[-empyre-] interesting about violence

Ana Valdés agora158 at gmail.com
Sat Nov 8 12:07:05 EST 2014

"Violence is a key ingredient of human storytelling: from our first
oral tales, violent acts have heightened audience attention and
underlined the dangers of our world. What happens to a child who goes
off alone? She is beset by ogres! Djinn! Child-eating witches! As
different story traditions developed, most were rich in violence,
which was often focused around a single enemy. This enemy could be
battled (and tricked or beaten), offering the audience a psychological

Many individual writers and storytellers have worked to complicate our
views of violence, but the majority of tales continue to build on this
tradition, finding satisfaction in pointing a finger at a guilty
party. The need to discover and punish those to blame for our ills
makes for a powerful narrative driver. Discovery and punishment also
create a uniquely satisfying end.

These guilty parties, whether individual or collective, can powerfully
shape or re-shape our shared ideas of right and wrong. Some authors
turn old tropes on their head, reversing whom we would usually find
“guilty.” Others, in seeking to interrogate the violence itself, walk
away from the idea of a guilty party. Elias Khoury’s narrator asks, in
the 1981 novel White Masks, “Is the identification of the murderer the

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