illness, I invented
    them, or to use a more comfortable term, they are what in terminology is
    called creation néologique, as part of my theory of structure and
    counter-structure. The idea I am trying to express is that a structure tends
    to be complete, to be itself, fails quite to be so, whilst continuing to
    define itself as that entity, whence completative as distinct from complete:
    my term attempts to foreground the diachronic rather than the synchronic
    aspect. Human rights are human rights and all humans have them - although
    they don't really. This was what I was trying to express by the idea that
    something is true but not so. ( I suppose both true and so are present in
    Wittgenstein's the case, although at the same time true has wider
    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

    not quite what I am trying to do. My focus is on what the literary function
    'hero' or 'heroism' means, or is, when enacted in text. What effect this has
    at the level of reception (as distinct from representation), still less what
    wider impact on society, is another question, though of course and important
    and a closely related one.

    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).

    Rather an idea, that.
    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).

    Many thanks for this, I shall read it and come back to you
    Unless you examine fictional representations in their social context then I
    don't how one demonstrates that such figures are 'memetically inscribed'.

    I hope I shall discover how this may be done.
    Following this, comes my other question- what does 'memetically inscribed'
    actually mean anyway?

    Did you hear the story of Vladimir Jankelevitch getting into a taxi and
    being asked by the driver, whose watch was malfunctioning and whose first
    language was not English, 'Please, what is time?' to which Jankelevitch is
    supposed to have said 'You have asked a most profound and intelligent
    question' and spent the rest of the trip addressing it? In using an
    expression like 'memetically inscribed' I think I am setting out a question
    rather than answering it. If that sounds to you like a bit of a cop-out from
    the (rather fast and furious) pace of debate on this list, which I have
    discovered after sending a message to it and before having received any
    (Angela rushes in where even fools would be wiser than failing to fear to
    tread...), then you have an accurate ear. It also happens to be true - or
    the case, anyway.
    I am using inscription in the general sense of inscription culturelle, in
    which 'literature' includes (putatively) any trace écrite of human
    interaction, and text, whether as individual object or as rumeur mondiale,
    is cultural inscription.
    I became involved in my 'heroine' project by noticing recurrent metaphrastic
    metaphoric features in representations of the heroine from fairly far-flung
    points in space - time: the tragedy of antiquity; 17th French Classical
    tragedy; avatars of the same topoi in WW II France; ditto in some
    contemporary French writing; in Anglo-Irish Revival drama; in novels by
    Lafayette, Austen, Mauriac, Belghoul, Shostakovitch's Lady Macbeth of
    Mtsensk, and some examples from contemporary press coverage. I am coming to
    these issues from the (literary) texts, seeing them, I suppose, rather as
    the mice in The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy saw Arthur Dent's brain.
    Thanks again for your comments, and à bientôt when I shall have better

    > ----------
    > From: Ryan, Angela
    > Reply To: memetics@mmu.ac.uk
    > Sent: Tuesday, May 8, 2001 7:20 pm
    > To: 'memetics@mmu.ac.uk'
    > 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
    > aryan@french.ucc.ie
    > 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: http://www.cpm.mmu.ac.uk/jom-emit

    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: http://www.cpm.mmu.ac.uk/jom-emit

    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: http://www.cpm.mmu.ac.uk/jom-emit

    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: http://www.cpm.mmu.ac.uk/jom-emit

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