Posts Tagged ‘jargon’


18 February 2009

I felt I needed a phrase for “the seventies ending, you know the one where it’s sort of downbeat, but you can’t be sure, because there’s no real sense of resolution.” Amidst much waving around of hands.

I pondered the model of eucatastrophe and its twin, dyscatastrophe, coined unless I miss a guess in Tolkien’s essay on fairy stories. What I’m after would appear to be ambicatastrophe. Only that slots together Latin and Greek (like television), which is a no no. Amphicatastrophe seems to be the beast – although as a tame Greek colleague spluttered, none of these words are legal. You can’t shove a prefix like that on an already compound word.

I’ve muttered something about it being good enough for Heidegger, but that might not be company I wish to keep.

18 February 2009

Edited to add:

I’ll quote J.R.R. Tolkien, from On Fairy-Tales, and thus blame him for the barbarism of the Greek:
The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous “turn” (for there is no true end to any fairy-tale): this joy […] is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.
What we have in most narratives is a situation which is threatened, and characters who therefore experience a reversal of fortune, or peripeteia which is then resolved. In tragedy, which Tolkien seems to be placing fairy-stories in opposition to, there is clearly a (dys)catastrophe, a death, but which leads to catharsis in the viewer/reader. For the eucatastrophe, it seems as if a second peripeteia is required, producing not quite catharsis, but the notion of grace and the potential of salvation. My notion of the amphicatastrophe is that there is no second reversal – and no salvation – and if there is catastrophe, it is not accompanied by catharsis. The amphicatastrophe resists any notion of being consolatory.

10 March 2009