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  1. #1
    PennyLane Guest

    mimetic,non-mimetic literature..

    hey everyone...does anybody have any idea or can give examples? Maybe from Joyce,Faulkner or Hemingway..

  2. #2
    "PennyLane" was one of my favorite songs from the Beatles.

    I would like to attempt to help you with this intersting question, but I need to clarify for myself what is meant by mimesis in fiction.

    Did your instructor give you any notes or definitions regarding the terms mimetic and non-mimetic? I realize that mimesis carries the fundamental notion of imitation, but that is too vague, since all art is in a sense mimetic of reality, even cinematographic art.

    When questions, assignments and terminology become more confused and obscure and challenging than the answers and solutions, then academia is in trouble.

    Of course, I am only assuming that you are a student and that you are seeking help with an assignment. Am I correct?

    I have spent a lot of time on various literature forums, and I often see such requests for help. I also often see replies posted which basically scold the student for things like not reading the book, not starting soon enough on the assignment, and other various negative things,but make no positive effort to assist the student or offer suggestions as to how and where they might find an answer. If I ruled the world, or a message board, I would outlaw such totally negative posts, for the simple reason that anyone can be critical and scold a young person, and even the guilty party knows full well the virtues of study and the sinful wages of laziness and procrastination. So, if you feel such negative things about a student's request yourself, then you are wasting band width to scold and mock, since you will basically be posting the same tired old smug song and dance.

    On the other hand, if you take every student's question as a challenge to yourself, then often you shall learn something new, as I am today regarding the definition of mimetic and non-mimetic. You shall be encouraging the student to become more active in the forum, rather than chasing them away. They may actually befriend you, and then you shall find gentle ways to guide and encourage them. I thought I would be so bold to express my viewpoint on this issue, which I have never expressed elsewhere, and to express it before anyone posts some scolding rebuke, so it would not appear that I post in retaliation or a spirit of ad hominem.

    And now let us turn to the question at hand.

    Literature is "mimetic," that is to say, re-presents 'reality', 'nature', or 'the way things are'. It portrays moral and other experiences in a compelling, concrete, immediately felt way through its aesthetic devices and powers, yet allows as well for reflection, for a theorizing or reconsideration of the experiences evoked, as we are both 'experiencing' the world evoked and are separated from it. It is important to understand, under this thesis, a couple of aspects of literature and representation:

    1. human experience is affective and symbolic; literature, which uses affect and symbol, can represent it as we genuinely experience and imagine it.

    2. literature works through the senses both immediately (in its sounds and rhythms) and symbolically (as words conjure up images, associations and so forth) -- there is a concrete as well as a symbolic presence.
    A google search reveals for me:

    Aristotle's most well known work on this subject is his Poetics.

    Walter Kaufmann in Tragedy and Philosophy Ch.II suggests that we translate mimêsis in Aristotle’s Poetics as “make-believe”.

    Michael Davis, a translator and commentator of Aristotle writes:

    "At first glance, mimêsis seems to be a stylizing of reality in which the ordinary features of our world are brought into focus by a certain exaggeration, the relationship of the imitation to the object it imitates being something like the relationship of dancing to walking. Imitation always involves selecting something from the continuum of experience, thus giving boundaries to what really has no beginning or end. Mimêsis involves a framing of reality that announces that what is contained within the f-r-a-m-e is not simply real. Thus the more “real” the imitation the more fraudulent it becomes." (The Poetry of Philosophy p.3)

    More recently Erich Auerbach, Merlin Donald, and René Girard have written about mimesis.

    Mimesis in contrast to diegesis

    It was also Plato and Aristotle who contrasted mimesis with diegesis. In diegesis it is not the form in which a work of art represents reality but that in which the author is the speaker who is describing events in the narrative he presents to the audience.
    It is in diegesis that the author addresses the audience or the readership directly to express his freely creative art of the imagination, of fantasies and dreams in contrast to mimesis. Diegesis was thought of as telling, the author narrating action indirectly and describing what is in the character's mind and emotions, while mimesis is seen in terms of showing what is going on in characters' inner thoughts and emotions through his external actions.
    This next link is a very good read, from the perspective of postmodernists:


    I suspect that Aristotle's definition of mimesis is quite different from Derrida's definition:

    Derrida uses the concept of mimesis in relation to texts - which are non-disposable doubles that always stand in relation to what has preceded them. Texts are deemed "nondisposable" and "double" in that they always refer to something that has preceded them and are thus "never the origin, never inner, never outer, but always doubled" [25]. The mimetic text (which always begins as a double) lacks an original model and its inherent intertextuality demands deconstruction." Differénce is the principle of mimesis, a productive freedom, not the elimination of ambiguity; mimesis contributes to the profusion of images, words, thoughts, theories, and action, without itself becoming tangible" [26]. Mimesis thus resists theory and constructs a world of illusion, appearances, aesthetics, and images in which existing worlds are appropriated, changed, and re-interpreted. Images are a part of our material existence, but also mimetically bind our experience of reality to subjectivity and connote a "sensuous experience that is beyond reference to reality" [27].
    This Wikepedia article is the first one that seems to get into some concrete examples from literature:

    Tragedy is concerned with the hero's separation from society. Myth deals with the death of gods. Romance gives elegies mourning the death of heroes such as Arthur or Beowulf. Classic tragedy of the high mimetic epoch presents the death of a noble human such as Othello or Oedipus. Low mimetic tragedy shows the death or sacrifice of a common human and evokes pathos as with Hardy's Tess or Daisy Miller. The ironic mode shows the death or suffering of a protagonist who is both weak and pitiful compared to the rest of humanity and the protagonist's environment; Kafka's works provide many examples.
    Certain authors seem to equate the term non-mimetic with the fantastic or surreal. A paragraph describing sipping tea in a restaurant would then be mimetic, whereas sipping tea from ten gallon vessels, with martians, while clocks melt from the wall, would be non-mimetic.

    Off the top of my head, I would say that everything by Hemingway is totally mimetic, in the sense that he depicts ordinary people in everyday scenes, whereas someone like Pynchon, in his Gravity's Rainbow hardly resembles reality, and frequently becomes quite surrealistic or fantastic.
    Last edited by Sitaram; 06-13-2006 at 06:31 PM.

  3. #3
    Here is a course description which includes examples of "non-mimetic narrative"
    ENG 254 Studies in Non-Mimetic Narrative
    Students will be introduced to parabolic narrative modes which have been developed as a means of metaphysical interrogation to satisfy the need to testify to the mystery of identity, to the soul's plight in its passage through the material realm, and to the possibilities of its returning to true origins healed, and redeemed. Parables-both traditional -Christian, Hasidic, Sufi and Taoist, and literary -Dante, Hawthorne, Kafka, Dinesen, Daumal's Mt. Analogue, will be sampled as a stimulus for inquiry into the diverse and antithetical reasons why people tell stories of such devilish ambiguity. Metafictions by Borges will be compared to traditional Indo-European stories compiled by Zimmer in The King and the Corpse to demonstrate how the processes of speculative thought impose narrow and arbitrary conceptual vocabularies on the mysteries of being non-being. Using the Eros and Psyche story as prototype, classic instances of the Anglo-German literary fairy tale will be analyzed for the way they instruct as to the proper and improper stances that can be taken in relation to those mysteries -Novalis, Hoffmann, George MacDonald. Consideration will be given to how and to what purpose horror, anxiety -Poe, Lovecraft, Gilman, Meyrink's The Golem, Tutuola's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, Hedayat's The Blind Owl, and the sublime transformsinto awe -excerpts from The Quest of the Holy Grail, Dante's Paradiso, Melville's Moby Dick, Lem's Solaris. Certain Gnostic variations on the Judeo-Christian Genesis myth which have persistently emerged from the esoteric "underground" of Western culture will be studied in Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and The Book of Urizen, Lindsay's Voyage to Arcturus, Lautreamont's phantasmagoria Maldoror. The Christian New Testament- "Book of Revelations" and Angela Carfes The Passion of New Eve will illustrate apocalyptic vision. Finally, students will be introduced to the narrative capacity of a non-verbal artifact: the Tarot deck. This will be in preparation for comparing and contrasting works by Calvino -The Castle of Crossed Destinies, and Charles Williams -The Greater Trumps, which exploit Tarot symbolism for very different metaphysical purpose. Films in the metaphysical mode will also be screened, selected from the work of film makers such as Carl Dreyer and the German Expressionists, Cocteau, Bunuel, Bergman, Tarkovsky, Wenders.

  4. #4
    Nicely done.

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