The special uses of indexicality and iconicity in literature. Prof. Jørgen Dines Johansen Presented in Prof. Dagmar Schmauks’ seminar Berlin 9.06.2008.
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The special uses of indexicality and iconicity in literature
Prof. Jørgen Dines Johansen
Presented in Prof. Dagmar Schmauks’ seminar
Every sign is determined by its object, either first, by partaking in the characters of the object, when I call the sign an Icon; secondly, by being really and in its individual existence connected with the individual object, when I call the sign an Index; thirdly, by more or less approximate certainty that it will be interpreted as denoting the object, in consequence of a habit (which term I use as including a natural disposition), when I call the sign a Symbol. (4.531)
Iconic relationship between object and sign
Indexical relationship between object and sign
symbolic relationship between sign and object
The value of an icon consists in its exhibiting the features of a state of things regarded as if it were purely imaginary. The value of an index is that it assures us of positive fact. The value of a symbol is that it serves to make thought and conduct rational end enables us to predict the future. (4.448)
have qualities in common with the objects they represent (a portrait painting)
have proportions, structural features in common with their objects (a blueprint, a model of narrative structure)
represent a similarity in something else (an oscilloscope)
THE MAN SHOWING HIS EMPTY POCKETS ILLUSTRATES A VISUAL EXEMPLE OF THE RHETORICAL FIGURE SYNECHDOCHE, I.E. A PARS PRO TOTO
THIS IS CLEARLY A VISUAL METAPHOR: THE WOLRD SEEN AS A FRIED EGG.
Since there are three types of iconic signs, images, diagrams, and metaphors, there should also be three ways to iconize the text during reading. And indeed there are. The three ways are:
The production of mental images triggered by what is represented in the literary text, i.e., imaginative iconization, or imaginization
Imaginization has to do with the use of imagination in linking the symbolic signs of the text with iconic ones. In fact some readers claim to experience reading, say a novel, like going to the cinema since the text becomes realized as a movie on their internal screen.
A difficult question is the level of consciousness of imaginative iconization. Obviously, this process may be fully conscious, the reader, using partly the text’s instructions, partly his memories and fantasy, actually sees with the mind’s eye a character, a scene, a piece of action. However, the most different schools of psychology do agree that most mental processes are unconscious.
They gradually began to talk more frequently of matters outside their love, and in the letters that Emma wrote him she spoke of flowers, poetry, the moon and the stars, naïve resources of a waning passion striving to keep itself alive by all external aids. She was constantly promising herself a profound happiness on her next trip; then she confessed to herself that she had felt nothing extraordinary. This disappointment quickly gave way to a new hope, and Emma returned to him more avid and enflamed that before. She undressed brutally, ripping off the thin laces of her corset so violently that they would whistle round her hips like a gliding snake.
She went on tiptoe, barefooted, to see once more that the door was locked, then with one movement, she would let her clothes fall at once to the ground; — then, pale and serious, without a word, she would throw herself against his breast with a long shudder.
Yet there was upon that brow covered with cold drops, on those stammering lips, in those wild eyes, in the grip of those arms, something strange, vague and sinister that seemed to Léon to be subtly gliding between them to force them apart. (Flaubert 1965: 205, trans. E. Marx Aveling, rev. by P. de Man)
Each impersonation or illustration may count as an iconic exemplification of Mme. Bovary as she is described in the text
however, they also exemplify, for instance the looks of the models, the visions of the actresses and those of the director
and without being told very few would immediately state that the female figure is a Mme. Bovary impersonation
The structuring of what is represented as a network of relationships
sender object receiver
DIAGRAMMATIZATION IS PROBABLY THE MOST IMPORTANT AND USEFUL INTELLECTUAL TOOL. A TOOL THAT MAKES IT POSSIBLE TO STRUCTURE OUR LIFEWORLD
The relationships of the universe represented in the text to other conceptual structures, i.e., allegorization.
Paul writes to the Galatians:
For it is written that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.
But he whowas of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.
Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.
For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. (4,22-26)
THUS, THERE ARE TRANSCATEOGRICAL LINKINGS OF DIFFERENT DOMAINS, PERSONS, I.E., MOTHERS AND SONS, LOCATIONS, LANDSCAPE AND CITY, AND CONTRACTUAL RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN MAN AND A SUPREME BEING. BUT THIS IS NOT THE WHOLE POINT. THE CURRENT INTEREST OF THIS ALLEGORY IS; ACCORDING TO PAUL, THAT THE GALATIAN BROTHERS ARE, LIKE ISAAC, THE CHILDREN OF PROMISE, AND THAT THEY SHOULD STAND FAST IN THEIR CHRISTIAN FREEDOM AND NOT “ENTANGLE AGAIN WITH THE YOKE OF BONDAGE.” THUS, AN APPLICATION IS ADDED THAT ITSELF ADDS ANOTHER ANALOGY TO THE SEMANTIC TISSUE, NAMELY, AS ISHMAEL IS TO ISAAC SO ARE THE GENTILES TO THE GALATIANS.
knowledge by acqaintance
being a witness to something
relating from memory to others what has been perceived
knowledge by description
tracking descriptions back to the testimonies on which they supposed to rest
being a witness tothe creatures of one’s own imagination
Putting into language that which is imagined
Knowing an imaginary world by description
tracking this description back to the imaginations of one or more individual mind(s)
IN WRITING LITERATURE, HOWEVER, NO CLEARCUT PHASES: IT IS NOT THE CASE THAT A WRITER HAS IMAGINARY VISUAL OR OTHER REPRESENTATATION THAT HE/SHE TRANSLATES INTO LANGUAGE. THIS MAY CERTAINLY BE THE CASE, IT MAY ALSO BE THE CASE, HOWEVER, THAT WORDS AND PHRASES IN DIFFERENT WAYS INFLUENCES AND DETERMINE WHAT BECOMES THE LITERARY TEXT
Within the stories aboutSherlock Holmes
it is true that SH lived inBaker Street
it is false that SH was a family man
in the actual world, of that time:
it is true that Baker Street existed in London,
but no. 221B did not
HENCE FICTIONAL LITERARY TEXTS ARE CHARACTERIZED BY MIXING INDICES RELATING TO FICTIONAL AND HISTORICAL ENTITIES – OBS!: THERE ARE TRUE AND FALSE STATEMENTS ABOUT FICTIONAL WORLDS, BUT IT IS ACCIDENTAL WHETHER THEY ARE VALID WITHIN OUR LIFEWORLD
Asymmetry between a given fictional world and our lifeworld means that we need to import knowledge from the latter in order to understand the former
Marie-Laure Ryan: The principle of minimal departure
The chain of verbs Veni, vidi, vici informs us about the order of Caesar's deeds because the sequence of co-ordinate preterites is used to reproduce the succession of reported occurrences. The temporal order of speech events tends to mirror the order of narrated events in time or in rank. (Jakobson 1971 : II, 350).
In spite of its "naturalness" it is certainly not the only way in which Caesar's arrival, inspection, and victory may be expressed, even using the same vocabulary, he might have said:
vici ut vidi cum venissem
vici veniendo postquam vidi
vici veniens postquam vidi
THESE THREE EXAMPLES ARE DIFFERENT FROM THE ACTUAL DICTUM, BECAUSE THEY ARE ANALYTICAL. THEY USE RELATIONAL WORDS (UT, POSTQUAM) AND VERB TENSES TO EXPLAIN THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CAESAR'S THREE DEEDS, WHEREAS “VENI, VIDI, VICI” DISPLAYS OR MIMES THE TEMPORAL AND CAUSAL ORDER.
Interesting is also the option to use another vocabulary. Caesar might have said:
perrexi, circumspexi, superavi
“veni, vidi, vici” combines mimetic with systemic iconicity while
“perrexi, circumspexi, superavi” only possesses mimetic iconicity
mimetic iconicity concerns the relationship between text and the course of events or states of affairs
systemic iconicity concerns the relationship between the parts that make up the text
What is it men in women do require?–
The lineaments of gratified desire.
What is it women do in men require?–
The lineaments of gratified desire.
(Blake 1971: 167)
men : women :: women : men
men : : women
Pray, why do you look askance at me, my Thracian filly, and shun me so resolutely as though I knew nothing of my art? I would have you to know I could bridle you right well and take rein and ride you about the turning-post of the course. But instead you graze in the meadows and frisk and frolic to your heart's content; for you have no clever breaker to ride you. (Anachreon 84 in Lyra graeca 1944: 181)
Russell’s distinction between:
knowledge by acqaintance (sense data, perception)
knowledge by description (indirect representation by means of secondary sign systems)
in writing literature, however, no clearcut phases: it is not the case that a writer has imaginary visual or other representatation that he/she translates into language. This may certainly be the case, it may also be the case, however, that words and phrases in different ways influences and determine what becomes the literary text
In The first prelude, the mental recreation of the place is made[…]
The second prelude consists of asking for an intimate apprehension of […]
The first point is to see with the imagination […]
The second point: To hear with the imagination […]
Third: Also with the imagination to smell […]
Fourth: In similar imaginative manner, to taste […]
Fifth: With the sense of touch to feel […]
(Saint Ignatius 1548/1997: 23-4)
"Oh, I've had such a curious dream!" said Alice. And she told her sister, as well as she could remember them, all these strange adventures of hers that you have just been reading about; [ . . .]
But her sister sat still just as she left her, leaning her head on her hand, watching the setting sun, and thinking of little Alice herself and all her wonderful Adventures, till she too began dreaming after a fashion, and this was her dream: —
First, she dreamed about little Alice herself: […] and still as she listened, or seemed to listen, the whole place around her became alive with the strange creatures of her little sisters dream.
The long grass rustled as the White Rabbit hurried by […]. (Carroll 1865/1971: 98)