The Eden Complex
- Six constituent elements:
- Eden/garden imagery (see Gn 2:15-3:24)
- SF/FT: science fiction finds at least some of its roots in fairy tales,
e.g., 1. primary colors 2. arbitrary rules 3. time out of time 4. central
position of protagonist
- Natural (and perhaps divine) limits ("There are some things man was
not meant to know!")
- Scientist as isolated man striving to be a god
- Oedipal dramatic structures (both tragic and romantic, both with and without
final transfers of power across generations)
- Typical SF dichotomies (in any given work, individual pairs can swap left/right
nature v science
animate v mechanical
spirit v machine
spirit v flesh
mind v body
slave v master
female v male
heart v head
- According to Edmund Husserl (1859-1938), a phenomenon is "an act of intensional
[R: as opposed to extensional; note spelling] consciousness." R: a phenomenon
exists only within a context and purpose for noticing it. Marshall McLuhan
(1911-1980): "I wouldn't have seen it if I hadn't believed it."
- The term complex is used here as Gaston Bachelard does in The Psychoanalysis
of Fire (1938). The Prometheus Complex, for example, complects fire both
as life-giving (the spark) and life-destroying (burning despair). Similarly,
the phenomenon of water complects at least water as time (the river), female
fertility (spring rain), and dissolution of the self (ocean).
- Whenever part of a phenomenological complex is present, all of it is implicitly
present. Hence, the ice settings in Frankenstein are not merely white
(like pages still to be written on) and cold (like a corpse) but represent
frozen fertility. Similarly, whenever a garden is prominent in art, we have
tamed nature, the idea of paradise, and the arena of disobedience implicitly
present at once.
- Although "Rappaccini's Daughter" (reminiscent of "Rapunzel") and "The Birthmark"
both explore the full Eden Complex with a tragic outcome while "The Artist
of the Beautiful" explores it with a transcendent, romantic outcome, in all
three, the whole Eden Complex is present.
- As a defining set of conditions for much SF, the range and implications
of the phenomenon of Eden (whether or not so named, but recognizable by the
constituent elements above) warrant analysis. Note some key features: knowledge
(both mental and carnal) through eyes; problem of obedience and sustenance;
expulsion from garden (or desire to return to the garden); and consequences
of disobedience being tilling the soil (creating through labor), childbirth
(creating through labor), and death.
- Whenever part of the Eden Complex is present, all of it is potentially present.
Copyright © 1988-2003 Eric