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university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 3, summer 2004 DAVID REID Euro-Scepticism: Thoughts on Metonymy Twenty years ago, the metaphor-metonymy pair was common in university talk. It all goes back to Roman Jakobson=s essay >Two Aspects of Language and the Types of Aphasic Disturbance.= From there it was taken up by LéviStrauss for the structural study of myth and totemism and by Lacan for the linguistic reworking of Freud. In the early 1980s, de Man was still to some extent working with it in his literary commentary. Perhaps it is no longer very prominent because it is taken for granted. But it is by no means rejected. Here, for example, is Marjorie Perloff in PN Review: >We expect our graduate students in English or Comparative Literature to be familiar with Saussure=s distinction between signifier and signified, Roman Jakobson=s distinctions between metaphor and metonymy and Paul de Man=s related distinction between irony and allegory= (21). I became interested in metaphor and metonymy about fifteen years ago hoping that it might give me a handle to talking about the densely figurative poetry of Laura Riding, the early Yvor Winters, and William Empson. It took me some time to discover that the terms as structuralist and poststructuralist theorists used them, with their promise of being the key to almost everything, were grossly distended and quite useless for the sort of analysis that I wished to put them to. The purpose of this paper is to spell out why this is so. I am not the first person to complain that structuralist or poststructuralist theory is an aeroplane one should not go up in. Genette, for example, has rightly wondered why the array of tropes should be reduced to the binary opposition of metaphor and metonymy.1 Why not antithesis and personification? Why a pair of figures only and not the whole range? What I wish to show is that whatever those who take their rise from Jakobson mean by metonymy is not metonymy at all and that the real life and vigour of the figure is squashed by them. That is my main concern, though I=d like to think that what I am going to show is a cautionary tale about intellectual cobwebs being spun out of meagre or inexact observation. 1 Genette traces the reduction of the figurative domain back beyond Jakobson to Boris Eichenbaum=s work on Anna Akhmatova in 1923. There is also an excellent analysis of >some of the confusions arising out of [Jakobson=s] displacement of tropological concepts by cognitive ones while retaining the same labels for both sets= in Surette. I shall start by talking about examples of metonymy. This is elementary but the most valuable part of what I have to say. I don=t think many people euro-scepticism: thoughts on metonymy 917 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 3, summer 2004 realize what metonymy can do. My most serious charge against Jakobson and his followers is not so much that they have made a mare=s nest but that they have helped to obscure and suppress the surprising and splendid effects of this figure of speech. My examples by no means cover the full range of metonymic effects, but they should suffice to make this obscuring and suppressing appear unforgivable. It is not, however, just literary theorists who are at fault in not recognizing metonymy. The philosopher David Cooper, in a good book on metaphor, wanting to quash the idea that metaphor works by virtue of resemblance or analogy and may be thought of as an elliptical simile, quotes Keats=s line >O for a beaker full of the warm South= and has no trouble at all in showing that no likeness is involved (57). Of course there is none. The warm South is the place the wine comes from and is redolent of, presumably the same wine that tastes of Provençal song in the preceding lines. Keats, then, is calling for a glass, a big glass, perhaps of Côtes du Rhone, and he does so by metonymy not by metaphor. No doubt the extraordinary dullness of the textbook examples of metonymy...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 916-933
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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