Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Waldrop on Metonymy and Metaphor

John Gallaher (Nothing to Say & Saying It) has an elliptic REVIEW of Rosmarie Waldrop on metonymy and metaphor (from her book, DISSONANCE.

Found this interesting as a take on poetic structure as process, form generating content. The schism described here, while oversimplified, at least in these selections, is as relevant to fiction as it is to poetry: the 'realists,' and those critics who defend them, falling on the side of metaphor, the simulacrum of mimesis--while the modernists and those who have resisted the more familiar formulas of plot/character/message, no less than the several avant streams of poetry, give greater weight to associational structures built on juxtipositions unassimilable to metaphorical similitude.


Olson has called this vertical tendency of metaphor “the suck of symbol.” Metaphor as hotline to transcendence, to divine meaning which casts the poet in the role of special being, a priest or prophet. [... ]

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Now it happens that these two emphases, on metaphor or on metonymy, are not simply differences between two styles, but coincide with the two dimensions of every speech act, selection and combination . . . . Words always have a double reference: (1) to the code and (2) to the context.

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. . . literary language tends to divide according to an emphasis on one axis or the other. In rhetorical terms, an emphasis on metaphor or an emphasis on metonymy (also in the large sense: any relation by contiguity). Some writers are more concerned with finding “the right word,” the perfect metaphor; others are more concerned with what “happens between” the words, with composition, exploring the sentence and its boundaries, slidings, the gaps between fragments, the shadow zone of silence, of margins.

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