'll admit I'm glad that, in Greg Evans' response to my "Defining
Irrealism: Scientific Development and Allegorical Possibility," Mr. Evans
stresses the importance of the human subject. I think that, indirectly,
this consideration returns us to the main purpose of this exchange, of
defining Irrealism as a vehicle for expression and artistic development.
In that sense, these theoretical considerations of the Irreal are intended
to provoke the creation of new Irreal works. The trick is to avoid the
limitations imposed by rhetorical forms like the manifesto or the
historiographic catalogue of literary fossils. Perhaps we should entirely
discard an attempt to comprehensively define Irrealism. Perhaps a better
question to begin with would be "What is an Irrealist?"
Such a reformulation of the purpose of theoretical investigations of
Irrealism should emphasize the artist's goal in creating an Irreal work.
I'd contend that the Irreal imagination provides a site of resistance which
is perhaps more difficult to justify than a more exclusively political art.
It reacts to and comments on the world from a position somehow beyond the
world. In that sense, Irrealists are, above all, the cartographers and
caretakers of the imaginary.
That said, I'd emphasize that the scientific changes I discuss are
important primarily because they impact imaginative possibilities. My
comments to Mr. Evans' response to my article take the form of a brief
clarification of ideas. I'd like to thank Greg for organizing this
exchange and hope to develop this discussion in the future. I'm interested
in remarks/ opinions and request that readers contact me at:
1) To distinguish the approaches which The Cafe Irreal and I use to
explore Irrealism as, respectively, phenomenological and structuralist
implies that Irrealism itself can operate only as an emanation from either
of these analytical methods. Indeed, such a division implicitly links
Irrealism to phenomenology in such a way as to dismiss the validity of
structuralist approaches when applied to Irrealism.
In other words, such a division implies that Irrealism (if such a totality
is even possible) is knowable only through a specific analytical method.
However, my contention, like that of The Cafe Irreal, is that Irrealism is
a field of artistic possibility engendered by very real social,
environmental, philosophical alteration. Thus, I contend, that we must use
many analytical methods in order to understand and (if possible) define
Irrealism as a multi-faceted concept. A more complete definition of
Irrealism would indicate how the Irreal is detectable, regardless of method.
2) But, that said, I should reemphasize that narratological and
structuralist considerations must accompany any attempt to introduce and
define a narratological category. Such an endeavor, whether it applies to
an exploration of genre, or mode, or poetic technique, necessitates
considerations of both literary history and classification systems. While
Evans remarked in a previous correspondence that "if it is true that
Irrealism is a game trying to solve a puzzle, the most interesting thing
for me is not the solution to the puzzle itself, abstractly considered, but
the subjective impulses, feelings, anger, alienation and so on that drove
the author to play this game in the first place, and the field of
possibilities the author had," such a statement implies that it is possible
to talk about these subjective impulses without commenting on the form
which they assume. While it is true that my articulation of Irrealism
utilizes the critical apparatus provided by narratology and refers to the
works of structuralist thinkers, I am also aware of the limitations of
The reason I emphasize narratological structure is to provide a
qualitative criteria by which to define Irrealism. Classification systems
are corrupt. They are insufficient, but people try to classify things they
observe. In my article, "things" normally refers to books and animals. In
each case, the system is corrupt, but so is the system the classification
system tries to describe. This development, though only one of many,
signals the Irreal.
We've always known classification systems are flawed. But that's because
they were unable to replicate a divine logic. Now, however, even the
natural system (with all its attendant considerations of order and
proportion) obeys a logical system the defining characteristics of which
seem operative but illogical. The reference which Mr. Evans makes to Erich
Fromm's symbolic hierarchies emphasizes these considerations. Fromm's
explanation of universal symbols implies a constant relationship between
the human and the natural which, furthermore, implies a constancy of human
The Irreal, I would say, occurs at the moment when universal and
accidental symbols become equally arbitrary, because there is no longer a
biological referent, a universal experience, which separates the two.
Instead, these categories collapse. For the Irreal imagination, both the
accidental and universal symbol refer to the source of bewildering,
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