By David Ruaune
Below is an outline of the structure of the taxonomic aspect of the Rhetorosaurus database. This is part of work in progress and at the moment only a few of the hyperlinks work, but soon all hyperlinks should group sets of rhetorical terms from the database.
1000 Syllables Syllables
1100 Deletion / Omission Syllables - deletion
1200 Addition Syllables - addition
1300 Distortion / Rearrangement / Transposition Syllables - distortion
2000 Alteration of internality of word (?) Alteration of internality of a word
3000 Words Words
3100 Deletion / Omission Words - deletion
3200 Addition Words - addition
3300 Distortion / Rearrangement / Transposition Words - distortion
3400 Parenthesis Parenthesis
3500 Zeugmas Zeugmas
4000 Repetition Repetition
4100 Rhythm Rhythm
4200 Rhyme Rhyme
4300 Words, Phrases Repetition of words or phrases
5000 Parallelism and Balance of Sound (Rhythm), Grammar and Semantics
6000 Poetic Licence Poetic Licence
6100 Deletion Deletion
6200 Addition – Superfluity Superfluity
6300 Distortion - Malapropism and Ungrammaticality
Malapropism and Ungrammaticality
6500 Poeticisms, Euphony, etc Poeticism
6800 Obscurity, Pomposity Obscurity
6900 Neologism Neologism
7100 Description Description
7200 Contiguity – Metonymy Contiguity Metonymy
7300 Similarity / Dissimilarity – Metaphor Similarity Metaphor
7400 Contraries / Irony Contraries Irony
7500 Language / Puns Language Pun
8100 Definition Definition
8200 Division Division
8300 Arrangement / Structure of Argument
8310 Ordering Ordering
8320 Beginning Beginning
8330 Amplification / Climax Amplification Climax
8350 Digression Digression
8360 Ending Ending
8400 Logic Logic
8500 Rhetorical Argument Rhetorical argument
8600 Fallacies Fallacy – Formal Formal
8700 – Informal Informal
8700 Fallacies of Presumption Presumption
8710 Generalisation Generalisation
8730 Begging the Question Petitio principii
8740 False Analogy False Analogy
8750 Complex Question / Ignorance etc. Complex question
8760 False Cause / Gambler’s Fallacy False cause
8780 Fallacies of Ambiguity Ambiguity
8800 Fallacies of Relevance / Emotional Appeals Relevance
8840 Argumentum ad Hominem
Argumentum ad hominem
8850 Loaded Language / Black-and-White Fallacy
9000 Testimony Testimony
9000 Example Example
9500 Emotional Emotional
Saturday, 7 July 2007
By David Ruaune
Sunday, 1 July 2007
The word — the image and its fossilisation. The epithet as a means of renewal of the word. The history of the epithet — the history of poetic style. The fate of works of old artists of the word is of the same nature as the fate of the word itself: they complete the journey from poetry to prose. The death of things. The aim of Futurism is the resurrection of things — the return to man of sensation of the world. The connection of the devices of the Futurists’ poetry with the devices of general linguistic thought-processes. The semi-comprehensible language of ancient poetry. The language of the Futurists.
The most ancient poetic creation of man was the creation of words. Now words are dead, and language is like a graveyard, but an image was once alive in the newly-born word. Every word is basically — a trope. And often enough, when you get through to the image which is now lost and effaced, but once embedded at the basis of the word, then you are struck by its beauty — by a beauty which existed once and is now gone.
When words are being used by our thought-processes in place of general concepts, and serve, so to speak, as algebraic symbols, and must needs be devoid of imagery, when they are used in everyday speech and are not completely enunciated or completely heard, then they have become familiar, and their internal (image) and external (sound) forms have ceased to be sensed. We do not sense the familiar, we do not see it, but recognise it. We do not see the walls of our rooms, it is so hard for us to spot a misprint in a proof — particularly if it is written in a language well known to us, because we cannot make ourselves see and read through, and not ‘recognise’ the familiar word.
If we should wish to make a definition of ‘poetic’ and ‘artistic’ perception in general, then doubtless we would hit upon the definition: ‘artistic’ perception is perception in which form is sensed (perhaps not only form, but form as an essential part). It is easy to demonstrate the correctness of this ‘working’ definition in those instances when some expression or other, having been poetic, becomes prosaic.
This loss of the form of the word represents a great easement for the thought-processes and may be a necessary condition for the existence of science, but art could never be satisfied with this eroded word. It could hardly be said that poetry has made up the damage it has suffered through the loss of the figurativeness of words by replacing this figurativeness with a higher type of creation — for example by the creation of character-types, because in such a case poetry would not have held on so avidly to the figurative word even at such high stages of its evolution as .in the era of epic chronicles. In art, material must be alive and precious. And this is where there appeared the epithet, which does not introduce anything new into the word, but simply renews its dead figurativeness. The word, revitalised by the epithet, became poetic once more. Time passed — and the epithet ceased to be sensed — again because of its familiarity. And the epithet began to be handled through habit, by virtue of scholastic traditions and not through living poetic feeling. Moreover, the epithet is by now sensed so little that quite often its application cuts right across the general situation and colouring of the picture; for example:
Burn, burn, you tallow candle,Tallow candle of ardent wax.....
or the ‘my true love’ of the Old English ballads, a term applied in them indiscriminately — whether it is a case of either true or untrue love, and so on.....
Constant epithets have worn smooth, no longer evoke a figurative impression and do not satisfy its demands. Within their limits new epithets are created, they accumulate, and definitions become diversified through descriptive terms borrowed from the material of the saga or legend.
‘The history of the epithet — is the history of poetic style in an abridged edition.’ (A. Veselovsky). This history shows us how all forms of art always recede from life, forms which, just like the epithet, live, fossilise and finally die.
People pay too little attention to the death of forms in art, they all too flippantly contrast the old with the new without thinking whether the old is alive or has already vanished, as the sound of the sea vanishes for those who live by its shores, as the thousand-voiced roar of the town has vanished for us, as everything familiar, too well known, disappears from our consciousness.
Not only words and epithets fossilise, whole situations can fossilise too.
The fate of the works of old artists of the word is exactly the same as the fate of the word itself. They are completing the journey from poetry to prose. They cease to be seen and begin to be recognised. Classical works have for us become covered with the glassy armour of familiarity — we remember them too well, we have heard them from childhood, we have read them in books, thrown out quotations from them in the course of conversation, and now we have callouses on our souls — we no longer sense them.
The illusion that old art is sensed is supported by the fact that elements alien to art are often present in it. Such elements are in fact found above all in literature; therefore literature now has hegemony in art and the largest number of connoisseurs. What is typical for artistic perception is our material disinterestedness in it. Exhilaration at the speech of one’s defence counsel in the law court is not an artistic sensation, and, if we sense the nobility and humanity of the thoughts of the most humane poets in the world, then these sensations have nothing in common with art. They were never poetry and therefore have not completed the journey from poetry to prose either.
The broad masses are satisfied with market-place art, but marketplace art shows the death of art.
Nowadays the old art has already died, the new has not yet been born; and things have died — we have lost our awareness of the world; we are like a violinist who has ceased to feel the bow and the strings, we have ceased to be artists in everyday life, we do not love our houses and clothes, and easily part from a life of which we are not aware. Only the creation of new forms of art can restore to man sensation of the world, can resurrect things and kill pessimism.
And now, today, when the artist wishes to deal with living form and with the living, not the dead, word, and wishes to give the word features, he has broken it down and mangled it up. The ‘arbitrary’ and ‘derived’ words of the Futurists have been born. New, living words are created. The ancient diamonds of words recover their former brilliance. This new language is incomprehensible, difficult, and cannot be read like the Stock Exchange Bulletin. It is not even like Russian, but we have become too used to setting up comprehensibility as a necessary requirement of poetic language. The history of art shows us that (at least very often) the language of poetry is not a comprehensible language, but a semi-comprehensible one. Thus, savages often sing in an archaic or alien tongue, sometimes so incomprehensible that the singer (or, more correctly, the lead singer) must translate and explain to the choir and audience the meaning of the song he has just composed.
The religious poetry of almost all peoples is written in just such a semi-comprehensible language.
The writers of past times wrote too smoothly, too sweetly. Their things were reminiscent of that polished surface of which Korolenko spoke: ‘across it runs the plane of thought, touching nothing.’ The creation of a new, ‘tight’ language is necessary, directed at seeing, and not at recognition. And this necessity is unconsciously felt by many people.
The paths of the new art have only been indicated. It is not theoreticians, but artists who will travel those paths ahead of all others.
Wednesday, 27 June 2007
It is usually thought to be obvious that every artist wishes to express something, to recount something, and that this "something" is called the content of a work. And the means by which this "something" is expressed--words, images, meter in verse, color and line in a painting--are called the form of the work.
Nearly everybody distinguishes between these two aspects of every work of art. People who want art to be of direct benefit to humanity usually say that in art the most important thing is content, i.e., what is said in it.
The so-called aesthetes, lovers of the beautiful, say that for them the important thing in art is "not what, but how," i.e., the main thing is form. Now let us calmly attempt, without becoming involved in this dispute, to look detachedly upon the object of the dispute.
The problem concerns works of art.
Let us begin with an analysis of musical compositions.
A musical composition consists of a series of sounds of different pitch and different timbre, i.e., of sounds high and low following one after the other. These sounds are combined into groups; the groups bear a certain relationship to one another. Besides this, there is nothing in a musical composition. Now what have we found in it? We have found, not form and content, but rather material and form, i.e., sounds and the disposition of sounds. Of course there may be people who say that in music there is also content, namely a sad or a gay mood. But there are facts which show that there is contained in a musical composition neither sadness nor joy, that such feelings are not the essence of music, and that its creators set no store by them. Hanslick, a famous student of the theory of music, cites the example of how Bach wrote indecent couplets to music which he had composed for psalms; the music was just as suitable for the couplets. On the other hand, it is by no means rare for many sects to use dance tunes for their hymns. Moreover, to do this they had to overcome the traditional connection of these tunes with the normal circumstances of their performances.
This is why Kant defined music as pure form, i.e., denied the existence of so-called content in it.
Now let us look at the so-called graphic arts. This name is inaccurate and does not cover all phenomena involved. Decorative art obviously depicts nothing. But in European art at least the graphic arts usually depict the so-called external world, scenes of work, pictures of men and wild animals. Scarcely anyone will dispute this, and moreover, we know from the artists themselves that when they paint flowers or grass or a cow, they are not interested in whether these have any practical use, but only in how they appear, i.e., in color and line. For the artist the external world is not the content of a picture, but material for a picture. The famous Renaissance artist Giotto says: "A picture is--primarily--a conjunction of colored planes." The Impressionists painted things as though they saw them without understanding--only as spots of color. They perceived the world as if they had just suddenly awakened. This is how the Russian "Itinerant" artist Kramskoy defined the effect made on him by the Impressionists' pictures.
Another realistic painter, Surikov, used to say that the "idea" of his famous picture "The Boyar's Wife, Morozova" occurred to him when he saw a jackdaw on the snow. For him this picture was primarily "black on white." To anticipate a little, I will say that Surikov's picture is not merely the development of his impression of a color contrast; in this picture we encounter a great many heterogeneous elements, particularly in relation to meaning, but even meanings are used as material for artistic construction.
Thanks to such an attitude toward "representation," there is in art an inclination to transform depiction, so-called organic forms, e.g., the outlines of a flower, a wild animal, grass, a ram's horn (as in Buryat designs), into an ornament--a design which no longer represents anything. . . . All rug designs, in particular the designs on Persian rugs, are the result of just such a transformation of organic form into purely artistic form.
This transformation cannot be explained by religious prohibition (Islam avoids depiction out of "dread of idolatry"), since there exist, during all stages in the development of Persian tapestry, rugs depicting entire scenes involving people and animals. This shocks nobody. We have Persian miniatures which, it would seem, were influenced just as much by religious prohibitions as tapestry. On the other hand, we know that in Greece, where there were no religious prohibitions of this kind, a geometrical style developed (there is a vase in this style in the Petersburg Hermitage), and during this phase the way the human body was depicted vividly recalls the rendering of stylized deer in tapestry.
The entire history of written languages illustrates the struggle between the ornamental principle and the representative principle.
It is, moreover, curious to note that written languages at the first stages of their existence, and among many peoples, even to the present day (Turks, Persians), fulfilled decorative purposes.
The divorce of the letter or ideograph from its conventional function is a result not only of the technique, but also of the stylization of writing. . . . The letter is an ornament.
The artist clings to depiction, to the world, not in order to create a world, but rather to utilize complex and rewarding material in his art. This break with representation, this transformation of picture into calligraphy, occurs more than once in the history of art, but artists have always returned to representation.
But the artist needs the world for his picture. There is a Greek anecdote about an artist: people came up to him at an exhibition and asked him to remove the cloth from his painting. "I cannot do that," said the artist. "My painting depicts a painting covered with a cloth." In analyzing a painting, people who wish to go beyond its limits, who talk about demons in connection with Picasso, about war in connection with all of cubism, who wish to decipher paintings like a rebus, want to deprive a painting of its form in order to see it better.
Paintings are not at all windows onto another world--they are things.
It is in literature that the view of the separation between form and content seems most plausible.
And in fact, a great many people suppose that the poet possesses a specific thought, a thought about God, for example, and expounds this thought in words.
These words may be beautiful, and then we say that the work's form, sound-form or image-form, is beautiful. This is what most people think about form and content in literature.
But first of all it cannot be affirmed that there is content in every work of art, since we know that in the first stages of its development poetry possessed no precise content.
For instance, the songs of the Indians in British Guiana consist of the exclamation: "Heya, heya." The songs of the Patagonians, the Papuans, and certain North American tribes are also senseless. Poetry appeared before content.
The singer's task was not to render in words some thought or other, but to devise a series of sounds possessing a definite relationship one to another, which is called form. These sounds should not be confused with sounds in music. They have not only an acoustic but also an articulated form: they are produced by the singer's vocal organs. Perhaps in a primitive poem we are dealing not so much with an ejaculation as with an articulated gesture, a sort of ballet of the speech organs. Even in modern poetry, the act of speaking it may have, in varying degrees, the same sensuous effect on us "the sweetness of verses on the lips.". . .
A line of verse quite often appears in the poet's mind as a definite patch of sound not yet verbalized. . . .
Alexander Blok used to tell me about this phenomenon as he had observed it in himself.
Victor Hugo used to say that what was difficult was not finding a rhyme, but "filling the spaces between rhymes with poetry," i.e., fitting the "image" aspect to the already existing sound aspect.
In short, the deeper we go into the study of verse, the more complex become the phenomena of form which we discover within it.
But poems are formal throughout and it is unnecessary for us to change our methods of investigation. What is called the image aspect is also not intended to be depictive or explanatory.
Potebnya's notion that the image is always simpler than the concept it replaces is absolutely incorrect.
There is a line in one of Tyutchev's poems saying that flashes of heat lightning are "like deaf and dumb demons conversing with each other." Why is the image of the deaf and dumb demons simpler or more obvious than the lightning flashes?
In erotic poetry we generally find that erotic objects are designated by various "image" names. The "Song of Songs" is an extended series of such comparisons. Here we are dealing not so much with imagery as with what I call "estrangement," in the sense of making things strange.
We live in a poor and enclosed world. We no more feel the world in which we live than we feel the clothes we wear. We fly through the world like Jules Verne characters, "through outer space in a capsule." But in our capsule there are no windows.
The Pythagoreans used to say that we do not hear the music of the spheres because it goes on uninterruptedly. In the same way those who live by the sea do not hear the noise of the waves. We do not bear even the words we speak. We speak a pitiful language of incompletely uttered words. We look one another in the face but do not see one another.
The Renovation of Form
In his diary, Tolstoy wrote ". . . I dusted off the sofa and couldn't remember doing it. . . . So if I did dust it off, I did it unconsciously. . . . If someone had seen it consciously he could have reconstructed my action. . . . And our entire life, lived through unconsciously, is all as if it had never been."
Perhaps mankind began using reason too early. With its reason it jumped forward out of turn, like a soldier from the ranks, and began running amok.
We live as if coated with rubber. We must recover the world. Perhaps all the horror (which is little felt) of our days, the Entente, the war, Russia, can be explained by our lack of feeling for the world, by the absence of an extensive art. The purpose of the image is to call an object by a new name. To do this, to make the object an artistic fact, it must be abstracted from among the facts of life.
We must first of all "shake up" things. . . . We must rip things from their ordinary sequence of associations. Things must be turned over like logs in a fire. . . .
The poet removes the labels from things. . . . Things rebel, casting off their old names and taking on a new aspect together with their new names. The poet brings about a semantic dislocation, he snatches the concept out of the sequence in which it is usually found and transfers it with the aid of the word (the trope) to another meaning-sequence. And now we have a sense of novelty at finding the object in a fresh sequence.
This is one of the ways of making things tangible. In the image we have the object, the recollection of its former name, its new name, and the associations connected with the new name. . . .
One device in modern artistic prose is very curious. To create an unusual perception of things in modern prose there is a widely used device which has never been described and which I would define as the "recurrent image." In Russian literature it is represented by Dostoevsky, Rozanov, Andrei Bely, Zamyatin and also by the Serapion brothers. It consists in using a certain word (usually such a word is "orchestrated" by means of repetition or else an exotic word is chosen) and then equating all the other matter in the work of art to this word. . . .
Andrei Bely in his reminiscences of Blok (Epopeya, Book Two) notes that Merezhkovsky wore shoes with pompons on them. These "pompons" rapidly come to define Merezhkovsky's entire life. He speaks with pompons, he thinks with pompons, etc. In this case we seem to have a certain mechanization of the imagery device.
The word deprived of sense is constantly associated with a number of other words, which are thus removed from the way they are usually perceived. I cannot trace the history of this device outside Russian literature, but I think that perhaps Dostoevsky borrowed it from Dickens, who was a great devotee of it.
In Little Dorrit the governess Mrs. General advises the young ladies in her charge, to give a pretty shape to their lips, to constantly pronounce "prunes and prisms."
For Dickens these "prunes and prisms" soon become a distinct condition of the newly rich Dorrits' life.
Dickens writes of "the heaps of prunes and prisms" which had filled the Dorrits' life to overflowing. In Our Mutual Friend the same use is made of the conversations about lime, with which at first the detectives concealed their real intentions, but which later became for them a sort of game. . . .
It seems clear to me that for a writer words are not at all a sad necessity, not just a means by which something is said, but are rather the very material of the work. Literature is created from words and takes advantage of the laws by which they are governed.
It is true that in a work of literature we also have the expression of ideas, but it is not a question of ideas clothed in artistic form, but rather artistic form created from ideas as its material.
In verse, rhyme is opposed to rhyme, the sounds of one word are connected by repetitions with the sounds of another word and form the sound-aspect of the poem.
In parallelism, image is opposed to image and forms the image-aspect of the work.
In the novel, thought is opposed to thought, or one group of characters to another, and this constitutes the meaning-form of the work.
Thus in Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina the Karenin-Vronsky group is opposed to the Kitty-Levin group.It was this that entitled Tolstoy to say that he had no use for "those sweet and clever little fellows who fish out individual ideas from a work," and that "if I had wanted to say in one word everything that the novel was intended to express, then I should have had to write the novel all over again, and if my critics understand it and can put down in a review everything I meant, then I congratulate them and can say without hesitation that they are capable of much more than I."
In a work of literature it is not the idea that is important but the way ideas are combined. Again I quote from Tolstoy: "the combination itself is made not by means of thought (I think), but by something else, and it is impossible to express directly the basis for this combination. It can, however, be expressed indirectly by the description of images, actions, situations in words."
Consequently, the ideas in a literary work do not constitute its content but rather its material, and in their combination and interrelations with other aspects of the work they create its form.
"Art is thinking in images." This maxim, which even high school students parrot, is nevertheless the starting point for the erudite philologist who is beginning to put together some kind of systematic literary theory. The idea, originated in part by Potebnya [leading figure in the Russian Symbolist school of poets and critics], has spread. "Without imagery there is no art, and in particular no poetry," Potebnya writes [in 1905]. And elsewhere, "Poetry, as well as prose, is first and foremost a special way of thinking and knowing."
Poetry is a special way of thinking; it is, precisely, a way of thinking in images, a way which permits what is generally called 'economy of mental effort,' a way which makes for a 'sensation of the relative ease of the process.' Aesthetic feeling is the reaction to this economy. This is how the academician Ovsyaniko-Kulikovsky [a leading Russian scholar and literary conservative], who undoubtedly read the works of Potebnya attentively, almost certainly understood and faithfully summarized the ideas of his teacher. Potebnya and his numerous disciples consider poetry a special kind of thinking - thinking by means of images; they feel that the purpose of imagery is to help channel various objects and activities into groups and to clarify the unknown by means of the known. Or, as Potebnya wrote:
The relationship of the image to way is being clarified is that: (a) the image is the fixed predicate of that which undergoes change - the unchanging means of attracting what is perceived as changeable. . . . (b) the image is far clearer and simpler than what it clarifies. In other words:
Since the purpose of imagery is to remind us, by approximation, of those meanings for which the image stands, and since, apart from this, imagery is unnecessary for thought, we must be more familiar with the image than with what it clarifies.
It would be instructive to apply this principle to Tyutchev's comparison of summer lightning to deaf and dumb demons or to Gogol's comparison of the sky to the garment of God. [The reference is to 19th-c. Russian writers known for their bold use of imagery.]
"Without imagery there is no art" - "Art is thinking in images." These maxims have led to far-fetched interpretations of individual works of art. Attempts have been made to evaluate even music, architecture, and lyric poetry as imagistic thought. After a quarter of a century of such attempts Ovsyaniko-Kulikovsky finally had to assign lyric poetry, architecture, and music to a special category of imageless art and to define them as lyric arts appealing directly to the emotions. And thus he admitted an enormous area of art which is not a mode of thought. A part of this area, lyric poetry (narrowly considered), is quite like the visual arts; it is also verbal. But, much more important, visual art passes quite imperceptibly into nonvisual art; yet our perceptions of both are similar.
Nevertheless, the definition "Art is thinking in images," which means (I omit the usual middle terms of the argument) that art is the making of symbols, has survived the downfall of the theory which supported it. It survives chiefly in the wake of Symbolism, especially among the theorists of the Symbolist movement.
Many still believe, then, that thinking in images - thinking in specific scenes of "roads and landscape" and furrows and boundaries" [the reference is to a major work of Symbolist theory, by the critic V. Ivanov] - is the chief characteristic of poetry. Consequently, they should have expected the history of "imagistic art," as they call it, to consist of a history of changes in imagery. But we find that images change little; from century to century, from nation to nation, from poet to poet, they flow on without changing. Images belong to no one; they are "the Lord's." The more you understand an age, the more convinced you become that the images a given poet used and which you though his own were taken almost unchanged from another poet. The works of poets are classified or grouped according to the new techniques that poets discover and share, and according to their arrangement and development of the resources of language; poets are much more concerned with arranging images than with creating them. Images are given to poets; the ability to remember them is far more important than the ability to create them.
Imagistic thought does not, in any case, include all the aspects of art nor even all the aspects of verbal art. A change in imagery is not essential to the development of poetry. We know that frequently an expression is thought to be poetic, to be created for aesthetic pleasure, although actually it was created without such intent - e.g., Annensky's opinion that the Slavic languages are especially poetic and Andrey Bely's ecstasy over the technique of placing adjectives after nouns, a technique used by eighteenth-century poets [references are to critics in Potebnya's group]. Bely joyfully accepts the technique as something artistic, or more exactly as intended, if we consider intention as art. Actually, this reversal of the usual adjective-noun order is a peculiarity of the language (which had been influenced by Church Slavonic). Thus a work may be (1) intended as prosaic and accepted as poetic, or (2) intended as poetic and accepted as prosaic. This suggests that the artistry attributed to a given work results from the way we perceive it. By 'works of art,' in the narrow sense, we mean works created by special techniques designed to make the works as obviously artistic as possible.
Potebnya's conclusion, which can be formulated 'poetry equals imagery,' gave rise to the whole theory that 'imagery equals symbolism,' that the image may serve as the invariable predicate of various subjects. (This conclusion, because it expressed ideas similar to the theories of the Symbolists, intrigued some of their leading representatives - Andrey Bely, Merezhkovsky and his 'eternal companions' and, in fact, formed the basis of the theory of Symbolism. [Shklovsky's aside]) The conclusion stems partly from the fact that Potebnya did not distinguish between the language of poetry and the language of prose. Consequently, he ignored the fact that there are two aspects of imagery: imagery as a practical means of thinking, as a means of placing objects within categories; and imagery as poetic, as a means of reinforcing an impression. I shall clarify with an example. I want to attract the attention of a young child who is eating bread and butter and getting the butter on her fingers. I call, "Hey, butterfingers!" This is a figure of speech, a clearly prosaic trope. Now a different example. The child is playing with my glasses and drops them. I call, "Hey, butterfingers!" This figure of speech is a poetic trope. (In the first example, 'butterfingers' is metonymic; in the second, metaphoric - but this is not what I want to stress [Shklovsky's aside]. [Evidently, the Russian word for 'butterfingers' allows for word play involving a root that also means 'hat' and 'clumsy oaf'.]
Poetic imagery is a means of creating the strongest possible impression. As a method it is, depending upon its purpose, neither more nor less effective than other poetic techniques; it is neither more nor less effective than ordinary or negative parallelism, comparison, repetition, balanced structure, hyperbole, the commonly accepted rhetorical figures, and all those methods which emphasize the emotional effect of an expression (including words or even articulated sounds). But poetic imagery only externally resembles either the stock imagery of fables and ballads or thinking in images - e.g., the example in Ovsyaniko-Kulikovsky's Language and Art in which a little girl calls a ball a watermelon. Poetic imagery is but one of the devices of poetic language. Prose imagery is a means of abstraction: a little watermelon instead of a lampshade, or a little watermelon instead of a head, is only the abstraction of one of the object's characteristics, that of roundness. It is no different from saying that the head and the melon are both round. This is what is meant, but it has nothing to do with poetry.
* * *
The law of the economy of creative effort is also generally accepted. [The British philosopher Herbert] Spencer wrote:
On seeking for some clue to the law underlying these current maxims, we may see shadowed forth in many of them, the importance of economizing the reader'' or the hearer'' attention. To so present ideas that they may be apprehended with the least possible mental effort, is the desideratum towards which most of the rules above quoted point. . . . Hence, carrying out the metaphor that language is the vehicle of thought, there seems reason to think that in all cases the friction and inertia of the vehicle deduct from its efficiency; and that in composition, the chief, if not the sole thing to be done, is to reduce this friction and inertia to the smallest possible amount.  And R[ichard] Avenarius:
If a soul possess inexhaustible strength, then, of course, it would be indifferent to how much might be spent from this inexhaustible source; only the necessarily expended time would be important. But since its forces are limited, one is led to expect that the soul hastens to carry out the apperceptive process as expediently as possible - that is, with comparatively the least expenditure of energy, and, hence, with comparatively the best result. Petrazhitsky, with only one reference to the general law of mental effort, rejects [William] James's theory of the physical basis of emotion, a theory which contradicts his own. Even Alexander Veselovsky acknowledged the principle of the economy of creative effort, a theory especially appealing in the study of rhythm, and agreed with Spencer: "A satisfactory style is precisely that style which delivers the greatest amount of thought in the fewest words." And Andrey Bely, despite the fact that in his better pages he gave numerous examples of 'roughened' rhythm and (particularly in the examples from Baratynsky) showed the difficulties inherent in poetic epithets, also thought it necessary to speak of the law of the economy of creative effort in his book - a heroic effort to create a theory of art based on unverified facts from antiquated sources, on his vast knowledge of the techniques of poetic creativity, and on Krayevich's high school physics text.
These ideas about the economy of energy, as well as about the law and aim of creativity, are perhaps true in their application to 'practical' language: they were, however, extended to poetic language. Hence they do not distinguish properly between the laws of practical language and the laws of poetic language. The fact that Japanese poetry has sounds not found in conversational Japanese was hardly the first factual indication of the differences between poetic and everyday language. Leo Jakubinsky has observed that the law of the dissimulation of liquid sounds does not apply to poetic language. This suggested to him that poetic language tolerated the admission of hard-to-pronounce conglomerations of similar sounds. In his article, one of the first examples of scientific criticism, he indicates inductively the contrast (I shall say more about his point later) between the laws of poetic language and the laws of practical language. [Jakubinsky, a Russian linguist, wrote the articles to which Shklovsky refers in 1916 and 1917.]
We must, then, speak about the laws of expenditure and economy in poetic language not on the basis of an analogy with prose, but on the basis of the laws of poetic language.
If we start to examine the general laws of perception, we see that as perception becomes habitual, it becomes automatic. Thus, for example, all of our habits retreat into the area of the unconsciously automatic; if one remembers the sensations of holding a pen or of speaking in a foreign language for the first time and compares that with his feeling at performing the action for the ten thousandth time, he will agree with us. Such habituation explains the principles by which, in ordinary speech, we leave phrases unfinished and words half expressed. In this process, ideally realized in algebra, things are replaced by symbols. Complex words are not expressed in rapid speech; their initial sounds are barely perceived. Alexander Pogodin [in a 1913 work] offers the example of a boy considering the sentence "The Swiss mountains are beautiful" in the form of a series of letters: T, S, m, a, b.
This characteristic of thought not only suggests the method of algebra, but even prompts the choice of symbols (letters, especially initial letters). By this 'algebraic' method of thought we apprehend objects only as shapes with imprecise extensions; we do not see them in their entirety but rather recognize them by their main characteristics. We see the object as though it were enveloped in a sack. We know what it is by its configuration, but we see only its silhouette. The object, perceived thus in the manner of prose perception, fades and does not leave even a first impression; ultimately even the essence of what it was is forgotten. Such perception explains why we fail to hear the prose word in its entirety (see Leo Jakubinsky's article) and, hence, why (along with other slips of the tongue) we fail to pronounce it. The process of 'algebrization,' the over-automatization of an object, permits the greatest economy of perceptive effort. Either objects are assigned only one proper feature - a number, for example - or else they function as though by formula and do not even appear in cognition.
I was cleaning a room and, meandering about, approached the divan and couldn't remember whether or not I had dusted it. Since these movements are habitual and unconscious, I could not remember and felt that it was impossible to remember - so that if I had dusted it and forgot - that is, had acted unconsciously, then it was the same as if I had not. If some conscious person had been watching, then the fact could be established. If, however, no one was looking, or looking on unconsciously, if the whole complex lives of many people go on unconsciously, then such lives are as if they had never been. [Leo Tolstoy's Diary, 1897]
And so life is reckoned as nothing. Habitualization devours works, clothes, furniture, one's wife, and the fear of war. "If the whole complex lives of many people go on unconsciously, then such lives are as if they had never been." And art exists that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stony. The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects 'unfamiliar,' to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. Art is a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object: the object is not important. [This key statement has been translated different ways; Robert Scholes, for instance, renders it as: In art, it is our experience of the process of construction that counts, not the finished product.]
The range of poetic (artistic) work extends from the sensory to the cognitive, from poetry to prose, from the concrete to the abstract: from Cervantes' Con Quixote - scholastic and poor nobleman, half consciously bearing his humiliation in the court of the duke - to the broad but empty Don Quixote of Turgenev, from Charlemagne to the name 'king' [in Russian, 'Charles' and 'king' derive from the same root, korol]. The meaning of a work broadens to the extent that artfulness and artistry diminish; thus a fable symbolizes more than a poem, and a proverb more than a fable. Consequently, the least self-contradictory part of Potebnya's theory is his treatment of the fable, which, from his point of view, he investigated thoroughly. But since his theory did not provide for 'expressive' works of art, he could not finish his book. As we know, Notes on the Theory of Literature was published in 1905, thirteen years after Potebnya's death. Potebnya himself completed only the section on the fable.
After we see an object several times, we begin to recognize it. The object is in front of us and we know about it, but we do not see it - hence, we cannot say anything significant about it. Art removes objects from the automatism of perception in several ways. Here I want to illustrate a way used repeatedly by Leo Tolstoy, that writer who, for Merezhkovsky at least, seems to present things as if he himself say them, and saw them in their entirety, and did not alter them.
Tolstoy makes the familiar seem strange by not naming the familiar object. He describes an object as if he were seeing it for the first time, an event as if it were happening for the first time. In describing something he avoids the accepted names of its parts and instead names corresponding parts of other objects. For example, in "Shame" Tolstoy 'defamiliarizes' the idea of flogging in this way: "to strip people who have broken the law, to hurl them to the floor, and to rap on their bottoms with switches," and, after a few lines, "to lash about on the naked buttocks." Then he remarks:
Just why precisely this stupid, savage means of causing pain and not any other - why not prick the shoulders or any part of the body with needles, squeeze the hands or the feet in a vise, or anything like that? I apologize for this harsh example, but it is typical of Tolstoy's way of pricking the conscience. The familiar act of flogging is made unfamiliar both by the description and by the proposal to change its form without changing its nature. Tolstoy uses this technique of 'defamiliarization' constantly. The narrator of "Kholstomer," for example, is a horse, and it is the horse's point of view (rather than a person's) that makes the content of the story seem unfamiliar. Here is how the horse regards the institution of private property:
I understand well what they said about whipping and Christianity. But then I was absolutely in the dark. What's the meaning of 'his own,' 'his colt'? From these phrases I saw that people thought there was come sort of connection between me and the stable. At the time I simply could not understand the connection. Only much later, when they separated me from the other horses, did I begin to understand. But even then I simply could not see what it meant when they called me 'man's property.' The words 'my horse' referred to me, a living horse, and seemed as strange to me as the words 'may land,' 'my air,' 'my water.'
But the words made a strong impression on me. I thought about them constantly, and only after the most diverse experiences with people did I understand, finally, what they meant. They meant this: In life people are guided by words, not by deeds. It's not so much that they love the possibility of doing or not doing something as it is the possibility of speaking with words, agreed on among themselves, about various topics. Such are the words 'my' and 'mine,' which they apply to different things, creatures, objects, and even to land, people, and horses. They agree that only one may saw 'mine' about his, that, or the other thing. And the one who says 'mine' about the greatest number of things is, according to the game which they're agreed to among themselves, the one they consider the most happy. I don't know the point of all this, but it's true. For a long time I tried to explain it to myself in terms of some kind of real gain, but I had to reject that explanation because it was wrong.
Many of those, for instance, who called me their own never rode on me - although others did. And so with those who fed me. Then again, the coachman, the veterinarians, and the outsiders in general treated me kindly, yet those who called me their own did not. In due time, having widened the scope of my observations, I satisfied myself that the notion 'my,' not only in relation to horses, has no other basis than a narrow human instinct which is called a sense of or right to private property. A man says 'this house is mine' and never lives in it; he only worries about its construction and upkeep. A merchant says 'my shop,' 'my dry goods shop,' for instance, and does not even wear clothes made from the better cloth he keeps in his own shop.
There are people who call a tract of land their own, but they never set eyes on it and never take a stroll on it. There are people who call others their own, yet never see them. And the whole relationship between them is that the so-called 'owners' treat the others unjustly.
There are people who call women their own, or their 'wives,' but their women live with other men. And people strive not for the good in life, but for goods they can call their own.
I am now convinced that this is the essential difference between people and ourselves. And therefore, not even considering the other ways in which we are superior, but considering just this one virtue, we can bravely claim to stand higher than men on the ladder of living creatures. The actions of men, at least those with whom I have had dealings, are guided by words -- ours, by deeds.
The horse is killed before the end of the story, but the manner of the narrative, its technique, does not change:
Much later they put Serpukhovsky's body, which had experienced the world, which had eaten and drunk, into the ground. They could profitably send neither his hide, nor his flesh, nor his bones anywhere.
But since his dead body, which had gone about in the world for twenty years, was a great burden to everyone, its burial was only a superfluous embarrassment for the people. For a long time no one had needed him; for a long time he had been a burden on all. But nevertheless, the dead who buried the dead found it necessary to dress this bloated body, which immediately began to rot, in a good uniform and good boots; to lay it in a good new coffin with new tassels at the four corners, then to place this new coffin in another of lead and ship it to Moscow; there to exhume ancient bones and at just that spot, to hide this putrefying body, swarming with maggots, in its new uniform and clean boots, and to cover it over completely with dirt. Thus we see that at the end of the story Tolstoy continues to use the technique even though the motivation for it [the reason for its use] is gone.
In War and Peace Tolstoy uses the same technique in describing whole battles as if battles were something new. These descriptions are too long to quote; it would be necessary to extract a considerable part of the four-volume novel. but Tolstoy uses the same method in describing the drawing room and the theater:
The middle of the stage consisted of flat boards; by the sides stood painted pictures representing trees, and at the back a linen cloth was stretched down to the floor boards. Maidens in red bodices and white skirts sat on the middle of the stage. One, very fat, in a white silk dress, sat apart on a narrow bench to which a green pasteboard box was glued from behind. They were all singing something. When they had finished, the maiden in white approached the prompter's box. A man in silk with tight-fitting pants on his fat legs approached her with a plume and began to sing and spread his arms in dismay. The man in the tight pants finished his song alone; they the girl sang. After that both remained silent as the music resounded; and the man, obviously waiting to begin singing his part with her again, began to run his fingers over the hand of the girl in the white dress. They finished their song together, and everyone in the theater began to clap and shout. But the men and women on stage, who represented lovers, started to bow, smiling and raising their hands.
In the second act there were pictures representing monuments and openings in the linen cloth representing the moonlight, and they raised lamp shades on a frame. As the musicians started to play the bass horn and counter-bass, a large number of people in black mantles poured onto the stage from right and left. The people, with something like daggers in their hands, started to wave their arms. Then still more people came running out and began to drag away the maiden who had been wearing a white dress but who now wore one of sky blue. They did not drag her off immediately, but sang with her for a long time before dragging her away. Three times they struck on something metallic behind the scenes, and everyone got down on his knees and began to chant a prayer. Several times all of this activity was interrupted by enthusiastic shouts from the spectators. The third act is described:
But suddenly a storm blew up. Chromatic scales and chords of diminished sevenths were heard in the orchestra. Everyone ran about and again they dragged one of the bystanders behind the scenes as the curtain fell. In the fourth act, "There was some sort of devil who sang, waving his hands, until the boards were moved out from under him and he dropped down."
In Resurrection Tolstoy describes the city and the court in the same way; he uses a similar technique in "Kreutzer Sonata" when he describes marriage - "Why, if people have an affinity of souls, must they sleep together?" But he did not defamiliarize only those things he sneered at:
Pierre stood up from his new comrades and made is way between the campfires to the other side of the road where, it seemed, the captive soldiers were held. He wanted to talk with them. The French sentry stopped him on the road and ordered him to return. Pierre did so, but not to the campfire, not to his comrades, but to an abandoned, unharnessed carriage. On the ground, near the wheel of the carriage, he sat cross-legged in the Turkish fashion, and lowered his head. He sat motionless for a long time, thinking. More than an hour passed. No one disturbed him. Suddenly he burst out laughing with his robust, good natured laugh - so loudly that the men near him looked around, surprised at his conspicuously strange laughter.
"Ha, ha, ha," laughed Pierre. And he began to talk to himself. "The soldier didn't allow me to pass. They caught me, barred me. Me - me - my immortal soul. Ha, ha, ha," he laughed with tears starting in his eyes.
Pierre glanced at the sky, into the depths of the departing, playing stars. "And all this is mine, all this is in me, and all this is I," thought Pierre. "And all this they caught and put in a planked enclosure." He smiled and went off to his comrades to lie down to sleep.
Anyone who knows Tolstoy can find several hundred such passages in his work. His method of seeing things out of their normal context is also apparent in his last works. Tolstoy described the dogmas and rituals he attacked as if they were unfamiliar, substituting everyday meanings for the customarily religious meanings of the words common in church ritual. Many persons were painfully wounded; they considered it blasphemy to present as strange and monstrous what they accepted as sacred. Their reaction was due chiefly to the technique through which Tolstoy perceived and reported his environment. And after turning to what he had long avoided, Tolstoy found that his perceptions had unsettled his faith.
* * *
The technique of defamiliarization is not Tolstoy's alone. I cited Tolstoy because his work is generally known.
Now, having explained the nature of this technique, let us try to determine the approximate limits of its application. I personally feel that defamiliarization is found almost everywhere form is found. In other words, the difference between Potebnya's point of view and ours is this: An image is not a permanent referent for those mutable complexities of life which are revealed through it; its purpose is not to make us perceive meaning, but to create a special perception of the object -- it creates a 'vision' of the object instead of serving as a means for knowing it.
The purpose of imagery in erotic art can be studied even more accurately; an erotic object is usually presented as if it were seen for the first time. Gogol, in "Christmas Eve," provides the following example:
Here he approached her more closely, coughed, smiled at her, touched her plump, bare arm with his fingers, and expressed himself in a way that showed both his cunning and his conceit.
"And what is this you have, magnificent Solokha?" and having said this, he jumped back a little.
"What? An arm, Osip Nikiforovich!" she answered.
"Hmmm, an arm! He, he, he!" said the secretary cordially, satisfied with his beginning. He wandered about the room.
"And what is this you have, dearest Solokha?" he said in the same way, having approached her again and grasped her lightly by the neck, and in the very same way he jumped back.
"As if you don't see, Osip Nikiforovich!" answered Solokha, "a neck, and on my neck a necklace!"
"Hmm! On the neck a necklace! He, he, he!" and the secretary again wandered about the room, rubbing his hands.
"And what is this you have, incomparable Solokha?" . . . It is not known to what the secretary would stretch his long fingers now. And Knut Hamsun has the following in "Hunger": "Two white prodigies appeared from beneath her blouse."
Erotic subjects may also be presented figuratively with the obvious purpose of leading us away from their 'recognition.' Hence sexual organs are referred to in terms of lock and key or quilting tools or bow and arrow, or rings and marlinspikes, as in the legend of Stavyor, in which a married man does not recognize his wife, who is disguised as a warrior. She proposes a riddle:
"Remember, Stavyor, do you recallHow we little ones walked to and fro in the street?You and I together sometimes played with a marlinspike --You had a silver marlinspike,But I had a gilded ring?I found myself at it just now and then,But you fell in with it ever and always."Says Stavyor, son of Godinovich,"What! I didn't play with you at marlinspikes!"Then Vasilisa Mikulichna: "So he says.Do you remember, Stavyor, do you recall,Now must you know, you and I together learned to read and write;Mine was an ink-well of silver,And yours a pen of gold?But I just moistened it a little now and then,And I just moistened it ever and always." In a different version of the legend we find a key to the riddle:
Here the formidable enjoy VasilyushkaRaised her skirts to the very navel,And then the young Stavyor, son of Godinovich,Recognized her gilded ring . . .
But defamiliarization is not only the technique of the erotic riddle - a technique of euphemism - it is also the basis and point of all riddles. Every riddle pretends to show its subject either by words which specify or describe it but which, during the telling, do not seem applicable (the type "black and white and 'red' - read - all over") or by means of odd but imitative sounds ("Twas brillig, and the slithy toves/Did gyre and gimble in the wabe") [these examples are translators' substitutions for Shklovsky's Russian wordplay].
Even erotic images not intended as riddles are defamiliarized ("Boobies," "tarts," "piece," etc.). In popular imagery there is generally something equivalent to "trampling the grass" and "breaking the guelder-rose." The technique of defamiliarization is absolutely clear in the widespread image - a motif of erotic affectation - in which a bear and other wild beasts (or a devil, with a different reason for nonrecognition) do not recognize a man.
The lack of recognition in the following tale is quite typical:
A peasant was plowing a field with a piebald mare. A bear approached him and asked, "Uncle, what's made this mare piebald for you?"
"I did the piebalding myself."
"Let me, and I'll do the same for you."
The bear agreed. The peasant tied his feet together with a rope, took the ploughshare from the two-wheeled plough, heated it on the fire, and applied it to his flanks. He made the bear piebald by scorching his fur down to the hide with the hot ploughshare. The man untied the bear, which went off and lay down under a tree.
A magpie flew at the peasant to pick at the meat on his shirt. He caught her and broke one of her legs. The magpie flew off to perch in the same tree under which the bear was lying. Then, after the magpie, a horsefly landed on the mare, sat down, and began to bite. The peasant caught the fly, took a stick, shoved it up its rear, and let it go. The fly went to the tree where the bear and the magpie were. There all three sat.
The peasant's wife came to bring his dinner to the field. The man and his wife finished their dinner in the fresh air, and he began to wrestle with her on the ground.
The bear saw this and said to the magpie and the fly, "Holy priests! The peasant wants to piebald someone again."
The magpie said, "No, he wants to break someone's legs."
The fly said, "No, he wants to shove a stick up someone's rump." The similarity of technique here and in Tolstoy's "Kholstomer" [the horse narrator story] is, I think, obvious.
Quite often in literature the sexual act itself is defamiliarized: for example, the Decameron refers to "scraping out a barrel," "catching nightingales," "gay wool-beating work," (the last is not developed in the plot). Defamiliarization is often used in describing the sexual organs.
A whole series of plots is based on such a lack of recognition; for example, in Afanasyev's Intimate Tales the entire story of "The Shy Mistress" is based on the fact that an object is not called by its proper name - or, in other words, on a game of nonrecognition. So too in Onchukov's "Spotted Petticoats," tale no. 525, and also in "The Bear and the Hare" from Intimate Tales, in which the bear and the hare make a 'wound.'
Such constructions as "the pestle and the mortar," or "Old Nick and the infernal regions" (Decameron) are also examples of the technique of defamiliarization in psychological parallelism. Here, then, I repeat that the perception of disharmony in a harmonious context is important in parallelism. The purpose of parallelism, like the general purpose of imagery, is to transfer the usual perception of an object into the sphere of a new perception - that is, to make a unique semantic modification.
In studying poetic speech in its phonetic and lexical structure as well as in its characteristic distribution of words and in the characteristic thought structures compounded from the words, we find everywhere the artistic trademark - that is, we find material obviously created to remove the automatism of perception; the author's purpose is to create the vision which results from that deautomatized perception. A work is created 'artistically' so that its perception is impeded and the greatest possible effect is produced through the slowness of the perception. As a result of this lingering, the object is perceived not in its extension in space, but, so to speak, in its continuity. Thus "poetic language" gives satisfaction. According to Aristotle, poetic language must appear strange and wonderful; and, in fact, it is often called foreign: the Sumerian used by the Assyrians, the Latin of Europe during the Middle Ages, the Arabisms of the Persians, the Old Bulgarian of Russian literature, or the elevated, almost literary language of folk songs. The common archaisms of poetic language, the intricacy of the sweet new style [reference here is to Dante's dolce stil nuovo], the obscure style of the language of Arnaut Daniel with the "roughened" forms which make pronunciation difficult -- these are used in much the same way. Leo Jakubinsky has demonstrated the principle of phonetic 'roughening' of poetic language in the particular case of the repetition of identical sounds. The language of poetry is, then, a difficult, roughened, impeded language. In a few special instances the language of poetry approximates the language of prose, but this does not violate the principle of 'roughened' form.
Her sister was called Tatyana.For the first time we shallWillfully brighten the delicatePages of a novel with such a name. wrote Pushkin. The unusual poetic language for Pushkin's contemporaries was the elegant style of Dershavin [Russian writer with a more 'traditional' approach]; but Pushkin's style, because it seemed trivial then, was unexpectedly difficult for them. We should remember the consternation of Pushkin's contemporaries over the vulgarity of his expressions. He used the popular language as a special device for prolonging attention, just as his contemporaries generally used Russian words in their usually French speech (see Tolstoy's examples in War and Peace).
Just now a still more characteristic phenomenon is under way. Russian literary language, which was originally foreign to Russia, has so permeated the language of the people that it has blended with their conversation. On the other hand, literature has not begun to show a tendency towards the use of dialects (Remizov, Klyuyev, Essenin [the first is a satiric novelist, the last two are peasant poets], and others, so unequal in talent and so alike in language, are intentionally provincial) and of barbarisms (which gave rise to the Severyanin group [noted for opulent, sensuous style]). And currently Maxim Gorky is changing his diction from the old literary language to the new literary colloquialism of Leskov [who popularized the dialect-heavy skaz, 'sketch' or tale]. Ordinary speech and literary language have thereby changed places (see the work of Vyacheslav Ivanov and many others). And finally, a strong tendency, led by Khlebnikov, to create a new and properly poetic language has emerged. In the light of these developments we can define poetry as attenuated, tortuous speech. Poetic speech is formed speech. Prose is ordinary speech - economical, easy, proper, the goddess of prose is a goddess of the accurate, facile type, of the 'direct' expression of a child. I shall discuss roughened form and retardation as the general law of art at greater length in an article on plot construction.
Nevertheless, the position of those who urge the idea of the economy of artistic energy as something which exists in and even distinguishes poetic language seems, at first glance, tenable for the problem of rhythm. Spencer's description of rhythm would seem to be absolutely incontestable:
Just as the body in receiving a series of varying concussions, must keep the muscles ready to meet the most violent of them, as not knowing when such may come: so, the mind in receiving unarranged articulations, must keep its perspectives active enough to recognize the least easily caught sounds. And as, if the concussions recur in definite order, the body may husband its forces by adjusting the resistance needful for each concussion; so, if the syllables by rhythmically arranged, the mind may economize its energies by anticipating the attention required for each syllable. This apparently conclusive observation suffers from the common fallacy, the confusion of the laws of poetic and prosaic language. In The philosophy of Style Spencer failed utterly to distinguish between them. But rhythm may have two functions. The rhythm of prose, or of a work song like "Dubinushka," permits the members of the work crew to do their necessary "groaning together" and also eases the work by making it automatic. And, in fact, it is easier to march with music than without it, and to march during an animated conversation is even easier, for the walking is done unconsciously. Thus the rhythm of prose is an important automatizing element: the rhythm of poetry is not. There is 'order' in art, yet not a single column of a Greek temple stands exactly in its proper order; poetic rhythm is similarly disordered rhythm. Attempts to systematize the irregularities have been made, and such attempts are part of the current problem in the theory of rhythm. It is obvious that the systematization will not work, for unreality the problem is not of complicating the rhythm but of disordering the rhythm - a disordering which cannot be predicted. Should the disordering of rhythm become a convention, it would be ineffective as a device for the roughening of language. But I will not discuss rhythm in more detail since I intend to write a book about it. [Evidently, this intention was never fulfilled.]
Thursday, 10 May 2007
Excerpt from D. PHILIP CARNEY Tropological Language (Forthcoming, 2008)
Constitutive metaphor: This metaphor works to frame the thinking about the target domain to the point that one cannot consider the TARGET DOMAIN without the SOURCE DOMAIN. Stephen Pepper identified four constitutive metaphors: ORGANICISM, MECHANISM, FORMISM, and CONTEXTUALISM. One can characterise each of these metaphors by its different properties. For example, with mechanism, the economy will resemble a machine. With contextualism, the economy will have a history in which events are inter-linked and one can only understand human actions in the context of these events. With organicism, the entire economy is a living thing complete with closed circular flows.
Contextualism. This is a type of CONSTITUTIVE METAPHOR.
Creative transformation: A creative transformation pertains to an intellectual leap forward of a special kind. It occurs when one transfers an idea (regardless of whether the original idea survives in its exact form during the transfer) from one domain to another.
Dead metaphor: This metaphor is often mistake for literal language. This is a common mistake that one makes through overuse of a metaphor. Overuse can drain a metaphor of its figurative sense that renders it literal in impact. A metaphor dies when the analogical system of that metaphor eclipses the original metaphor itself. This happened with the once metaphorical terms ‘skyscraper’, ‘riverbed’, and the game chess. For example, chess was a metaphorical representation of war as a game. Chess as war faded away to reveal the game chess. Today, one has almost completely lost the connection with war. Chess is interesting only as a self-contained game. Chess is similar to a neoclassical economic model in that one can suppose that both represented the real-world at some point but lost touch with it.
Formism. This is type of CONSTITUTIVE METAPHOR.
Heuristic metaphor: This metaphor is largely realistic and apt (opposed to JUSTIFICATORY METAPHOR). It works to guide inquiry into the TARGET DOMAIN through joining attributes of the target domain with the SOURCE DOMAIN. This metaphor allows practitioners to investigate phenomena without implying the casual relationships of the source domain to the target domain. For example, in economics, economists habitually develop and elaborate a heuristic metaphor into a model as with the human capital metaphor. Similarly, in biology, Darwin associated ideas of classical economics and biology through use of heuristic metaphor to create a cross-fertilised set of ideas that improved biology.
Justificatory metaphor: This type of metaphor (opposed to HEURISTIC METAPHOR) is largely an unrealistic and inapt metaphor. When practitioners use justificatory metaphors, they use the foreign discipline as a holder of truth. This enterprise allows practitioners to make affirmations of truth along lines of a foreign discipline. Indeed, justificatory metaphors are not usually attempts to seek truth. It is a deceptive device that tries to lead the reader to accept the view of the author. Usually, there are subtle endeavours to disguise the approach as being natural or scientific. This device is possibly the most important of all pervasive devices as it allows the practitioner to misguide the negligent reader to accept ill-founded arguments. One can observe justificatory metaphors throughout economics. One can see these when an economist borrows a robust idea from another discipline to disguise (whether intentionally or not) an anomaly in their domestic paradigm.
Mechanism. This is type of CONSTITUTIVE METAPHOR.
Metaphor. This is a language process where one transfers attributes of one object (SOURCE DOMAIN) to another (TARGET DOMAIN). Metaphor borrows from a source domain that has in principle, nothing to do with the target domain. Metaphor, therefore, produces unexpected juxtapositions of subjects from apparently unrelated domains. This is what makes metaphor so powerful.
Object mapping. This is a brachial process that deconstructs an object into characteristics and reassembles the object piecemeal to afford further extrapolations to new situations.
Organicism. This is a type of CONSTITUTIVE METAPHOR.
Pedagogical metaphor: This metaphor works to make already understood expositions clearer. It relies on obvious resemblances between its source and target domains. For example, the circular flow diagram of macroeconomics or the expression time is money are examples of pedagogical metaphor.
Source domain: The academic discipline or field that one uses to gain insight into another (TARGET DOMAIN).
System mapping: This works for humans to extrapolate solutions to problems of similar structure to new problems.
Target domain. The academic discipline or field to which one applies an idea from another.
Excerpt from LEON TROTSKY Literature and Revolution Chapter 5
The Formalist Opposition to Marxism – The Reduction of Poetry to Etymology and Syntax – Art for Art’s Sake and The Materialist Dialectics – The Argumentations of Shklovsky and Others – An Analogy with the Theologic Argument Against Darwinism
LEAVING out of account the weak echoes of pre-Revolutionary ideologic systems, the only theory which has opposed Marxism in Soviet Russia these years is the Formalist theory of Art. The paradox consists in the fact that Russian Formalism connected itself closely with Russian Futurism, and that while the latter was capitulating politically before Communism, Formalism opposed Marxism with all its might theoretically.
Victor Shklovsky is the theorist of Futurism, and at the same time the head of the Formalist school. According to his theory, art has always been the work of self-sufficient pure forms, and it has been recognized by Futurism for the first time. Futurism is thus the first conscious art in history, and the Formalist school is the first scientific school of art. Owing to the efforts of Shklovsky – and this is not an insignificant virtue! – the theory of art, and partly art itself, have at last been raised from a state of alchemy to the position of chemistry. The herald of the Formalist school, the first chemist of art, gives a few friendly slapsin passing to those Futurist “conciliators” who seek a bridge to the Revolution, and who try to find this bridge in the materialistic conception of history. Such a bridge is unnecessary; Futurism is entirely sufficient unto itself.
There are two reasons why it is necessary to pause a little before this Formalist school. One is for its own sake; in spite of the superficiality and reactionary character of the Formalist theory of art, a certain part of the research work of the Formalists is useful. The other reason is Futurism itself; however unfounded the claims of the Futurists to a monopolistic representation of the new art may be, one cannot thrust Futurism out of that process which is preparing the art of the future.
What is the Formalist school?
As it is represented at present by Shklovsky, Zhirmunsky, Jacobson and others, it is extremely arrogant and immature. Having declared form to be the essence of poetry, this school reduces its task to an analysis (essentially descriptive and semi-statistical) of the etymology and syntax of poems, to the counting of repetitive vowels and consonants, of syllables and epithets. This analysis which the Formalists regard as the essence of poetry, or poetics, is undoubtedly necessary and useful, but one must understand its partial, scrappy, subsidiary and preparatory character. It can become an essential element of poetic technique and of the rules of the craft. Just as it is useful for a poet or a writer to make lists of synonyms for himself and increase their number so as to expand his verbal keyboard, so it is useful, and quite necessary for a poet, to estimate a word not only in accord with its inner meaning, but also in accord with its acoustics, because a word is passed on from man to man, first of all by acoustics. The methods of Formalism, confined within legitimate limits, may help to clarify the artistic and psychologic peculiarities of form (its economy, its movement, its contrasts, its hyperbolism, etc.). This, in turn, may open a path – one of the paths – to the artist’s feeling for the world, and may facilitate the discovery of the relations of an individual artist, or of a whole artistic school, to the social environment. In so far as we are dealing with a contemporary and living school which is still developing, there is an immediate Significance in our transitional stage in probing it by means of a social probe and in clarifying its class roots, so that not only the reader, but the school itself could orientate itself, that is, know itself, purify and direct itself.
But the Formalists are not content to ascribe to their methods a merely subsidiary, serviceable and technical significance – similar to that which statistics has for social science, or the microscope for the biological sciences. No, they go much further. To them verbal art ends finally and fully with the word, and depictive art with color. A poem is a combination of sounds, a painting is a combination of color spots and the laws of art are the laws of verbal combinations and of combinations of color spots. The social and psychologic approach which, to us, gives a meaning to the microscopic and statistical work done in connection with verbal material, is, for the Formalists, only alchemy.
“Art was always free of life, and its color never reflected the color of the flag which waved over the fortress of the City.” (Shklovsky) “Adjustment to the expression, the verbal mass, is the one essential element of poetry.” (R. Jacobson, in his Recent Russian Poetry) “With a new form comes a new content. Form thus determines content.” (Kruchenikh) “Poetry means the giving of form to the word, which is valuable in itself” (Jacobson), or, as Khlebnikov says, “The word which is something in itself”, etc.
True, the Italian Futurists have sought in the word a means of expressing the locomotive, the propeller, electricity, the radio, etc., for their own age. In other words, they sought a new form for the new content of life. But it turned out that “this was a reform in the field of reporting, and not in the field of poetic language”. (Jacobson) It is quite different with Russian Futurism; it carries to the end “the adjustment to verbal mass”. For Russian Futurism, form determines content.
True, Jacobson is compelled to admit that “a series of new poetic methods finds application (?) for itself in urbanism” (in the culture of the city). But this is his conclusion: “Hence the urban poems of Mayakovsky and Khlebnikov.” In other words: not city culture, which has struck the eye and the ear of the poet and which has reeducated them, has inspired him with new form, with new images, new epithets, new rhythm, but, on the contrary, the new form, originating arbitrarily, forced the poet to seek appropriate material and so pushed him in the direction of the city! The development of the “verbal mass” went on arbitrarily from the Odyssey to A Cloud in Trousers; the torch, the wax candle, the electric lamp, had nothing to do with it! One has only to formulate this point of view clearly to have its childish inadequacy strike the eye. But Jacobson tries to insist; he replies in advance that the same Mayakovsky has such lines as these: “Leave the cities, you silly people.” And the theorist of the Formalist school reasons profoundly: “What is this, a logical contradiction? But let others fasten on the poet thoughts expressed in his works. To incriminate a poet with ideas and feelings is just as absurd as the behavior of the medieval public which beat the actor who played Judas.” And so on.
It is quite evident that all this was written by a very capable high-school boy who had a very evident and quite “self-significant” intention to “stick the pen into our teacher of literature, a notable pedant”. At sticking the pen, our bold innovators are masters, but they do not know how to use their pen theoretically or grammatically. This is not hard to prove.
Of course Futurism felt the suggestions of the city – of the tram-car, of electricity, of the telegraph, of the automobile, of the propeller, of the night cabaret (especially of the night cabaret) much before it found its new form. Urbanism (city culture) sits deep in the subconsciousness of Futurism, and the epithets, the etymology, the syntax and the rhythm of Futurism are only an attempt to give artistic form to the new spirit of the cities which has conquered consciousness. And when Mayakovsky exclaims: “Leave the cities, you silly people”, it is the cry of a man citified to the very marrow of his bones, who shows himself strikingly and clearly a city person, especially when he is outside the city, that is, when he “leaves the city” and becomes an inhabitant of a summer resort. It is not at all a question of “incriminating” (this word misses something!) a poet with the ideas and feelings which he expresses. Of course the way he expresses them makes the poet. But after all, a poet uses the language of the school which he has accepted or which he has created to fulfill tasks which lie outside of him. And this is even true also when he limits himself to lyricism, to personal love and personal death. Though individual shadings of poetic form correspond to individual makeup, they do go hand in hand with imitation and routine, in the feeling itself, as well as in the method of its expression. A new artistic form, taken in a large historic way, is born in reply to new needs. To take an example from intimate lyric poetry, one may say that between the physiology of sex and a poem about love there lies a complex system of psychological transmitting mechanisms in which there are individual, racial and social elements. The racial foundation, that is, the sexual basis of man, changes slowly. The social forms of love change more rapidly. They affect the psychologic superstructure of love, they produce new shadings and intonations, new spiritual demands, a need of a new vocabulary, and so they present new demands on poetry. The poet can find material for his art only in his social environment and transmits the new impulses of life through his own artistic consciousness. Language, changed and complicated by urban conditions, gives the poet a new verbal material, and suggests or facilitates new word combinations for the poetic formulation of new thoughts or of new feelings, which strive to break through the dark shell of the subconscious. If there were no changes in psychology produced by changes in the social environment, there would be no movement in art; people would continue from generation to generation to be content with the poetry of the Bible, or of the old Greeks.
But the philosopher of Formalism jumps on us, and says it is merely a question of a new form “in the field of reporting and not in the field of poetic language”. There he struck us! If you will, poetry is reporting, only in a peculiar, grand style.
The quarrels about “pure art” and about art with a tendency took place between the liberals and the “populists”. They do not become us. Materialistic dialectics are above this; from the point of view of an objective historical process, art is always a social servant and historically utilitarian. It finds the necessary rhythm of words for dark and vague moods, it brings thought and feeling closer or contrasts them with one another it enriches the spiritual experience of the individual and of the community, it refines feeling, makes it more flexible, more responsive, it enlarges the volume of thought in advance and not through the personal method of accumulated experience, it educates the individual, the social group, the class and the nation. And this it does quite independently of whether it appears in a given case under the flag of a “pure” or of a frankly tendencious art. In our Russian social development tendenciousness was the banner of the intelligentsia which sought contact with the people. The helpless intelligentsia, crushed by Tsarism and deprived of a cultural environment, sought support in the lower strata of society and tried to prove to the “people” that it was thinking only of them, living only for them and that it loved them “terribly”. And just as the “populists” who went to the people were ready to do without clean linen and without a comb and without a toothbrush, so the intelligentsia was ready to sacrifice the “subtleties” of form in its art, in order to give the most direct and spontaneous expression to the sufferings and hopes of the oppressed. On the other hand, “pure” art was the banner of the rising bourgeoisie, which could not openly declare its bourgeois character, and which at the same time tried to keep the intelligentsia in its service. The Marxist point of view is far removed from these tendencies, which were historically necessary, but which have become historically passé. Keeping on the plane of scientific investigation, Marxism seeks with the same assurance the social roots of the “pure” as well as of the tendencious art. It does not at all “incriminate” a poet with the thoughts and feelings which he expresses, but raises questions of a much more profound significance, namely, to which order of feelings does a given artistic work correspond in all its peculiarities? What are the social conditions of these thoughts and feelings? What place do they occupy in the historic development of a society and of a class? And, further, what literary heritage has entered into the elaboration of the new form? Under the influence of what historic impulse have the new complexes of feelings and thoughts broken through the shell which divides them from the sphere of poetic consciousness? The investigation may become complicated, detailed or individualized, but its fundamental idea will be that of the subsidiary r6le which art plays in the social process.
Each class has its own policy in art, that is, a system of presenting demands on art, which changes with time; for instance, the Macaenas-like protection of court and grand seigneur, the automatic relationship of supply and demand which is supplemented by complex methods of influencing the individual, and so forth, and so on. The social and even the personal dependence of art was not concealed, but was openly announced as long as art retained its court character. The wider, more popular, anonymous character of the rising bourgeoisie led, on the whole, to the theory of “pure art”, though there were many deviations from this theory. As indicated above, the tendencious literature of the “populist” intelligentsia was imbued with a class interest; the intelligentsia could not strengthen itself and could not conquer for itself a light to play a part in history without the support of the people. But in the revolutionary struggle, the class egotism of the intelligentsia was turned inside out, and in its left wing, it assumed the form of highest self-sacrifice. That is why the intelligentsia not only did not conceal art with a tendency, but proclaimed it, thus sacrificing art, just as it sacrificed many other things.
Our Marxist conception of the objective social dependence and social utility of art, when translated into the language of politics, does not at all mean a desire to dominate art by means of decrees and orders. It is not true that we regard only that art as new and revolutionary which speaks of the worker, and it is nonsense to say that we demand that the poets should describe inevitably a factory chimney, or the uprising against capital! Of course the new art cannot but place the struggle of the proletariat in the center of its attention. But the plough of the new art is not limited to numbered strips. On the contrary, it must plow the entire field in all directions. Personal lyrics of the very smallest scope have an absolute right to exist within the new art. Moreover, the new man cannot be formed without a new lyric poetry. But to create it, the poet himself must feel the world in a new way. If Christ alone or Sabaoth himself bends over the poet’s embraces (as in the case of Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva, Shkapskaya and others), then this only goes to prove how much behind the times his lyrics are and how socially and aesthetically inadequate they are for the new man. Even where such terminology is not a survival of experience so much as of words, it shows psychologic inertia and therefore stands in contradiction to the consciousness of the new man. No one is going to prescribe themes to a poet or intends to prescribe them. Please write about anything you can think of! But allow the new class which considers itself, and with reason, called upon to build a new world, to say to you in any given case: It does not make new poets of you to translate the philosophy of life of the Seventeenth Century into the language of the Acmésts. The form of art is to a certain and very large degree, independent, but the artist who creates this form, and the spectator who is enjoying it, are not empty machines, one for creating form and the other for appreciating it. They are living people, with a crystallized psychology representing a certain unity, even if not entirely harmonious. This psychology is the result of social conditions. The creation and perception of art forms is one of the functions of this psychology. And no matter how wise the Formalists try to be, their whole conception is simply based upon the fact that they ignore the psychological unity of the social man, who creates and who consumes what has been created.
The proletariat has to have in art the expression of the new spiritual point of view which is just beginning to be formulated within him, and to which art must help him give form. This is not a state order, but an historic demand. Its strength lies in the objectivity of historic necessity. You cannot pass this by, nor escape its force.
The Formalist school seems to try to be objective. It is disgusted, and not without reason, with the literary and critical arbitrariness which operates only with tastes and moods. It seeks precise criteria for classification and valuation. But owing to its narrow outlook and superficial methods, it is constantly falling into superstitions, such as graphology and phrenology. These two “schools” have also the task of establishing purely objective tests for determining human character; such as the number of the flourishes of one’s pen and their roundness, and the peculiarities of the bumps on the back of one’s head. One may assume that pen-flourishes and bumps do have some relation to character; but this relation is not direct, and human character is not at all exhausted by them. An apparent objectivism based on accidental, secondary and inadequate characteristics leads inevitably to the worst subjectivism. In the case of the Formalist school it leads to the superstition of the word. Having counted the adjectives, and weighed the lines, and measured the rhythms, a Formalist either stops silent with the expression of a man who does not know what to do with himself, or throws out an unexpected generalization which contains five per cent of Formalism and ninety-five per cent of the most uncritical intuition.
In fact, the Formalists do not carry their idea of art to its logical conclusion. If one is to regard the process of poetic creation only as a combination of sounds or words, and to seek along these lines the solution of all the problems of poetry, then the only perfect formula of “poetics” will be this: Arm yourself with a dictionary and create by means of algebraic combinations and permutations of words, all the poetic works of the world which have been created and which have not yet been created. Reasoning “formally” one may produce Eugene Onegin in two ways: either by subordinating the selection of words to a preconceived artistic idea (as Pushkin himself did), or by solving the problem algebraically. From the “Formal” point of view, the second method is more correct, because it does not depend upon mood, inspiration, or other unsteady things, and has besides the advantage that while leading to Eugene Onegin it may bring one to an Incalculable number of other great works. All that one needs is infinity in time, called eternity. But as neither mankind nor the individual poet have eternity at their disposal, the fundamental source of poetic words will remain, as before, the preconceived artistic idea understood in the broadest sense, as an accurate thought and as a clearly expressed personal or social feeling and as a vague mood. In its striving towards artistic materialization, this subjective idea will be stimulated and jolted by form and may be sometimes pushed on to a path which was entirely unforeseen. This simply means that verbal form is not a passive reflection of a preconceived artistic idea, but an active element which influences the idea itself. But such an active mutual relationship – in which form influences and at times entirely transforms content – is known to us in all fields of social and even biologic life. This is no reason at all for rejecting Darwinism and Marxism and for the creation of a Formalist school either in biology or sociology.
Victor Shklovsky, who flits lightly from verbal Formalism to the most subjective valuations, assumes a very uncompromising attitude towards the historico-materialistic theory of art. In a booklet which he published in Berlin, under the title of The March of the Horse, he formulates in the course of three small pages – brevity is a fundamental and, at any rate, an undoubted merit of Shklovsky – five (not four and not six, but five) exhaustive arguments against the materialist conception of art. Let us examine these arguments, because it won’t harm us to take a look and see what kind of chaff is handed out as the last word in scientific thought (with the greatest variety of scientific references on these same three microscopic pages).
“If the environment and the relations of production,” says Shklovsky, “influenced art, then would not the themes of art be tied to the places which would correspond to these relations? But themes are homeless.” Well, and how about butterflies? According to Darwin, they also “correspond” to definite relations, and yet they flit from place to place, just like an unweighted litterateur.
It is not easy to understand why Marxism should be supposed to condemn themes to a condition of serfdom. The fact that different peoples and different classes of the same people make use of the same themes, merely shows how limited the human imagination is, and how man tries to maintain an economy of energy in every kind of creation, even in the artistic. Every class tries to utilize, to the greatest possible degree, the material and spiritual heritage of another class. Shklovsky’s argument could be easily transferred into the field of productive technique. From ancient times on, the wagon has been based on one and the same theme, namely, axles, wheels, and a shaft. However, the chariot of the Roman patrician was just as well adapted to his tastes and needs as was the carriage of Count Orlov, fitted out with inner comforts, to the tastes of this favorite of Catherine the Great. The wagon of the Russian peasant is adapted to the needs of his household, to the strength of his little horse, and to the peculiarities of the country road. The automobile, which is undoubtedly a product of the new technique, shows, nevertheless, the same “theme”, namely, four wheels on two axles. Yet every time a peasant’s horse shies in terror before the blinding lights of an automobile on the Russian road at night, a conflict of two cultures is reflected in the episode.
“If environment expressed itself in novels,” so runs the second argument, “European science would not be breaking its head over the question of where the stories of A Thousand and One Nights were made, whether in Egypt, India, or Persia.” To say that man’s environment, including the artist’s, that is, the conditions of his education and life, find expression in his art also, does not mean to say that such expression has a precise geographic, ethnographic and statistical character. It is not at all surprising that it is difficult to decide whether certain novels were made in Egypt, India or Persia, because the social conditions of these countries have much in common. But the very fact that European science is “breaking its head” trying to solve this question from these novels themselves, shows that these novels reflect an environment, even though unevenly. No one can jump beyond himself. Even the ravings of an insane person contain nothing that the sick man had not received before from the outside world. But it would be an insanity of another order to regard his ravings as the accurate reflection of an external world. Only an experienced and thoughtful psychiatrist, who knows the past of the patient, will be able to find the reflected and distorted bits of reality in the contents of his ravings. Artistic creation, of course, is not a raving, though it is also a deflection, a changing and a transformation of reality, in accordance with the peculiar laws of art. However fantastic art may be, it cannot have at its disposal any other material except that which is given to it by the world of three dimensions and by the narrower world of class society. Even when the artist creates heaven and hell, he merely transforms the experience of his own life into his phantasmagorias, almost to the point of his landlady’s unpaid bill.
“If the features of class and caste are deposited in art,” continues Shklovsky, “then how does it come that the various tales of the Great Russians about their nobleman are the same as their fairy tales about their priest?”
In essence, this is merely a paraphrase of the first argument. Why cannot the fairy tales about the nobleman and about the priest be the same, and how does this contradict Marxism? The proclamations which are written by well-known Marxists not infrequently speak of landlords, capitalists, priests, generals and other exploiters. The landlord undoubtedly differs from the capitalist, but there are cases when they are considered under one head. Why, then, cannot folk-art in certain cases treat the nobleman and the priest together, as the representatives of the classes which stand above the people and which plunder them? In the cartoons of Moor and of Deni, the priest often stands side by side with the landlord, withont any damage to Marxism.
“If ethnographic traits were reflected in art,” Shklovsky goes on, “the folk-lore about the peoples beyond the border would not be interchangeable and could not be told by any one folk about another.”
As you see, there is no letting up here. Marxism does not maintain at all that ethnographic traits have an independent character. On the contrary, it emphasizes the all-determining significance of natural and economic conditions in the formation of folk-lore. The similarity of conditions in the development of the herding and agricultural and primarily peasant peoples, and the similarity in the character of their mutual influence upon one another, cannot but lead to the creation of a similar folk-lore. And from the point of view of the question that interests us here, it makes absolutely no difference whether these homogeneous themes arose independently among different peoples, as the reflection of a life-experience which was homogeneous in its fundamental traits and which was reflected through the homogeneous prism of a peasant imagination, or whether the seeds of these fairy tales were carried by a favorable wind from place to place, striking root wherever the ground turned out to be favorable. It is very likely that, in reality, these methods were combined.
And finally, as a separate argument – “The reason (i.e., Marxism) is incorrect in the fifth place” – Shklovsky points to the theme of abduction which goes through Greek comedy and reaches Ostrovsky. In other words, our critic repeats, in a special form, his very first argument (as we see, even in so far as formal logic is concerned, all is not well with our Formalist). Yes, themes migrate from people to people, from class to class, and even from author to author. This means only that the human imagination is economical. A new class does not begin to create all of culture from the beginning, hut enters into possession of the past, assorts it, touches it up, rearranges it, and builds on it further. If there were no such utilization of the “second-hand” wardrobe of the ages, historic processes would have no progress at all. If the theme of Ostrovsky’s drama came to him through the Egyptians and through Greece, then the paper on which Ostrovsky developed his theme came to him as a development of the Egyptian papyrus through the Greek parchment. Let us take another and closer analogy: the fact that the critical methods of the Greek Sophists, who were the pure Formalists of their day, have penetrated the theoretic consciousness of Shklovsky, does not in the least change the fact that Shklovsky himself is a very picturesque product of a definite social environment and of a definite age.
Shklovsky’s destruction of Marxism in five points reminds us very much of those articles which were published against Darwinism in the magazine The Orthodox Review in the good old days. If the doctrine of the origin of man from the monkey were true, wrote the learned Bishop Nikanor of Odessa thirty or forty years ago, then our grandfathers would have had distinct signs of a tail, or would have noticed such a characteristic in their grandfathers and grandmothers. Second, as everybody knows, monkeys can only give birth to monkeys ... Fifth, Darwinism is incorrect, because it contradicts Formalism – I beg your pardon, I meant to say the formal decisions of the universal church conferences. The advantage of the learned monk consisted, however, in the fact that he was a frank passast and took his cue from the Apostle Paul and not from physics, chemistry or mathematics, as the Futurist, Shklovsky, does.
It is unquestionably true that the need for art is not created by economic conditions. But neither is the need for food created by economics. On the contrary, the need for food and warmth creates economics. It is very true that one cannot always go by the principles of Marxism in deciding whether to reject or to accept a work of art. A work of art should, in the first place, be judged by its own law, that is, by the law of art. But Marxism alone can explain why and how a given tendency in art has originated in a given period of history; in other words, who it was who made a demand for such an artistic form and not for another, and why.
It would be childish to think that every class can entirely and fully create its own art from within itself, and, particularly, that the proletariat is capable of creating a new art by means of closed art guilds or circles, or by the Organization for Proletarian Culture [Proletkult], etc. Generally speaking, the artistic work of man is continuous. Each new rising class places itself on the shoulders of its preceding one. But this continuity is dialectic, that is, it finds itself by means of internal repulsions and breaks. New artistic needs or demands for new literary and artistic points of view are stimulated by economics, through the development of a new class, and minor stimuli are supplied by changes in the position of the class, under the influence of the growth of its wealth and cultural power. Artistic creation Is always a complicated turning inside out of old forms, under the influence of new stimuli which originate outside of art. In this large sense of the word, art is a handmaiden. It is not a disembodied element feeding on itself, but a function of social man indissolubly tied to his life and environment. And how characteristic it is – if one were to reduce every Social superstition to its absurdity – that Shklovsky has come to the idea of art’s absolute independence from the social environment at a period of Russian history when art has revealed with such utter frankness its spiritual, environmental and material dependence upon definite social classes, subclasses and groups!
Materialism does not deny the significance of the element of form, either in logic, jurisprudence, or art. Just as a system of jurisprudence can and must be judged by its internal logic and consistency, so art can and must be judged from the point of view of its achievements in form, because there can be no art without them. However, a juridical theory which attempted to establish the independence of law from social conditions would be defective at its very base. Its moving force lies in economics – in class contradictions. The law gives only a formal and an internally harmonized expression of these phenomena, not of their individual peculiarities, but of their general character, that is, of the elements that are repetitive and permanent in them. We can see now with a clarity which is rare in history how new law is made. It is not done by logical deduction, but by empirical measurement and by adjustment to the economic needs of the new ruling class. Literature, whose methods and processes have their roots far back in the most distant past and represent the accumulated experience of verbal craftsmanship, expresses the thoughts, feelings, moods, points of view and hopes of the new epoch and of its new class. One cannot jump beyond this. And there is no need of making the jump, at least, for those who are not serving an epoch already past nor a class which has already outlived itself.
The methods of formal analysis are necessary, but insufficient. You may count up the alliterations in popular proverbs, classify metaphors, count up the number of vowels and consonants in a wedding song. It will undoubtedly enrich our knowledge of folk art, in one way or another; but if you don’t know the peasant system of sowing, and the life that is based on it, if you don’t know the part the scythe plays, and if you have not mastered the meaning of the church calendar to the peasant, of the time when the peasant marries, or when the peasant women give birth, you will have only understood the outer shell of folk art, but the kernel will not have been reached. The architectural scheme of the Cologne cathedral can be established by measuring the base and the height of its arches, by determining the three dimensions of its naves, the dimensions and the placement of the columns, etc. But without knowing what a mediaeval city was like, what a guild was, or what was the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages, the Cologne cathedral will never be understood. The effort to set art free from life, to declare it a craft self-sufficient unto itself, devitalizes and kills art. The very need of such an operation is an unmistakable symptom of intellectual decline.
The analogy with the theological arguments against Darwinism which was made above may appear to the reader external and anecdotal. That may be true, to some extent. But a much deeper connection exists. The Formalist theory inevitably reminds a Marxist who has done any reading at all of the familiar tunes of a very old philosophic melody. The jurists and the moralists (to recall at random the German Stammier, and our own subjectivist Mikhailovsky) tried to prove that morality and law could not be determined by economics, because economic life was unthinkable outside of juridical and ethical norms. True, the formalists of law and morals did not go so far as to assert the complete independence of law and ethics from economics. They recognized a certain complex mutual relationship of “factors”, and these “factors”, while influencing one another, retained the qualities of independent substances, coming no one knew whence. The assertion of complete independence of the aesthetic “factor” from the influence of social conditions, as is made by Shklovsky, is an instance of specific hyperbole whose roots, by the way, lie in social conditions too; it is the megalomania of aesthetics turning our hard reality on its head. Apart from this peculiarity, the constructions of the Formalists have the same kind of defective methodology that every other kind of idealism has. To a materialist, religion, law, morals and art represent separate aspects of one and the same process of social development. Though they differentiate themselves from their industrial basis, become complex, strengthen and develop their special characteristics in detail, politics, religion, law, ethics and aesthetics remain, none the less, functions of Social man and obey the laws of his social organization. The idealist, on the other hand, does not see a unified process of historic development which evolves the necessary organs and functions from within itself, but a crossing or combining and interacting of certain independent principles – the religious, political, juridical, aesthetic and ethical substances, which find their origin and explanation in themselves. The (dialectic) idealism of Hegel arranges these substances (which are the eternal categories) in some sequence by reducing them to a genetic unity. Regardless of the fact that this unity with Hegel is the absolute spirit, which divides itself in the process of its dialectic manifestation into various “factors”, Hegel’s system, because of its dialectic character, not because of its idealism, gives an idea of historic reality which is just as good as the idea of a man’s hand that a glove gives when turned inside out. But the Formalists (and their greatest genius was Kant) do not look at the dynamics of development, but at a cross-section of it, on the day and at the hour of their own philosophic revelation. At the crossing of the line they reveal the complexity and multiplicity of the object (not of the process, because they do not think of processes). This complexity they analyze and classify. They give names to the elements, which are at once transformed into essences, into sub-absolutes, without father or mother; to wit, religion, politics, morals, law, art. Here we no longer have a glove of history turned inside out, but the skin torn from the separate fingers, dried out to a degree of complete abstraction, and this hand of history turns out to be the product of the “inter-action” of the thumb, the index, the middle finger, and all the other “factors”. The aesthetic “factor” is the little finger, the smallest, but not the least beloved.
In biology, vitalism is a variation of the same fetish of presenting the separate aspects of the world-process, without understanding its inner relation. A creator is all that is lacking for a super-social, absolute morality or aesthetics, or for a super-physical absolute “vital force”. The multiplicity of independent factors, “factors” without beginning or end, is nothing but a masked polytheism. Just as Kantian idealism represents historically a translation of Christianity into the language of rationalistic philosophy, so all the varieties of idealistic formalizaton, either openly or secretly, lead to a God, as the Cause of all causes. In comparison with the oligarchy of a dozen sub-absolutes of the idealistic philosophy, a single personal Creator is already an element of order. Herein lies the deeper connection between the Formalist refutations of Marxism and the theological refutations of Darwinlsm.
The Formalist school represents an abortive idealism applied to the question of art. The Formalists show a fast ripening religiousness. They are followers of St. John. They believe that “In the beginning was the Word”. But we believe that in the beginning was the deed. The word followed, as its phonetic shadow.