Deus ex Machina


Deus ex Machina is a Latin phrase which literally translates, "deity from out of a machine". It is a reference to a theatrical device in Roman and Greek plays. In some Roman and Greek dramatic works, if a character in the play found themselves in an impossible situation, an actor playing the role of a deity was lowered from a machine (a crane) onto the stage to resolve the plot. For further information, see Deus ex Machina as defined in Wikipedia.


Discussion (dialog)

Many people have listened to the music of the album, Ghost in a The Machine by the English punk rock band, The Police. It is unusual that the literary term Deus ex Machina has not been applied and analyzed using the lyrics from the songs on that album. How does the song, "Rehumanize Yourself", relate to the title and the literary term? Clearly a comparitive study would prove an interesting topic for discussion.

Likewise, the movie, The Ring, suggests a spirit haunts the movie. As such, the literary device, Deus ex Machina, possibly at play within the plot, takes on a sinister tone. And in this movie too, very little has been said of the clearly contrived solution. More or less the audience must suspend their disbelief throughout the entire movie to be entertained by the idea that a ghost can haunt the actual film media (either in magnetic tape form, or in DVD format).

Another thing that is probably worthy of note is that within the Bible, in the Gospel of John, there is a passage that says something like, "In the beginning was the Word." Note that the Greek translation of the Word is Logos. In the Gospel of John, there is a sense that words, the mechanism of a book and specifically of the Bible, are the impetus for both creation and redemption. Critically speaking, then, to say that Deus ex Machina is "an improbable contrivance in a story," is to (debatably) interpret such a literary device in a pejorative way. That is not to say the definition does not have merit, but it is to say that the definition is based on an opinion, or a group of opinions.

Read more in the article Deus ex Machina: Redefined at google's Knol, and leave a comment or post a review.


Other books, games, and songs have used the literary device within the context of a spirit or deity literally haunting a machine, rather than the typical dictionary definition indicating "an improbable contrivance in a story." In the novel, Deus ex Machina; Logos by Charles Matthew Sauer, The mechanism can be defined as a book, though not necessarily. Much is said early on, in the book, about Echo being a nymph and how she haunts both a cave from which a stream issues, and the pond within which Narcissus gazes. People, during Roman and Greek times, revered nymphs; and to that extent by the very definition of reverence, they also feared them. In that context, the title means that there is (in a fictional way) a spiritual haunting of the pages, precisely the same way that a nymph might haunt a tree, a pond, or a cave. The title suggests (and again within a fiction) that there is a ghost in a book, perhaps even there is a ghost in the book.

The title also is used in a way that is self-reflexive of the narrator's story (in the sense that the novel is a fictional metafiction). The fictional narrator Cecelia, the fictional main character supposedly wrote the book. The title suggests that what is needed to resolve the book from beginning to end, (weather it is granted or not) is some form of contrived solution. Perhaps, as an example and as suggested by the chapter titles, what is needed is some form of metaphysical intervention, something contrived, some artiface.

The book, in terms of plot and very mechanically in that sense, does wind up with a very contrived solution even at the start, because (like the movie, The Ring) who can imagine a ghost within some sort of media? or words (Logos) creating anything other than something (in the literal sense of anything) like a book. Note too that contrived does not imply simple. It might imply just the opposite: something artificial, labored. Thus, again, the title fits. Yet, thematically the author is playing with the idea of the literary term, because thematically there are technological, historical, and philosophical problems, even described literally within the plot, that are left to the reader to translate or interpret. This inverts the definition of the literary term, Deus ex Machina; because if the reader must solve the thematic problems in the end, (supposedly) the ending is no longer contrived.

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