Thursday, August 26, 2010

Asterios Polyp, pt. 2: synchronic vs. diachronic structure

I want to focus on the last section of today's reading from Asterios Polyp (beginning with the panel of a yellow foot with a white dot on it).  This section is only twelve narrative pages, but these are a specific kind of narration, what we call synchronic narration.  This is opposed to a more traditional form of linear, diachronic narration, which moves forward in time.  Synchronic narration, on the other hand, moves across time, emphasizing the connection between thematic and symbolic elements, often ignoring or undercutting temporal causality. [These terms might be familiar from linguistics or biology, where there are use to distinguish between pattern-connections and historical development; see synchronic analysis at wikipedia.]

We start this section with the recurring figure of Asterios sitting by himself, examining his foot for a blister; Initially, he is isolated on the white space of the page, then he looks up and is alone his bedroom in Stiff Major's home:

Another page repeats his bodily self-examination, and when Asterios looks up a second time, he is in his marital home, with his wife, Hana, in the doorway:

What follows is a loosely-connected series of panels depicting incidental moments from Asterios and Hana's life together, mostly focusing on Hana's body and its functions:

There is very little narrative proper here.  The repeated scene of Asterios taking out tweezers and using them (the middle tier of panels through each page); the daily bodily life of Hana (in the bathroom, in the bedroom, while sick, tired, happy, and living a typical life).  This section seems to be focalized from Asterios' perspective, rather than his dead brother's, and the synchronic leaps seem to be his as well.

If this is the case, I wonder if it is too strong to read these pages as self-examination, in which Asterios attempts to come to grips with the facts of his former life, rather than his idea of that life.  Is this a limited form of catharsis?  Or just a fleeting scene in the manner of what we've seen before?

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