Saturday, June 6, 2015
from Michel Delville's The American Prose Poem: Poetic Form and the Boundaries of Genre:
Jakobson describes language as oscillating between the two antipodal processes of selection and combination — the former is described as metaphoric, the latter as metonymic. Jakobson clearly considers metaphor and metonymy as two complementary aspects of any discourse, as speech implies “a selection of certain linguistic entities and their combination into linguistic units of a higher degree of complexity.” Any linguistic utterance thus develops along both the axis of similarity (the substitution of one word or idea for another) and that of contiguity (the sequential arrangement of the signifying chain). “Under the influence of a cultural pattern, personality, and verbal style,” however, “preference is given to one of the two processes over the other.” . . . The metaphoric conception underlying Surrealism, for example, is to be distinguished from the metonymic orientation of Cubism, “where the object is transformed into a set of synecdoches.” Cinema, unlike drama, is basically metonymic, but some filmmakers nevertheless make use of metaphoric techniques, such as Charlie Chaplin’s “lap dissolves,” which Jakobson describes as “filmic similes.”
. . . While prose is essentially forwarded by contiguity, “the principle of similarity underlies poetry; the metrical parallelism of lines or the phonic equivalence of rhyming words prompts the question of semantic similarity and contrast.” . . . Jakobson defines the poetic or “aesthetic” function of language more specifically as the superimposition of similarity upon contiguity: “The poetic function projects the principle of equivalence from the axis of selection into the axis of combination.” Poetic language is therefore neither antimetonymic nor exclusively metaphorical. Instead, it seeks to transpose the substitutional dynamics of metaphoric language onto the metonymic speech act.