sobre las Madres

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¿Cómo podemos, al escribir de las dictaduras y sus tecnologías de opresión en América Latina, al escribir contra la tortura y del terror, perturbar su poder no solo de imponer el tema, sino además de ejercer una fascinación sobre el texto? Para descomponer esa lógica debemos arriesgar la desilusión de también perturbar la ilusión de totalidad en el texto, cuyo poder de transmission es como la autoridad del dictador: una autoridad fundada en el poder de reproducit entre su público esa ilusión de orden por encima de la condición del terror… en otras palabras, un silencio…
Al igural que ese silencio, así también los desaparecidos, los ausentes y las fosas communes autorizan al Estado como la Fuente de la verdad.
Contra esto se levanta un arte que busca una cultura de la resistencia.”
~ Charles Merewether (quoted p.236, Butinx)

Gustavo Butinx once drew a series of quotes and writings together to convey some understanding of the politics and identity of the Madres. I still find some of these ideas thought-provoking… here is his opening, explanatory, statement (followed by quotes from within the essay):

madres-plaza-de-mayo“No es fácil escribir sobre las Madres. Lo que aquí se ofrece no es un texto orgánico y autorizado sino el inicio de una aproximación, construída a modo de collage y pensada para una discusión que no se agote en lo académico.” (Butinx, p.236)

“Pero la de las Madres es también una estrategia simbólica que arrebata al poder el poder de sus imágenes, ocupando y recuperando los vacíos de su retorica, parasitando sus contradicciones. Maternidad, femineidad, familia, religion. El pañal que flameó por primera vez sobre sus cabezas en una peregrinación official a Luján. Los nombres y reclamos “femeninamente” bordados sobre tan piadosos pañuelos. Los clavos de Cristo en la solapa. Los ayunos y retiros. Los encuentros en la iglesia, desde cuyas puertas serían ellas mismas secuestradas. Y esa notable capacidad para revertir el discurso del enemigo: “Las Malvinas son argentinas, los desaparecidos también”.
Pero eran las Madres. Al buscar a sus hijos usaban ingenuamente el sagrado derecho democrático de querer saber” (Osvaldo Bayer). La agudeza así lograda puede ser también interpretada como un doble filo. Ya en 1982 algunas feministas argentinas le comentaban a Jean Elshtain que, por las características de su accionar, las Madres “profundizaron y legitimaron la imagen de la madre de luto como típica e ideal identidad femenina. María del Carmen Feijóo cuestiona una estrategia “basada en los roles reproductores de la mujer que refuerza la convencional division del trabajo.” Pero Martha Ackelsberg y Mary L. Shanley enfrentan estas expresiones con la comprobación propia de cómo las Madres disolvieron las fronteras de lo público y lo privado en sup unto más sensible y al mismo tiempo más resguardado: la construcción de género. “Para proteger y cuidar a sus hijos tuvieron que salir de sus casas y hablar como seres politicos y como ciudadanos”.
Por ser madres ejemplares, dejaron de serlo (Alejandro Diago).” (Butinx, p.238)

“Espacio que se disuelve en tiempo: casi una definición etimológica de la utopia. Tanto más ponderosa pore star articulada a un rito. La Victoria es efímera pero año tras año reiterada. Más que una actuación, cada Marcha de la Resistencia, cada ronda de los jueves, es una actualización. La toma de la Plaza tiene ciertamente una dimension política y estética, pero sobre todo ritual, en el sentido más cargado y antropológico del téermino. No se trata tan solo de generar conciencia sobre el genocidio, sino de revertirlo: recuperar para una vida nueva a los seres queridos atrapados en las fronteras fantasmagóricas de la muerte.” (p.240)

“No solo el presente, también la presencia, esa primera y esencial forma de protesta asumida por las Madres. “Con su sola presencia empezaban a quebrar un sistema” dice Bayer. Los pañuelos-pañales en las procesiones y en los despachos, en los fastos oficiales, en la Plaza de Mayo. La ausencia del hijo encarnada en la presencia ubicua de la madre, iluminando el “cono de sombras” (Piera Oria) con que se pretendía sepultar a los secuestrados en un limbo sin memoria. La silueta actúa como una metáfora inversa pero de igual sentido: el vacío se vuelve pleno en la acción vital de quienes lo (d)enuncian y en ese mismo acto lo llenan. Aparición con vida. No la mera ilustración artística de una consigna sino su realización viva. Las Madres hicimos las siluetas. Esas siluetas eran la presencia de los desaparecidos en la calle (Hebe). Presencia-por-ausencia. Como la de los desaparecidos.” (p.242)

Más que una categoría política, el desaparecido es nuestra figura cultural por excelencia. No lo eliminado sino lo reprimido, en toda la complejidad de ese término. Lo negado, antes que lo proscripto. Pero el triunfo secreto de las Madres es la dialéctica intuitive que les permite revertir esa lógica perverse en sus propios términos. Hacer del desaparecido no el signo desplazado de la muerte sino el proyectivo de la latencia. El retorno de lo reprimido. El eterno retorno del mito.” (p.243)

“Como testimonio las Madres nos ofrecen sus existencias reconstruídas en la búsqueda de los ausentes. “Nuestros hijos nos parieron a nosotras, nos dejaron embarazadas para siempre” (Hebe).” (p.244)

Te seguimos buscando” es la frace característica. “Buscar, esa era la única manera de continuar siendo madre (Hebe)” (quoted p.246)

Ref: (italics in original; emphases in blue bold mine) Gustavo Buntinx (1993) ‘Desapariciones forzadas/ resurreciones míticas (fragmentos)’ pp.236-255, Arte y poder: 5as. Jornadas de Teoria e Historia de las Artes, Facultad de Filosofía y Letras (UBA) del 8 al 11 de septiembre de 1993

http://myhero.com/hero.asp?hero=MPM_isfa_AR_2011_ul

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We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us

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Introducing his ‘Mythic Modern’ approach to architecture, Travis Price declares:

“A void permeates today’s architectural landscape. Economies of scale ignore the scale of the spirit. The result is an architecture that promulgates isolation and homogeneity.” (p.20)

Churchill’s comment that “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us” takes on new meaning when we see so many buildings that are shaped the same. Where does individuality reside? When militant homeowner communities impose homogeneity, the loss of identity is magnified. All that is left of self-expression is the color of the SUV in the driveway.” (p.20)

The greatest cost of the automobile-driven environment, however, is not the sprawl nor the ecological waste and excessive consumption: it is the toll of soullessness. Yet market reality cannot be ignored; so, within our economic constraints, what do we build now?” (p.20)

“Architects of vision are stuck daily with a Promethean curse. Each day they propose the possibilities for more authenticity, but daily their livers are devoured by the blinding path of standardized buildings demanded by the consumer, the government regulators, and the building moguls. The need for regeneration of authenticity goes beyond architecture: it permeates the superficial world of fashion, it permeates fine arts, it permeates music and almost every art form there is. Everything we do exists as an art form, even if badly conceived or executed.
One could always say, well, what’s so wrong about going to the mall? What’s so wrong about coming out to my house in McVille or McTown? What’s really so bad about a new high rise with neo-whatever banality pasted all over it? What’s the big hoopla? As the saying goes, “There’s nothing wrong with it, but it just ain’t right.” The subtle curse is that these soulless buildings are so seductively safe and easy to tolerate; that’s why their growth is so rampant.
Why do people make deliberate decisions to move to such an environment? When you distill it all down, it’s because they want a material, isolationist, safe world. That’s find, but very empty. It doesn’t have the layers that Rome, London, Kathmandu, Istanbul, downtown Boston, or old San Francisco have. Where you’ve got the palimpsest of change, you’ve got memory and meaning and metaphor, metaphor that rings out with layers of authenticity.” (p.24)

“Without redressing our growing definitions of authenticity, we can’t go much further; architecture has to be metaphorically reinvigorated. What I propose to call the Mythic Modern is the equilibrium of the earth and the spirit and the industrial revolution, a combination of three “lenses” I have come to call Stillness, Movement, and Nature.
Myth matters, industrial freedom matters, and the environment matters.” (p.30)

Ref: (italics in original; emphases in blue bold mine) Travis Price (c2006)The Archaeology of Tomorrow: Architecture and the Spirit of Place. Earth Aware: San Rafael, CA

Maps that know you

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I like the metaphors in this concept… and the way our emotional experience of the city is being made visual…

Hal Hodson, in a recent New Scientist, writes: “Google is using social media to transform our relationship with maps.”

“At its annual developer conference last month, Google announced that it would be using data from users’ social-media friends to alter their personal maps. A preview version of the new-style maps is rolling out around the world right now. At first it will result in nothing more than restaurant recommendations. But it will eventually lead to a highly augmented way to navigate, based on a hidden world of data representing the emotions, movements and actions of other people.”

New Scientist 8 June 2013“A family driving through new York City as part of a road trip needs a slightly different map than a lone tourist on the way to the Statue of Liberty, for example. Such context plays a central role in defining what information we need from a map, says Georg Gartner, president of the International Cartographic Association. ‘Experiences and emotions – and those of my friends – are all part of that context,’ he says.
Gartner’s research group is working on a system that embeds emotional information into maps. Called EmoMap, it uses smartphones to gather people’s emotional responses to their immediate environment, with individuals ranking places on comfort, safety, diversity, attractiveness and relaxation. The results are compiled into a ‘heat map’ and overlaid on the maps of OpenStreetMap. This method would allow people to plot the most comfortable walking path through a big city, for instance, or show the safest route home, as judged by strangers.”

“Maps built on Google’s wider range of data would allow for the popularity of different routes, areas, and destinations to be tracked over time.
[Founder of travel-mapping company Jetpac, Pete] Warden ultimately sees map personalisation as Google’s way to put its massive caches of geographical data to use, ultimately through future versions of Google Glass. ‘Google conquered ideas and culture with search, now it’s trying to organise and index the physical world,’ he says. ‘Glass and Maps are different lenses to view the world with.’

Ref: Hal Hodson (8th June 2013) Maps that know you. New Scientist 2920, p.22

Cognitive Narratology

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In a (2010) discussion of recent narratological history, Monika Fludernik explains the concept of cognitive narratology. It is a really interesting discussion – and the many works she points to as relevant look particularly interesting (hence the list of references below). Fludernik explains:

“Turner and Fauconnier see metaphors as only one subtype of the cognitive strategy they call blending. Blending consists in fusing two scenarios together and thus creating new meaning effects.” (p.926)

“Blending, as Turner and Fauconnier argue, is responsible for the specifically human development of imagination and creativity. In particular, their blending theory aims at combining metaphor and narrative under one cognitive umbrella. Metaphor and narrative have been regarded as constitutive nonscientific modes of human cognition. Turner and Fauconnier depict them as two sides of the same coin, like Saussure’s signifier and signified: through blending, narrative approaches a situation in which one scenario merges with another, while in metaphor (generally acknowledged as a case of blending) the superimposition of two scenarios evokes narrative sequences.” (p.926)

“Cognitive narratology demonstrates that readers do not see texts as having narrative features but read texts as narrative by imposing cognitive narrative frames on them—for instance, by interpreting animals as quasi- human protagonists in fables.” (p.926)

“One can, moreover, diagnose an emotive turn in the humanities, which has given rise to numerous studies on the emotions and on empathy in literature.”6

“Current introductions to cognitive literary studies document the existence of a variegated set of approaches, methods, concepts, and theories that are often either application-oriented (taking one element or insight from cognitive studies in order to read one text or genre from that perspective) or theoretical and resistant to general application.7 The field at the moment resembles a group of construction sites, as some scholars concentrate on metaphor and blending theory (e.g., Gavins and Steen), others on cognitive reflexivity (Zunshine), still others on deixis (Stockwell) or space perception (Tsur). The different cognitive approaches show no sign of coalescing.” (p.927)

In her footnotes (6 and 7 are referred to above), Fludernik points to a number of works in the field:

“4. For a good basic introduction to blending, see Fauconnier and Turner, “Mechanism.” More generally on Turner’s recent work, see Turner, “Cognitive Study,” Lit­erary Mind, “Mind,” Reading Minds, and “Way”; Fauconnier and Turner, “Rethinking” and Way.
5. Turner established a research center on cognitive studies at Case Western Reserve University in 2004.
6. Let me note here the Journal of Narrative Theory 34.3 (2004) and the Journal of Literary Theory 1.2 (2007), as well as a few of the numerous books on the emotions and empathy: Benedict; Roberts; Kövecses; Terada; Hogan, Mind; and Keen.
7. For introductions see, e.g., Coulson and Oakley, Conceptual Blending and Conceptual Blending Theory; Richardson and Steen; Semino and Culpeper; Stockwell; Gavins and Steen; Herman; Hogan, Cognitive Science; Zunshine, Why We Read and Strange Concepts; and Tsur. Discussion of these problems is provided in, among others, Gibbs; Adler and Gross; and Sternberg.” (p.928)

Note that in the blurb about her, it indicates that Fludernik is “completing a study of prison metaphors in English literature” (p.924) – sounds fascinating to me!

Ref: Fludernik, Monika. ‘Narratology in the Twenty-First Century: The Cognitive Approach to Narrative’. PMLA 125.4 (2010): 924–30.

Reference is to:

Adler, Hans, and Sabine Gross. “Adjusting the Frame: Comments on Cognitivism and Literature.” Poetics Today 23.3 (2002): 195–220.

Benedict, Barbara M. Framing Feeling: Sentiment and Style in En glish Prose Fiction, 1745–1800. New York: AMS, 1994.

Coulson, Seana, and Todd Oakley, eds. Conceptual Blend­ing. Spec. issue of Cognitive Linguistics 11.3–4 (2001): 175–358.

Coulson, Seana, and Todd Oakley, eds. Conceptual Blending Theory. Spec. issue of Journal of Pragmatics 37.10 (2005): 1507–742.

Fauconnier, Gilles, and Mark Turner. “A Mechanism of Creativity.” Poetics Today 20.3 (1999): 397–418.
———. “Rethinking Metaphor.” The Cambridge Handbook of Metaphor and Thought. Ed. Ray Gibbs, Jr. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2008. 53–66.
———. The Way We Think: Conceptual Blending and the Mind’s Hidden Complexities. New York: Basic, 2002.

Gavins, Joanna, and Gerard Steen, eds. Cognitive Poetics in Practice. London: Routledge, 2003.

Gibbs, Raymond W., Jr. “Evaluating Contemporary Models of Figurative Language Understanding.” Metaphor and Symbol 16.3–4 (2001): 317–33.

Herman, David, ed. Narrative Theory and the Cognitive Sciences. Stanford: Center for the Study of Lang. and Information, 2003.

Hogan, Patrick Colm. Cognitive Science, Literature, and the Arts: A Guide for Humanists. New York: Routledge, 2003.
———. The Mind and Its Stories: Narrative Universals and Human Emotion. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2003.Richardson, Alan, and Francis F.

Keen, Suzanne. Empathy and the Novel. New York: Oxford UP, 2007. Semino, Elena, and Jonathan Culpeper, eds. Cognitive

Kövecses, Zoltán. Metaphor and Emotion: Language, Cul­ture, and Body in Human Feeling. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000.

Perry, Menakhem. “Literary Dynamics: How the Order of a Text Creates Its Meaning.” Poetics Today 1.1–2

Richardson, Alan, and Francis F. Steen, eds. Literature and the Cognitive Revolution. Spec. issue of Poetics Today 23.1 (2002): 1–182.

Roberts, Nancy. Schools of Sympathy: Gender and Identi­fication through the Novel. Montreal: McGill- Queen’s UP, 1998.

Semino, Elena, and Jonathan Culpeper, eds. Cognitive Stylistics. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 2002.

Sternberg, Meir. “Universals of Narrative and Their Cognitivist Fortunes.” Poetics Today 24.2–3 (2003): 297–395, 517–638.

Stockwell, Peter. Cognitive Poetics: An Introduction. London: Routledge, 2002.

Terada, Rei. Feeling in Theory: Emotion after the “Death of the Subject.” Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2001.

Tsur, Reuven. Toward a Theory of Cognitive Poetics. 1992. 2nd ed. Brighton: Sussex Acad., 2008. Ansätze in der Erzähltheorie. Ed. Ansgar Nünning

Turner, Mark. “The Cognitive Study of Art, Language, and Literature.” Poetics Today 23.1 (2002): 9–20.
———. The Literary Mind. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1996.
———. “The Mind Is an Autocatalytic Vortex.” The Literary Mind. Ed. Jürgen Schläger and Gesa Stedman. Tübingen: Narr, 2008. 13–43.

———. Reading Minds: The Study of English in the Age of Cognitive Science. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1991.
———. “The Way We Imagine.” Imaginative Minds. Ed. Ilona Roth. London: Oxford UP; British Acad., 2007. 213–36.

Zunshine, Lisa. Strange Concepts and the Stories They Make Possible: Cognition, Culture, Narrative. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2008. Print.
———. Why We Read Fiction: Theory of Mind and the Novel. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 2006.

Metaphor

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“The word metaphor derives from the Greek verb metapherein, meaning ‘to transfer.’ Simply stated, a metaphor serves to transfer the sense of one word to another. Many literary critics choose to explain metaphors in terms of the two words from and to which meaning is transferred: namely, the tenor and the vehicle. The tenor is the subject of comparison, what is to be compared, and the vehicle is the means of comparison, what the subject is compared to or with. A poem by Emily Dickinson offers a useful example:

‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words-
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm – [-p.100]

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of Me.
(1861)

In the first line of the poem, the metaphor is implicit: the tenor is clearly identified as ‘Hope,’ but the vehicle (bird) is described only as ‘the thing with feathers.’ In the second stanza, the metaphor becomes explicit with the naming of the vehicle (‘little Bird’). ‘Hope’ is the subject of comparison, and ‘little Bird’ is what the subject is compared to. According to Dickinson’s metaphor, hope is something like a bird in the sense that it ‘never stops’ comforting us, much as a bird seemingly ‘never stops’ singing. This comparison between hope and a bird is maintained and developed throughout the poem, making it an extended metaphor.” (emphasis in original, pp.99-100)

Barton and Hudson continue: “The following passage from T. S. Eliot’s ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ (1917) offers another example of an extended metaphor:

The yellow frog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle upon the window-panes,
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

Throughout these lines, the tenor is ‘fog’ or ‘smoke,’ and the vehicle is a cat. Thus, the fog ‘licked its tongue into the corners of the evening’ and ‘curled once about the house, and fell asleep’ in the way of a cat. This metaphor is related to personification.

Some poets delight in original and outlandish metaphors; John Donne’s ‘Holy Sonnet XIV’ (1633) offers several examples of unusual comparisons:

Batter my heart, three-personed God; for You
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.

Donne implicitly compares the Holy Trinity to a tinker (whose job it is to ‘knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend’ metal objects) and a black-smith (whose profession calls for him ‘to break, blow, burn, and make… new’). Here the metaphors are also conceits.

Other poets employ obvious and conventional metaphors, which can be just as effective and poignant. In his poem entitled ‘The Fist’ (1976), the contemporary Caribbean poet Derek Walcott writes, [-p.101]

The fist clenched round my heart
loosens a little, and I gasp
brightness; but it tightens
again. When have I ever not loved
the pain of love? …

In this metaphor, the tenor ‘pain of love’ is compared to the vehicle ‘the fist clenched round my heart.'” (emphasis in original, pp.100-101)

Ref: Edwin Barton and Glenda Hudson (c1997) A Contemporary Guide to Literary Terms with Strategies for Writing Essays about literature. Houghton Mifflin Company: Boston and New York)

NOTE also: Myers and Wukasch

metaphorical dissolve a device of transition, borrowed from film, in which separate actions or images are fused by means of their similar, implied meanings. For instance, a transition is often made between lovers in the throes of passion and an onrushing train. Poetry employs the device through JUXTAPOSITION  between lines or the beginning and ends of stanzas.” (emphasis in original, p.220)

Ref: Jack Myers and Don Charles Wukasch Dictionary of Poetic Terms. University of North Texas Press: Denton, Texas, 2003

The cell and the torture room as metaphor for marginalised relations

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This reading got me wondering about violence in literature… and metaphors for violence and how the space of the fictional setting might be used to represent violence on a deeper level…

[in fact, the essay focuses its point elsewhere, but] Trevor James writes: “Post-colonial literary theory addresses the margins, showing how in the act of writing the marginalised writer begins the task of asserting, reappropriating and reclaiming power and identity against the established power of a post-colonial system which continues to exert its influence even after political independence has been achieved. In the South African situation, the novels of J.M. Coetzee exemplify how a post-colonial literature can develop postmodernist texts which have ethical and political relevance. …

Waiting for the Barbarians presents various ways in which post-colonial and religious perspectives combine. Its focus upon torture and imprisonment is in itself a focus upon extreme points of marginalisation, and contributes to a consistent aspect of South African writing. Coetzee shows the South African writer’s fascination with torture.

In 1980 I published a novel [Waiting for the Barbarians] about the impact of the torture chamber on the life of a man of conscience. Torture has exerted a dark fascination on many other South African writers. Why should this be so? […] relations in the torture room provide a metaphor, bare and extreme, for relations between authoritarianism and its victims. (Coetzee 1992: 363)

Yet not only do the cell and the torture room offer a cogent metaphor for the most marginalised of brutal relations, they also offer an indication of what is most irreducibly a truth. There are the place of pain, and as such also the place of truth. As places of truth, the cell and the torture room are places where the sacred must [-p142] be located. To put this another way, it is on the most extreme margin that the sacred may be fixed. This notion develops from Coetzee’s insistence that pain is an irreducible truth, an irreducible truth bearing authority and power.

If I look back over my own fiction, I see a simple (simple-minded?) standard erected. That standard is the body. Whatever else, the body is not ‘that which is not,’ and the proof is that it is is the pain it feels […] in South Africa it is not possible to deny the authority of suffering and therefore of the body. It is not possible, not for logical reasons, not for ethical reasons […] but for political reasons, for reasons of power […] it is not that one grants the authority of the suffering body: the suffering body takes this authority: that is its power […] its power is undeniable (Coetzee 1992: 248).” (pp.141-142)

Ref: Trevor James (c1996) Locating the Sacred: J.M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians pp.141-149 in Ed. Jamie S. Scott ‘And the Birds Began to Sing” Religion and Literature in Post-colonial Cultures. Amsterdam: Rodopi

The reference in the text is to Coetzee, JM 1992 Doubling the Point, ed. David Atwell. Cambridge MA: Harvard UP

Metaphor – a discussion

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As I’ve said, I’m fond of the BBC audioarchives… here’s another interesting one (from BBC4, Thursday 25th November 2010, 21:30):

“History of Metaphor

Duration: 45 minutes

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the history of metaphor.

In Shakespeare’s As You Like It, the melancholy Jaques declares: “All the world’s a stage/And all the men and women merely players.” This is a celebrated use of metaphor, a figure of speech in which one thing is used to describe another.

Metaphor is a technique apparently as old as language itself; it is present in the earliest surviving work of literature, the Epic of Gilgamesh. Homer developed it into an art form, and his invention of the epic simile was picked up by later writers including Milton. In the Middle Ages the device of allegory underpinned much of French and English writing, while the Metaphysical poets employed increasingly elaborate metaphorical conceits in the sixteenth century.

In the age of the novel the metaphor once again evolved, while the Modernist writers used it to subvert their readers’ expectations. But how does metaphor work, and what does this device tell us about the way our minds function?

With: Steven Connor Professor of Modern Literature and Theory at Birkbeck, University of London; Tom Healy Professor of Renaissance Studies at the University of Sussex; Julie Sanders Professor of English Literature and Drama at the University of Nottingham; Producer: Thomas Morris.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00w227c

Some interesting quotes from the discussion:

“…how metaphor works is not [through] necessarily our intellectual, and considered reasonable, responses, but how we respond in, often, an emotional sense, the way in which we are disposed, therefore, to feel towards a particular action…“ ~ Tom Healy (about 25-26 mins in to the programme)

“If you think of Marvell’s wonderful dialogue between the soul and the body…in some sense, the soul and the body, that central conundrum, is behind every metaphor, really; perhaps every metaphor gives a kind of body to something abstract or otherwise unthinkable” ~ Steven Connor (about 28 minutes in)

“…metaphor… works on the principle of analogy. It brings things, often dissimilar things, together and it creates this type of energy that opens things up. The world of science increasingly found such analogous, metaphoric language very unstable; they wanted to order, to describe, to characterise the world… and when we think of the… 18th century, the great era of classification, …and metaphor doesn’t help when you’re trying to classify things, so there was a movement towards a greater emphasis on… reasonable literalness…

Doctor Johnson has a wonderful… definition of metaphor…: the application of a word to a use which in its original import, it cannot be put. So there is a sense almost of… that this is actually slightly indecorous… it’s …creating sensation that doesn’t actually ground us in reasonable, lasting, permanent thought… [Bragg intervenes here: and the search for a kind of knowledge came about, …that this was a different way to arrive at truths, and …we didn’t need those, so we could go through a different way; we could go through experimental observation…]… Shelley characterises , I think, this very well. He says, ‘reason is about the language of distinctiveness’, so reason attempts to create a very determined, precise way that language can be used…metaphor or imagination, as he says, is about similitude; it creates these links across things… and creates instability which reason doesn’t like” ~ Tom Healy (about 31-33 minutes in to the programme)

In response to Bragg’s question, ‘Did Dickens change the way metaphors were used? Or re-energize it?’ Steve Connolly states “…I think that what Dickens, along with other 19th century novelists, attempts to do… is to generate metaphors, as it were, for the work of the novel itself.  And the work of a novel like Bleak House,… is, in a sense, to provide a kind of imaging of England. This is the great… vocation of the novel. And how do you do that, and at the same time pay attention to the sheer complexity and, in Dickens’s views, the chaos of things? Well you find a metaphor that will actually connect people through their disconnectedness from each other. And that wonderful metaphor at the beginning of Bleak House, and it runs through the novel, renewed and transformed, is fog. Fog everywhere – and fog is everywhere and it touches everybody and it connects everyone… and especially it’s in the heart of England in the courts of Justice… and fog touches everything, connects everybody, and also disconnects them because they can’t see… and… the metaphor itself …starts to generate the thinking.” ~ Steve Connolly (about 33minutes in)

Then Julie Sanders adds an interesting comment on Virginia Woolf: “…The Dickens that Steve has been presenting, in a novel like Bleak House, is someone I think trying to use metaphor to come to terms with this fast changing, fast emerging, urban landscape… and Woolf… is dealing in the 1920s with her own response to the city, to London in particular, and thinking about it in that post-Great War moment and what it might be and what it might become …and what you get in Mrs. Dalloway, for example, … are a series of individual responses to the city through metaphor… Clarissa, in particular, uses the metaphors of water and ocean: seas of people… but you have other characters who use different kinds of metaphorical caches and I think what she starts to unpack there is that we all use metaphor and metaphor is pervasive, but we all have individual storehouses of metaphor which become a key to our own identity, our own way of thinking, our own ways of perception” (about 36 minutes in)