Skip to main content

Star Wars and Catharsis

I'M NOT GONE YET. Meaning here's another post.

Forgotten Bookmarks' post for today made me remember a couple years ago when I visited my brother in NYC and we saw Wishful Drinking, and when Carrie Fisher started her final monologue with "General Kenobi, years ago, you served my father in the Clone Wars--" my brother and I freaked out and had internal flail attacks. BECAUSE SHE WAS SAYING IT. Lesson: Star Wars is the best of all best things.

You know how sometimes you read a part of a book and it makes you go


So, one of the cool things about fiction is that lovely Greek concept of catharsis (or "katharsis" if you're a tool). Unfortunately, Aristotle is the one who first articulated this in reference to an emotional experience. You know, Aristotle -- the guy who said that women were just flawed men because they couldn't produce semen and believed that emotional hysteria in women was the result of a "wandering womb."

Anyway. The point is that Aristotle sucks, but catharsis was a damn good idea. Ok, so how that works today is we watch a play or a movie or a tv show, or we read a novel, and we feel for those characters, and experience -- sometimes -- extreme emotions, and this "cleanses" us and provides a healthy outlet for our emotions. 

Not to quote Wikipedia, but I'm going to quote Wikipedia:

Some modern interpreters of the work infer that catharsis is pleasurable, because audience members experience ekstasis (literally: astonishment, meaning: trance) or, in other words, "relief," ensuing from an awareness that, compared with what they have just seen portrayed, their own life is less tragic 
So when we read things like Ethan Frome (a book enjoyed by people with souls) and afterwards feel perhaps decimated, we still can hold on to that book as having been a good experience, partially because we are at least subconsciously reminded that our lives are not like Ethan's and Mattie's.

I wrote recently about Millennials not liking to be genuine, because it opens us up to being made fun of. Completely true. If I'm sincere, I'm almost always wary about it. And being emotional? Bah! BUT. For some reason, we've chosen to consider it ok to be extremely invested in fiction. Which means I can watch the series 4 finale of Doctor Who and yell at the tv while crying violently "DONNA NOOOOOOOO!" And you just feel better after something like that.

What's cool about catharsis in today's world is, of course, the internet. Because you can share your feelings-inspired-by-fiction with strangers from practically anywhere, giving those feelings added validation AND giving you a deeper sense of global community. The most you could get from that in previous decades was the  shared release of teenage sexual angst at an Elvis concert.

I would probably say Ethan Frome actually was one of the most cathartic books I've read. Others that spring to mind are Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, East of Eden, and Bleak House. Any book where you become heavily invested in the characters has the possibility of giving you that experience. And this is of course where I ask if you have any particular books that have elicited a cleansing emotional reaction from you. Because I want to know, people. I want to know.


Popular posts from this blog

Harry Potter 2013 Readalong Signup Post of Amazingness and Jollity

Okay, people. Here it is. Where you sign up to read the entire Harry Potter series (or to reminisce fondly), starting January 2013, assuming we all survive the Mayan apocalypse. I don't think I'm even going to get to Tina and Bette's reunion on The L Word until after Christmas, so here's hopin'. You guys know how this works. Sign up if you want to. If you're new to the blog, know that we are mostly not going to take this seriously. And when we do take it seriously, it's going to be all Monty Python quotes when we disagree on something like the other person's opinion on Draco Malfoy. So be prepared for your parents being likened to hamsters. If you want to write lengthy, heartfelt essays, that is SWELL. But this is maybe not the readalong for you. It's gonna be more posts with this sort of thing: We're starting Sorceror's/Philosopher's Stone January 4th. Posts will be on Fridays. The first post will be some sort of hilar

Minithon: The Mini Readathon, January 11th, 2020

The minithon is upon us once more! Minithons are for the lazy. Minithons are for the uncommitted. Minithons are for us. The minithon lasts 6 hours (10 AM to 4 PM CST), therefore making it a mini readathon, as opposed to the lovely Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon and 24in48, both of which you should participate in, but both of which are a longer commitment than this, the Busy Watching Netflix person's readathon. By 'read for six hours' what's really meant in the minithon is "read a little bit and eat a lot of snacks and post pictures of your books and your snacks, but mostly your snacks." We like to keep it a mini theme here, which mainly means justifying your books and your snacks to fit that theme. Does your book have children in it? Mini people! Does it have a dog! Mini wolf! Does it have pencils? Mini versions of graphite mines! or however you get graphite, I don't really know. I just picture toiling miners. The point is, justify it or don't

How to Build a Girl Introductory Post, which is full of wonderful things you probably want to read

Acclaimed (in England mostly) lady Caitlin Moran has a novel coming out. A NOVEL. Where before she has primarily stuck to essays. Curious as we obviously were about this, I and a group of bloggers are having a READALONG of said novel, probably rife with spoilers (maybe they don't really matter for this book, though, so you should totally still read my posts). This is all hosted/cared for/lovingly nursed to health by Emily at As the Crowe Flies (and Reads) because she has a lovely fancy job at an actual bookshop ( Odyssey Books , where you can in fact pre-order this book and then feel delightful about yourself for helping an independent store). Emily and I have negotiated the wonders of Sri Lankan cuisine and wandered the Javits Center together. Would that I could drink with her more often than I have. I feel like we could get to this point, Emily INTRODUCTION-wise (I might've tipped back a little something this evening, thus the constant asides), I am Alice. I enjoy