Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Surprise! Read an odd or even number of times

1. Infinite Jest and the spoiler-phillia/phobia debate

Entirely appropriate to the discussion of spoilers that cropped up here, as well as to the general question of the relevance of spoilerphobia wrt intentionally rereadable/rewatchable annular works such as IJ itself and the Entertainment, is this brand-new new article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, The Paradox of Suspense by Aaron Smuts. Excerpt:

The ultimate success of Hollywood blockbusters is dependent upon
repeat viewings. Fans return to theaters to see films multiple times
and buy DVDs so they can watch movies yet again. Although it is
something of a received dogma in philosophy and psychology that
suspense requires uncertainty, many of the biggest box office
successes are action movies that fans claim to find suspenseful on
repeated viewings. The conflict between the theory of suspense and
the accounts of viewers generates a problem known as the paradox
of suspense
, which we can boil down to a simple question: If
suspense requires uncertainty, how can a viewer who knows the outcome
still feel suspense?


I will consider four different solutions to the paradox of suspense:
(1) the thought theory of entertained uncertainty, (2) the
desire-frustration theory of suspense, (3) the
moment-by-moment forgetting theory, and (4) the emotional
view. The thought theory of entertained
explains the paradox by denying that actual
uncertainty is necessary for suspense; instead, all that is required
is for viewers to engage the fiction as they normally
would—entertaining thoughts of the story as if they were
undecided. The desire-frustration theory holds that
uncertainty, entertained or actual, is not necessary for suspense. To
create suspense, one merely needs to frustrate a desire to affect the
outcome of an imminent event. The moment-by-moment forgetting
view is the position that while viewers are immersed in a fictional
scenario, they effectively cannot remember the outcome. The
emotional misidentification view holds that it is impossible
for viewers who know the outcome to feel suspense, and the best
explanation of the claims of audiences to the contrary is that
viewers must be confusing their actual fear and anxiety with what
they take to be suspense.

2. More on quote-unquote "quotation"

It looks like there's some evidence of authorial intent vindicating, somewhat, the nested-quote theory of DFW's use of single-quotes in IJ. See anony's remarks in the thread here. With this on my mind, I couldn't help but think that all the discussion of double- and triple-agency between Steeply and Marathe is somehow relevant.

3. Intracranial entrapment.

I continue to be interested in the 'stuck-in-the-head' theme I brought up here. Daryl Houston @Infinite Zombies has some nice remarks along these lines here.

4. Press 'Play'

p. 68, Hal's recurring dream: "We sort of play. But it's all hypothetical, somehow. Even the 'we' is theory: I never get to see the distant opponent, for all the apparatus of the game."

p. 72, Kate Gompert's suicidal motive: "'I didn't want to play anymore is all.' 'Play,' nodding in confirmation, making small quick notes."

p. 84, Schtitt's response to the question Mario somehow managed to articulate, "And then but so what's the difference between tennis and suicide, life and death, the game and its own end?": "'...No different, maybe,'[...]'Maybe no different, so' [...] 'Not different' [...] 'except the chance to play.'"