The human experience is one of ambiguity.
The aim is to provide clear, well-illustrated accounts of the full range of terminology currently in use, and to evolve histories of its changing usage. The current state of the discipline of literary studies is one where there is considerable debate concerning basic questions of terminology.
This involves, among other things, the boundaries which distinguish the literary from the non-literary; the position of literature within the larger sphere of culture; the relationship between literatures of different cultures; and questions concerning the relation of literary to other cultural forms within the context of interdisciplinary studies.
It is clear that the field of literary criticism and theory is a dynamic and heterogeneous one. The present need is for individual volumes on terms which combine clarity of exposition with an adventurousness of perspective and a breadth of application. Each volume will contain as part of its apparatus some indication of the direction in which the definition of particular terms is likely to move, as well as expanding the disciplinary boundaries within which some of these terms have been traditionally contained.
This will involve some re-situation of terms within the larger field of cultural representation, and will introduce examples from the area of film and the modern media in addition to examples from a variety of literary texts.
The wording of anything written or printed; the structure formed by the words in their order; the very words, phrases, and sentences as written. However, when we delve further into the dictionary definition, even this apparently solid ground starts to appear distinctly more unstable.
Indeed, the further history of the word is supplied at the very head of the dictionary entry: Do we mean to refer to the original structure of paper, or papyrus, as something which was woven; or do we mean to refer to writing itself as something woven?
Can we fully distinguish between the two? Here, then, we are within a process of metaphor; a process, to use the most common definition of all, by means of which one thing is made to stand in for another thing. Specifically, this is an example of metonymy, the reduction of in this case the animal to a single representative element.
It is true that this slippage can be justified by saying that we would not survive very long, or indeed at all, without a head; but introduction neither would we last very long without a liver, or with no kidneys, yet we do not accord these organs the same status as the head.
What I mean to imply from this example, and to continue to explore in the following chapters, is that the processes of metaphor are everywhere at work in language.
If all language is metaphorical, or at least invested with a certain metaphorical potential, then it could also follow that we might want to say that all language is continually involved in a series of acts of translation: After all, all uses of language, from the very simplest to the most complex, are acts of communication, or at least they set out to be acts of communication whether they succeed or whether they fail, and therefore there is some implied motivation behind them, at some level, which seeks to engage the reader or listener.
Metaphor seems to be integral to this need for engagement: One of the most frequent usages of metaphor is as simile. It has sometimes been supposed that simile is a different figure of speech from metaphor; but in fact it is a sub-species of metaphor, which is distinct only in that it keeps the notion of comparison explicit.
He felt constriction and saw — hopelessly out of reach — a limitless freedom: It was as if he were dead and were remembering the effect of a good confession, the words of absolution: Simile may be in one sense cruder than other forms of metaphor, in that it does not seek to conceal its artificiality; but alternatively one might say that it is the original form of metaphor.
A bundle of rods bound up with an axe in the middle and its blade projecting. These rods were carried by lectors before the superior magistrates at Rome as an emblem of their power.
OED We could fairly conjecture that when the fascist movement appropriated this image, this was done with an awareness of its metaphorical power; that what was being said, or indicated, was, for example, something about power and authority, and about the threat of violence at the heart of apparent order.
But the question of when, or whether, a metaphor can ever be truly dead is a vexed one. Child in the womb, Or saint on a tomb — Which way shall I lie To fall asleep? The keen moon stares From the back of the sky, The clouds are all home Like driven sheep. This kind of phenomenon is very close to the force of the homonym, a term which refers to words which sound alike but have quite different meanings.
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