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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.


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