King Lear 3.4.1-36


Here is the place, my lord: good my lord, enter;

The tyranny of the open night’s too rough

For nature to endure. Storm still.

LEAR Let me alone.


Good my lord, enter here.

LEAR Wilt break my heart?


I had rather break mine own. Good my lord, enter.


Thou think’st ’tis much that this contentious storm

Invades us to the skin: so ’tis to thee.

But where the greater malady is fixed,

The lesser is scarce felt. Thou’dst shun a bear,

But if thy flight lay toward the roaring sea,

Thou’dst meet the bear i’ th’ mouth. When the mind’s free,

The body’s delicate: this tempest in my mind

Doth from my senses take all feeling else,

Save what beats there, filial ingratitude.

Is it not as this mouth should tear this hand

For lifting food to’t? But I will punish home;

No, I will weep no more. In such a night

To shut me out? Pour on, I will endure.

In such a night as this? O Regan, Goneril,

Your old, kind father, whose frank heart gave you all –

O, that way madness lies, let me shun that;

No more of that.

KENT Good my lord, enter here.


Prithee, go in thyself. Seek thine own ease.

This tempest will not give me leave to ponder

On things would hurt me more. But I’ll go in;

[To the Fool.] In boy, go first. You houseless poverty –

Nay, get thee in. I’ll pray, and then I’ll sleep. Fool exits.

Poor naked wretches, wheresoe’er you are,

That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,

How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,

Your looped and windowed raggedness, defend you

From seasons such as these? O, I have ta’en

Too little care of this. Take physic, pomp,

Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,

That thou may’st shake the superflux to them

And show the heavens more just.

I include Kent’s lines to Lear at the beginning of 3.4 for context, but I’d like to track the psychological distance covered between – and within – Lear’s first two speeches in the scene. I was impressed by the number of ramifications generated from the basic source of conflict or tension here: Kent’s struggle to lead Lear into shelter. Lear’s monologues are, functionally, justifications for resisting Kent’s efforts, and the first speech in fact identifies Kent as its audience through direct address; when Lear invents a rather spontaneous analogy for preferring the lesser of two proverbial evils, we can assume that he is still addressing Kent. Thereafter, though, “the tempest in my mind” appears to coopt the properly dialogic capacity of Lear’s speech and Lear begins to refer to himself in posing a series of self-directed challenges or internal struggles. Lear can’t come to grips with Regan’s and Goneril’s ingratitude, so he vacillates – between restraining and venting emotion, between expressing indignation and disbelief, and, into the second speech, between following Kent and braving the storm. The progress of the action here depends on Lear’s remaining undecided (and so, delivering his lines outdoors), whereas the characterological effect of his insecurity might serve to underscore his frailty, or foreshadow his madness, or demonstrate the extent of his grief, or perform all three functions at once: the point being, Lear does not know his mind, and he speaks and acts accordingly.

But one transition over the course of this passage struck me above all, which involves the extension of sympathy or feeling (such a crucial term in the play) Lear undergoes between his first and second monologues. “[T]his tempest in my mind / Doth from my senses take all feeling else, / Save what beats there, filial ingratitude,” Lear initially declares, after explaining that, “where the greater [mental/psychological/spiritual/emotional] malady is fixed, / The lesser [physical] is scarce felt.” Lear’s frame of reference at the outset of the scene is only as wide as his personal experience, despite the amplification achieved by setting his domestic, paternal afflictions against his physical suffering during the storm. Lear’s admission to feeling nothing but the sting of “filial ingratitude” attests to a kind of sensorial obstruction that apparently deteriorates by the time Lear is incapable of even registering his daughters’ cruelty (“In such a night / To shut me out? Pour on, I will endure. / In such a night as this?). This suggests both an imaginative sterility* and a degree of self-concern that Lear reverses in his apostrophic second speech to an altogether different, drastically expanded audience. Lear’s unexpected invocation of his public, political sphere of influence – his reign, no more successful than his fatherhood – introduces another dimension to the representation of irresponsible authority in the play and adds depth and complexity to the humanity personified in the figure of Lear. We’ll talk about feeling in terms of identification or sympathy and in connection with seeing, I hope (recall Gloucester at 4.1.70-74, especially), but we can also discuss the status of obligation and loyalty, and even justice, as considered here. And might we push as far as love?


*I make this observation about Lear’s circumscribed point of view without any sound explanation for the fanciful bear analogy. Speculations are welcome.

Othello, 5.1.23-109

(I did my best to make the Folger online text of this passage consistent with our Oxford version, but please forgive any discrepancies in formatting, punctuation, etc.)

Enter Cassio
I know his gait, ’tis he! (Attacking Cassio) Villain, thou diest!
That thrust had been mine enemy indeed
But that my coat is better than thou know’st—
I will make proof of thine.
He wounds Roderigo
RODERIGO O, I am slain!
Iago wounds Cassio in the leg from behind, and exit
I am maimed forever! Help, ho! Murder, murder!
Enter Othello
The voice of Cassio! Iago keeps his word.
RODERIGO O, villain that I am!
OTHELLO, (aside) It is even so.
CASSIO O, help ho! Light! A surgeon!
OTHELLO, (aside)
’Tis he! O brave Iago, honest and just,
That hast such noble sense of thy friend’s wrong!
Thou teachest me.—Minion, your dear lies dead,
And your unblest fate hies. Strumpet, I come.
Forth of my heart those charms, thine eyes, are blotted.
Thy bed, lust-stained, shall with lust’s blood be spotted.
Enter Lodovico and Gratiano
What ho! No watch? No passage? Murder, murder!
’Tis some mischance; the voice is very direful.
CASSIO O, help!
RODERIGO O wretched villain!
Two or three groan. It is a heavy night;
These may be counterfeits: let’s think’t unsafe
To come in to the cry without more help.
Nobody come? Then shall I bleed to death.
Enter Iago with a light and his sword drawn
Here’s one comes in his shirt, with light and weapons.
Who’s there? Whose noise is this that cries on murder?
We do not know.
IAGO Do not you hear a cry?
Here, here! For heaven’s sake, help me!
IAGO What’s the matter?
This is Othello’s ensign, as I take it.
The same indeed, a very valiant fellow.
What are you here that cry so grievously?
Iago? O, I am spoiled, undone by villains—
Give me some help!
O me, lieutenant! What villains have done this?
I think that one of them is hereabout
And cannot make away.
IAGO O treacherous villains!
[To Lodovico and Gratiano]
What are you there? Come in, and give some help.
O, help me there!
That’s one of them.
IAGO O murd’rous slave!
O villain!
He stabs Roderigo
O damned Iago! O inhuman dog!
[Roderigo groans]
Kill men i’ th’ dark?—Where be these bloody thieves?
How silent is this town! Ho, murder, murder!
(To Lodovico and Gratiano)
What may you be? Are you of good or evil?
As you shall prove us, praise us.
IAGO Signor Lodovico?
I cry you mercy—here’s Cassio hurt by villains.
How is ’t, brother?
CASSIO My leg is cut in two.
IAGO Marry, heaven forbid!
Light, gentlemen: I’ll bind it with my shirt.
Enter Bianca
What is the matter, ho? Who is ’t that cried?
Who is ’t that cried?
BIANCA O, my dear Cassio,
My sweet Cassio, O Cassio, Cassio, Cassio!
O notable strumpet! Cassio, may you suspect
Who they should be, that have thus mangled you?
I am sorry to find you thus; I have been to seek you.
Lend me a garter. So.
He binds Cassio’s leg
O for a chair to bear him easily hence!
Alas, he faints! O, Cassio, Cassio, Cassio!
Gentlemen all, I do suspect this trash
To be a party in this injury.
Patience awhile, good Cassio. (To Lodovico and Gratiano) Come, come;
Lend me a light: (Going to Roderigo) know we this face, or no?
Alas, my friend and my dear countryman,
Roderigo! No? —Yes, sure!—O heaven, Roderigo!
GRATIANO What, of Venice?
IAGO Even he, sir—did you know him?
GRATIANO Know him? Ay.
Signior Gratiano? I cry your gentle pardon:
These bloody accidents must excuse my manners
That so neglected you.
GRATIANO I am glad to see you.
How do you, Cassio? [Calling] O, a chair, a chair!
GRATIANO Roderigo?
He, he, ’tis he.
Enter attendants with a chair
O, that’s well said—the chair!
Some good man bear him carefully from hence,
I’ll fetch the General’s surgeon. (To Bianca) For you, mistress,
Save you your labor.—He that lies slain here, Cassio,
Was my dear friend. What malice was between you?
None in the world; nor do I know the man.
IAGO (to Bianca)
What, look you pale? (To attendants) O, bear him out o’ th’ air!
(To Gratiano and Lodovico)
Stay you, good gentlemen.
Exeunt attendants with Cassio in the chair and the body of Roderigo
(To Bianca) Look you pale, mistress?
(To Lodovico and Gratiano) Do you perceive the gastness of her eye?
(To Bianca) Nay, if you stare, we shall hear more anon.
(To Lodovico and Gratiano) Behold her well. I pray you, look upon her:
Do you see, gentlemen? Nay, guiltiness
Will speak though tongues were out of use.
Enter Emilia

This was actually my first time reading Othello, and I’m afraid I might have missed something because I found it kind of…funny. There were moments when I could have laughed at the turn language? – speech, certainly, was taking, moments when characters’ verbal faculties seemed to melt down in ways it was difficult for me to imagine. There was Othello’s swoon, for one, though I could conceive of that in terms of pure emotional overdrive – but what about all the parroting, the lapses into mimicry on Iago’s, Emilia’s, Desdemona’s, Roderigo’s respective parts, often in conversation among themselves and/or with (especially) Othello? There’s Iago goading Roderigo on to “put money in thy purse” in 1.3; there’s Othello obsessing over Desdemona’s handkerchief in 3.4; there’s Emilia repeating after Othello like another broken record player in 5.2. And what about the as-yet-inconceivable (to me at least, and I haven’t yet seen any productions of the play) beelines performed in act as well as in speech by a cluster of characters at the start of Act 5?

It’s this episode that I’d like to highlight for emphasis this week, if mainly to get a clearer grasp of just exactly what is happening – and why – among the disoriented company on stage. I was struck by the number recycled words and phrases, for one, but even more so by their apparent extraneousness, hollowness, and accordingly by an impression of inertia paradoxical for such a kinetic scene. The more closely I followed these sequences of verbal echoes, the longer my passage became; I could reasonably have excerpted all of 5.1 – but that would have been more unreasonable than the helping I’ve provided above.

As you (re)read, note how many expressions bleed into multiple lines that, sometimes, fall at decent intervals from one another and/or carry into different characters’ speech. Does the repetition evacuate words of meaning here, or serve to escalate the tension of the drama? On the former count, note too the frequency of what Dolar would call ““prelinguistic’ phenomena” – all the “O”s, for instance, but also the groaning in the stage directions. One question I asked myself upon finishing Othello was: How does the play register doubt, insecurity, or confusion? Is this a scene that might exemplify the answer?

To be honest, I couldn’t hear this scene very well (unless it were as poorly-scripted melodrama!), but I could visualize it being pitch dark on the stage: Roderigo explicitly identifies Cassio by his gait, Iago enters bearing a torch, and the action depends on the lack of facial recognition, which the dialogue underscores by means of consistently questioned identities. Even so, I found the scene a little implausibly long, such that all the commotion lent itself to a kind of inertia, as I mentioned above. It wasn’t by accident that I also ventured to call the language here surprisingly hollow. If we imagine the characters acting upon strictly or predominately acoustic cues – engaging in a form of echolocation, as it were, especially with Cassio and Roderigo fixed in position on stage – could it follow that words are just sounds here? Or do the stakes of the action enhance the significance of the language?

A comment in closing on a pattern I noticed throughout the play and will refer to as split or layered speech. Othello’s “letter-reading” in 4.1, like Desdemona’s song in 5.2, provides a great example of speech that takes multiple addressees or demonstrates divided attention, and Iago’s lines at the end of the segment I’ve quoted work the same way. This effect might be extended to occasions of suspended syntax or interrupted utterance (also asides), which suggest parallel trains of thought and/or expression and which occur rather often in Othello. Did you find this trend meaningfully pronounced in this of the plays we’ve read so far? And if yes, perhaps thinking along the lines I’ve sketched above, how so?


Postscript; Trick or Treat

Well, there’s little for me to add to Will’s keen, tactful comments except affirmative emphasis, and I think Eliot should get the last word.

And now, looking ahead to Othello’s acoustics in two weeks, I had to send you all this. Below is a link to an English translation of Glossolalia, a pamphlet-length text on sound and sense published in Russian in 1922. It’s by Andrei Bely, novelist, language theorist, and icon of Symbolism, best known among English readers for Petersburg (1913). It’s subtitled “A Poem about Sound.” And it’s really wild. You’re in for cosmological mysticism, the physics of phonetics, the physiology of language – pretty zany pseudo-science if you take a look (which I’m not actually endorsing). Suffice it to quote from Bely’s introductory note: “To criticize me from a scholarly point of view is – absolutely ridiculous.” And to give you a visual taste:



More Thoughts (Responding to Will)

[Disclaimer: I’ve just read over my post, and it sounds rather like thinking out loud on (cyber-)paper. It’s probably riddled with conceptual errors, besides. And I notice that Mary and Maddy have posted passages in the meantime, so now I’ll go read those.]

Thanks, Will, for addressing some of this; I was admittedly hoping for another perspective, and it helps to get a sense of your disciplinary background. You make a compelling case for a certain philological orientation (if I needed any convincing; as I suggested, I’m nostalgically mindful of philological shadows everywhere!), and I agree that classical languages provide a limit case, as you say, for thinking about language in/and history. To state the obvious, an ancient text in the original would literally be devoid of sense or meaning for a casual reader. And that’s not quite the case for an older text in English, say: the earlier you go, the more remote the language and the more difficult the task of reading comprehension, but we can imagine a point – different for more or less every reader, and for every period of historical time – at which the linguistic identity of a text and the linguistic identity of an audience fall within close enough range for “easy” – or at least, comfortable (again, whatever that might be for any given reader or epoch) – access. So a measure of historical consciousness – the project of a philological reconstruction – becomes less pressing, itself more remote, if one can understand or relate to a text with thoughts left over for discussion. In its extreme form, this kind of presentism – wherein the activity of reading depends mostly, if not entirely, on the private experience of each respective reader – might be a radical expression of reader-response theory, or a radical application of reception studies.

But of course, at least in the way I read it, this logic rather repeats the mistake of undue emphasis on originary textuality – e.g., at the expense of close attention to a range of [ahem] ludic associations. For lack of a better expression, it’s too diachronic. And of course, synchronicity hasn’t been a better alternative since the ‘60s – because that posits a system or a structure that would accommodate ostensible differences in reading experiences across time (space too). That’s no crumpled handkerchief, in other words.

I want to press some of the words Will used, via last week’s reading/conversation, in part because I feel our (my) vocabulary getting out of hand. A-temporal, poly-temporal, multi-temporal, polychronic – what do all these mean, provided they don’t mean the same thing?! I don’t think we’re really talking about an atemporal mode of reading here, because that would be evacuated of meaning, like Will’s pseudo-Virgil example. And I don’t think polytemporality is exactly on the table either, because that would still be too prone to historicist attack (which would resemble the charge against structuralism, I think – but I might be seriously wrong).

Here’s the relevant portion of the Munro text we read:

“Drawing on Bruno Latour and Michel Serres, Harris suggests that early modern objects might be both polychronic and multi-temporal. An object such as a joint-stool might be polychronic because it gathers associations and meanings as it descends through time, while a printing press might be considered to be multi-temporal because it gathers together substances and technologies developed in various historical periods, complicating linear temporality. As Serres argues, ‘every historical era is likewise multitemporal, simultaneously drawing from the obsolete, the contemporary, and the futuristic. An object, a circumstance, is thus polychronic, multitemporal, and reveals a time that is gathered together, and with multiple pleats’” (20). (Munro goes on to translate this material orientation into linguistic/literary terms.)

Got that? I’m only sold on paper, to be honest. My best paraphrase for polychronicity and multi-temporality would borrow Maddy’s description from class: seeing the crumpled handkerchief whole, and all at once. So, if I were to imagine Virgil on a continuum from the first century BC to the digital age, my polychronic and multi-temporal vision would NOT give precedence to the Aeneid at either endpoint. NOR would I witness the Aeneid changing hands, assembly-line style, or even in network fashion. Instead, out goes the continuum – right? Except I’m still unsure about where I’ve ended up, and what my textual interaction now looks like. Which might be why I took recourse to philology in the first place.


P.S. I looked up Altertumswissenschaft, a new term for me, and here’s what Encyclopedia Britannica had: “During the 19th century, Germans evolved the concept of Altertumswissenschaft (‘science of antiquity’) to emphasize the unity of the various disciplines of which the study of the ancient world consists.” This sentence came right after the following definition for classical scholarship: “the study, in all its aspects, of ancient Greece and Rome. In continental Europe the field is known as ‘classical philology,’ but the use, in some circles, of ‘philology’ to denote the study of language and literature—the result of abbreviating the 19th-century ‘comparative philology’—has lent an unfortunate ambiguity to the term.” Now, is it just me, or does it sound like the ambiguity in question relates to classical scholarship here? Ambiguity indeed.

What I Was Thinking in Class

I hoped to chime in at some point during the latter half of class today in order to spare you another post (I don’t feel comfortable being a blog-hog!); I would like to put a few thoughts out there, though, be they in the way of further speculation on time and history in our critical thinking. So here goes.

I feel like our ambivalence today – between the inclination to preserve what might be a sequential, roughly diachronic mode of thinking predicated on phenomenal experience or perception, and the acknowledgement and pursuit of an interpretive logic or simply apprehensive faculty that would account for multi-temporality or polychronicity – derives from our current disciplinary situation. Which perhaps sounds self-evident. But I couldn’t help thinking of disciplinary history during our discussion – specifically, when Will commented on confronting a (here) textual object occluded? or enhanced? by layers of historical sediment: spin-offs, parodies, associations, etc. I was thinking, just as Will was about to articulate that notion of arriving at an ur-text, of sorts, “excavation”: this is a process of excavating the (here) literary past. But (I’m almost certain) Will said “reconstruct.” Which put me squarely in mind of philology.

(Bear with me, please, and please correct where necessary; this is fairly untried stuff.) We’re hoping, especially these two weeks, to follow through on historical attention to words, and that sounds compatible with the philological enterprise of yore – before the consolidation of literary studies as we know it around the turn of the twentieth century, but really a few decades into the 1900s. I write “of yore,” knowing that philology exists to this day as the study of linguistic features, patterns, and transformations in classical languages (and I hope I’m not entirely butchering that, esp. vis-à-vis historical linguistics; classicists, don’t hold back). But it went out the window with respect to vernacular languages in the literary field after the 1800s – that is, philology as it was then known.

What I find incredibly fascinating is the way in which philology has in fact splintered into new or adjacent domains and perseveres under different titles, in different places, today. I’m thinking of it in the European (to my knowledge, specifically German) context, as equivalent to American bibliography, loosely, and textual criticism, more precisely. This refers to scholarship that approaches texts as material objects – looking at textual variants, editorial and print histories, physical properties – in order to establish authoritative versions of texts or pin-point them on a bibliographic continuum. That’s very much still a project of “reconstruction,” only it announces itself, in the post-modern environment, as amenable to the kinds of receptivist tendencies we articulated today – to textual identity as inclusive of spatio-temporal contingencies. (Not to get too left-field here, I’m thinking of a book called Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts, by D. F. Mackenzie, which argues, in part, that each different iteration of a text bears significance and a kind of positive value in its, as it were, deviancy.) So this is effectively a materialist shoring-up of what I imagine constituted part of traditional philology into an independent (and relatively uncommon) discipline today.

The other side of current philological interest – or at least, a putative throwback to philology from not too long ago – factored into the late-century conversation over literary theory. I’m not confident in my ability to impart this material accurately, but there was talk of a “return to philology” (cf. Paul de Man) as part and parcel of critical/theoretical/arguably abstract literary inquiry that still rejected the ostensible positivism of traditional philological practice while actually promoting close reading techniques attuned to latent textual meaning (not under the auspices of New Criticism per se, that is). I think this coincides with, or at least relates to, the kinds of representations of time and history we encountered today – ones that reimagine linear time (at bottom, undermining the idea of a primary textual occasion, origin, or genesis). Ones that [try to – but that’s just me] retain the likes of our class project – thinking about the fabric of the language and the texture of words – without recourse to outmoded philological paradigms.

To recap: Thinking about literary language in conjunction with history recalls philology, which doesn’t exist in modern literature departments. There is a materialist study of texts, compatible with what’s called philology elsewhere, if we’re asking about books and not, say, cups and saucers. And the latest phase of philological inquiry, it seems to me, tried to redefine “reconstruction.”  Might this kind of philological nebulousness have contributed to our being hard-pressed for answers today?


“Is This Shakespeare?”

Here I am again, perhaps a little slaphappy from the pastiches Jeff quoted above, because you’re in for an anecdotal post if you keep reading. “Is this Shakespeare?” For whatever reason, I thought back some fifteen years? more? to a Candid Camera episode (I said this would be random) that asked the same thing. Briefly, Candid Camera was a 90s/early 2000s television program that taped people’s unscripted responses (or so they advertised) to circumstances staged for humorous effect. So the clip in question, as I recall, featured a mock-interviewer polling random passers-by on whether some passage of verse “was Shakespeare.” I was a few years into school at the time, and “Shakespeare” was a new word for me. So I ingenuously turned to my parents asked just what “Shakespeare” was: a very famous writer. I retorted! How could they presume upon my ignorance by mistaking an adjectival category for a noun phrase? I had sense enough to know (after all!) that a text could only “be” a certain way – long, difficult, poetic – or, it might be something – a book, a poem – but not someone.

It would mean something quite different to ask, “Is this Shakespearean?” since any number of extra-linguistic categories – dramatic/theatrical, characterological, Elizabethan – might apply. When one invokes “the Kafkaesque,” for instance, Kafka’s prose style doesn’t immediately come to mind. To what extent does the force of the substantive channel bardolatry, then? And if that’s a leading question, does it refer to a healthy, a constructive move? If “the Shakespearian” sounds very baggy until it’s made specific to, say, character, since we’re discussing that next week, does “Shakespeare,” on the other hand, indicate something so distilled or quintessential – or perhaps just personal – that the descriptive exercise falls through?


P.S. I wish I could have touched on any of the other valuable threads we’ve pursued so far, from figural procedures to counting operations, but I’m afraid this is all I have for now. Hopefully it drew a laugh. Anyway.

A Premature Afterthought

My apologies in advance if this begins to sound confessional, discursive, delusional. First, I’d like to thank you all for today’s discussion of Jakobson, namely (many thanks to Jeff for assigning him); it was my second time engaging with “Linguistics and Poetics” in company, and my first experience actually talking about “Two Aspects of Language.” The latter, in particular, is a piece I continue to think much about. I’m going to circle back to our Jakobsonian concerns at the end of this post, by way of a detour through Burke, with whom I’ll agree in at least one respect (though there are more; but I also don’t usually find Burke affecting/effective): his four master tropes sure do “shade into one another.”

Jeff mentioned irony as an adjacent (and likewise slippery) figure in class today during his introduction of metaphor and metonymy, with a nod to style. I’ve been thinking about irony for a little while now along more or less these lines (my interest has to do with wit and, as it happens, the conceit), and I entirely agree. So I was struck by the following definition for “allegoria” in Puttenham: “when we speak one thing and think another, and […] our words and our meanings meet not” (270). Irony, right? At least, in one of its multiple forms. But it gets better because Puttenham elaborates by alluding to dissembling and dissimulation – “the Figure of the False Semblant.” (I’ll just mention here how neat it is that he allegorizes each of his “sensable” figures.) Already, semblance, similitude, seeming are triggered in my mind – all coded references to our master trope, metaphor, insofar as it’s predicated on an analogic mode of thinking (which, yikes, deserves a post all by itself; perhaps we’ll encounter it sometime? [I’m not sure that Puttenham’s “analogia,” “a decent proportion in our writings and speech,” is the same thing, though? {240}]). Then Puttenham, effectively, “maketh the figure allegory to be called a long and perpetual metaphor” because it, allegory, constitutes itself in speech “in sense translative and wrested from the own signification” (271). So allegory is in a way a function of metaphor, and “ironia” occupies neighboring space under the flag of “Dissimulation, […] the chief ringleader and captain of all other figures either in the poetical or oratorical science” (271). And so two of Burke’s categories are uniquely related in Puttenham, specifically vis-à-vis allegory (though I’m unfortunately not at the point of looping in synecdoche and metonymy, especially not with Jakobson inevitably intervening). And so – I’m tempted: can I? at the risk of severe conflation? anachronism? retrojection? – what would Puttenham, and Peacham, for that matter, have said about symbol? It doesn’t appear, from what I could see, in either of our primary texts for this week. And I ask because it has to do with modes or processes of signification – of being, seeming, appearing – ostensibly different from those indicated by allegory. But I don’t know.

Now back to Jakobson. Will posed the searingly penetrating question of what it would mean and how it would look to treat literary texts according to Jakobson’s system – how to apply, implement (and thereby, perhaps, value?) his structural(ist) paradigms. Well, YES. I want to point to the opening sentences of Burke’s essay: “I refer to metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, and irony. And my primary concern with them here will be not with their purely figurative usage, but with their role in the discovery and description of ‘the truth’” (my italics). Does Burke ever deliver on his intention, anywhere over the course of the essay or in its (cryptic) closing section? What would it even look like for him to deliver on a premise he treats with some degree of condescension otherwise and elsewhere (I’m referring to his use of “scientific realism” here specifically)? There’s a very strong chance that I’m overlooking or misconstruing some point, so please call it out if I am. But I jotted down a question by Burke’s first paragraph that my reading of “Four Master Tropes” failed to address. What are the stakes here?