JUSTDOLIT: a single tool to analyse all texts

The tool: step 3

1 Aim of the module

What has been done: At this stage, the tool offers the benefits of all-inclusiveness and (even visual) simplicity (module 1.1), yet also of flexibility and complexity in application (module 1.2). However, the tool still sufers from being merely DESCRIPTIVE. It

  • says to which dimension textual elements belong or have been shifted
  • describes these dimensions
  • shows the interaction between dimensions in the text

What remains to be done: At their most basic, however, texts also EVALUATE the world they create. They present their dimensions as good or evil, as things to be feared or desired. So it is necessary to incorporate into the tool a moment of evaluation.

2 Riemann's 4 yearnings / fears

Such a moment was developed by the German psychoanalyst Fritz Riemann (1987: 7-16), and Riemann's theory is perfect for this tool for two reasons:

  1. His theory is so similar to St Augustine's four-world theory, that it is worth adopting it wholesale.
  2. Riemann's model may be psychological, but it is not Freudian. Our world is so Freudian that Freud often becomes a stereotype we blindly follow, rather than an analytic tool.

Riemann starts not with what the world consists of, but with our attitude towards the world. He posits two pairs of basic and antithetical demands each individual puts on life, and which the individual sees as the potential sources of fear.

 

riemann

 

Riemann starts from the awareness that at its most basic, a sound individual has four basic desires bundled into two groups: [1] he or she wants to be unique (individual), but also be loved by those around (society), and [2] he or she wants to feel secure (eternity), but also feel the thrill of life (change). Balanced, these pairs would provide us with a sound personality. However, within the two groups the desires threaten to cancel themselves out:

  1. the more unique I am, the less will the group accept me, and vice versa, the more I am integrated in the group, the less may I display my uniqueness.
  2. the more I need to feel secure, the less will I accept change in my life, while the more I am looking for change, the less will I accept things to stay the same

The problem is that, as soon any of the four demands starts to dominate its peer the individual experiences this as a fear which throws him off balance. To a lesser or greater degree, we all suffer from such imbalances. We all know people who suffer in any of the four ways: there's the person you can't arrange a meeting with, because every single day in her life is already packed with events (change); there's the person who'd spend his life in his room and not talk to anybody (eternity), there's the person in the group who you've known for ages but have never spoken anything personal with (society), or the person who is so strange he/she will always be a marginal figure in any group (individual)...and what about you? Which is your fear?

Often these basic fears appear in complex combinations, but we have to leave that for some future reflection. Here is a table with each of the four yearnings and its associated fears:

 

  individualisation socialisation eternity mutability
desire for uniqueness being loved security, things not to change things to change
associated fear of giving ourselves to others of being ourselves of change of things remaining the same
reason for fear loss of individuality not accepted by the group change implies death lack of change is boring

3 Comparing Riemann & St. Augustine

Riemann's model is very similar to St. Augustine's. This is especially noticeable in the opposition between individuality and socialisation. At the same time it is also very different. The differences are two, one general, and one particular:

 

  St. Augustine Riemann
General difference External, geographical & descriptive model: world divided into 4 parts. Internal, psychological and evaluative model: distinguishes between fears.
Particular difference One polar opposition is between nature and metaphysics Distinguishes between the desire for / fear of change & eternity (not nature & metaphysics)

 

The general difference points to the very possibility of evaluation. We approach the text not just as something which cuts the world up into bits (the different dimensions), but which also passes judgement on these bits. This judgement displays fears and desires, of the characters, of the text, and ultimately of its author and the time he or she lives in.

As regards the particular difference, it is important to see that the opposition nature / metaphysics (St. Augustine) and the opposition eternity / change (Riemann), are, while different, also vitally connected with each other. Initially we might say that metaphysics has more in common with eternity, as in eternal life after death. That would mean that nature has more to do with change, and indeed it does if we look at our own feelings, which are part of our nature and often succeed each other with astonishing speed. At the same time, face the sea, face the desert, and you will see that nature is also connected to eternity, and think about an omnipotent God who does what he wants when and the way he wants, and you may feel change, rather than eternity. Correspondences there are between the two sets, but the correspondences work in all possible ways. The most one can say is that sometimes the text demands one, at other times another model of analysis. For an example of text which work better with Riemann's model, click on the pictures below.

 

fuselinightmare

Example 1:

Individualism as eternity

Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher

ozymandias

Example 2:

Nature as eternity

Shelley's "Ozymandias"

Works cited (or referred to):

Riemann, Fritz. Grundformen der Angst: eine tiefenpsychologische Studie. München: Ernst Reinhardt, 1987.

acknowledgements of pictures:

 

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