JUSTDOLIT: a single tool to analyse all texts

The tool: step 2

1 Aim of this module

Step 1 has left us with a tool which is simple to understand and to use. At this stage, however, it is too static to do justice to the variety of worlds that fiction can create. The diagram in module 1.1 needs refining. It has to attain a greater degree of flexibility. Only then will it be able to ensure complex analyses of fiction.

2 Flexibility and the threat of dimensional non-existence

Flexibility in the tool depends on a fundamental trait which is inherent in every one of the 4 dimensions. As you progress in your knowledge of each of them (see modules 2.1-2.4), you will notice that in a very real sense every one of the 4 dimensions faces non-existence in its own particular way. Summarising wildly, we could say that

  • individuality is too unique to exist
  • metaphysics is too absent to exist
  • nature is too present to exist
  • society is too oppressive to be real

For a reason, click on the following picture, which is a summary of the beginning of modules 2.1 (individuality), 2.2 (metaphysics), 2.3 (nature) and 2.4 (society):

 

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Why every dimension is threatened with non-existence

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3 Consequences of non-existence

This threat of non-existence proves two things:

  • in terms of real life: real life depends on each of these dimensions. If we believe, as we tend to do, that everything boils down to nature and physics, we are wrong. If we believe that the only thing that counts is a kind of God, we are wrong. If we believe that only friendship is important, we are wrong. And if I believe that the only important thing in this world is me, I am (doubly) wrong.
  • in terms of texts: since every dimension is threatened with non-existence, and the world is composed of four dimensions, every dimension looks for the ground of its existence in its neighbouring dimension(s).

To do justice to such a (textual) reality, one which is constantly on the move, the diagram needs to be modified:

 

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What has been increased here is the mobility of the dimensions. Before the dimensions were static. Now every dimension is related to other dimensions. This allows us to understand much better the variety and complexity with which the dimensions are distributed in fictional worlds.

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4 The need for stereotypes

The linguistic reason for a more flexible approach: from a linguistic point of view, there are two reasons for the mobility of the dimensions:

  1. We associate many basic words to one of the four dimensions, we could even say that often it is in the nature of that word to belong to one of the dimensions. Thus, for example, words like
    • "religion" or "death" refer us to metaphysics
    • "politics" or "school" refer us to society
    • "freedom" refers us to individuation
    • "feelings" or "sexuality" refer us to nature

These words have what one could almost call their 'stereotyped place' in one of the dimensions. Of course, some basic words for cultural analysis seem to fit into more than one dimension: words like "love", "power" and "reason" have more than one allegiance (for "love", see module 3.2 ; for "reason", see module 3.1 ; for "power" click HERE).

  1. Research in reading shows that we can only make sense of new information when we compare that information with our previous knowledge.*

Below is a table with some of the most common stereotypes we have for each of our dimensions:

 

Dimension

Definition
Stereotype
Nature
The world is, can’t be changed Feelings, facts, passion, animal behaviour, brutality, stupidity, sexuality, innocence, primitivism, democracy
Society
The world is made, can be changed History, ethics and morality, professions, traditions, imposition, authority, institutions, hierarchy
Metaphysics
The world is its limit and mystery: birth, death, evil Theology, religion, mystery, birth, death, enchantment, God, devil, priest, eternity, omnipotence, omniscience, evil, miracle, magic
Individuality
The world is unique Uniqueness, freedom, individuality, solitude

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5 The need to go beyond stereotypes

The need to go beyond stereotypes: And here comes the interesting part: while a word tends to have a natural affinity with one dimension, that word can leave its dimension* and join any of the other three dimensions. Take love, or anger, or any other feeling. In real life this feeling can be understood in many ways:

  • It can be understood as natural, triggered off by hormones, by the firing of synapses in our brain.
  • It can be seen as individual, my unique feeling - in intensity, exclusiveness, association to my unique experience - directed to a person I hold a unique relationship with.
  • It can be seen as social, conditioned by my experience at school, my situation as a politician, my status as a teacher.
  • It can be seen as metaphysical, for example in my fear of death, of extreme evil.

The feeling does not change, but our basic perception of what this feeling is does. When we think about feelings, we do not usually see them as a metaphysical or social part of us. We usually understand them as part of our individuality, and ultimately our nature: what I feel is what I am. So feelings usually belong to the natural dimension of our experience of the world. But they can change their dimension depending on the context in which they appear. What happens with feelings also happens with most other words. Click on the picture below to see a series of examples of what I mean:

 

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Example: Stereotypes and change of dimensions I

Single words

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Example: Stereotypes and change of dimensions II

The meaning of the centaurs in Harry Potter

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acknowledgments of pictures:

 

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daniel.candel@uah.es | ©2008 Daniel Candel Bormann