Clai Rice cxr1086 at LOUISIANA.EDU
Fri May 25 18:50:28 UTC 2007

I've come to associate Arnold's "artistic association" cases with
deconstructionist writing, where it is a matter of dogma that the author
is not associated with the text but is disassociated from it exactly by
the act of writing. That texts have the undecideability, openness, or
complexity of humans is one basis for Derrida's ethics of reading (I
simplify greatly of course). Thus I've always considered this to be

But it may be that individual examples should be understood differently.
Barbara Johnson on page 53 of a World of Difference, writes about a
passage in Thoreau:

"_Walden_'s great achievement is to wake us up to our own lost losses,
to make us participate in the transindividual movement.... In order to
communicate the irreducibly particular yet ultimately unreadable nature
of loss, Thoreau has chosen to use three symbols....Through it Thoreau
makes us see that every lost object is always, in a sense, a

This would seem to be metonymy, as both the title of the book and the
author are used interchangeably.

Later, though, on p. 139, is discussing "Mallarmé's poems":

"The author, in the very act of writing, is cut off from the work....The
poem is detached and autonomous like the beautiful, sterile, solitary
Hérodiade....[140]... The text of a Mallarmé poem works out a complex
pattern....The text proclaims its autonomy and individuality...."

Here she seems to be deliberately working a metaphor. Yet later she does
say that "The most condensed version of the simultaneity of separation
and merger in Mallarmé is the functioning of the blancs in his text."
Even in the context of the metaphor she feels free to use the
author-work metonymy, which she later develops into a larger point: "How
can it be said that a male poet comes to play a maternal role in
literary history?" (141).

I think John Ellis, in Against Deconstruction, (among other people)
noted that the tendency to metaphorize the text is an unfortunate side
effect of the poor English translations for the French middle voice.

--Clai Rice

> > From: "Arnold M. Zwicky" <zwicky at>
> > Date: May 24, 2007 9:23:34 AM PDT
> > To: RonButters at
> > Subject: Re:       Re: [ADS-L] metonymy-TRY
> >
> >
> > On May 23, 2007, at 12:45 PM, RonButters at wrote:
> >
> >> But doesn't "personification" apply equally well--or even
> better-- to
> >> the artistic contexts? Is "metonymy"--the substitution of
> a part for
> >> a whole--
> >
> > "metonymy", as i use it (and i don't think this is an
> eccentric use;
> > in any case, i got it from jakobson), refers to all sorts of
> > figurative uses that turn on *association* or *contiguity* (while
> > "metaphor" covers all sorts that turn on similarity).  part
> for whole
> > is synecdoche, usually understood to be a specific type of
> metonymy.
> > but there are many many types of metonymy that are not synecdoches.
> >
> > consider, for instance, the use of the name of the capital city of
> > some jurisdiction to refer to the administration/government of that
> > jurisdiction: Washington refuses to engage in talks with Tehran;
> > Albany balks on infrastructure funding; etc.  this isn't
> synecdoche,
> > or straightforward personification, for that matter.
> >
> > the artistic-creation case (like the capital-city case)
> does involve
> > using a NP with normally inanimate reference in a syntactic context
> > that calls for a NP with animate reference, which also happens in
> > personification.  but in personification the thing is
> actually treated
> > as a person, and that's not what's going on in the
> artistic-creation
> > and capital-city cases, which are more
> > complicated: there, the inanimate NP is a stand-in for an
> animate NP
> > via an association between their referents.  that's metonymy.
> >
> > arnold (noting the fairly frequent misspelling of "metonymy" as
> > "metonomy", parallel to "synonomy" for "synonymy")
> >

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