Academic journal article Style

On the Narrative Function of Metonymy in Chapter XIV of Heine's Ideen. das Buch le Grand

Academic journal article Style

On the Narrative Function of Metonymy in Chapter XIV of Heine's Ideen. das Buch le Grand

Article excerpt

Introduction

Chapter XIV of Heine's travelogue Ideen. Das Buch Le Grand (1826) features a striking scene which is most often read as the author's highly subjectivist 'settling of accounts' with Hamburg, the city in which the author undertook (and quickly discontinued) a bank and trade apprenticeship. When read more closely from a rhetorical and narratological point of view, however, the text develops an additional code that comments on the process of narrating with figurative means. More precisely, the dense network of tropes, (in which metonymy figures most prominently), in Heine's prose puts the agency involved in the narrator's observation and narration to the test. In a second step, the analysis of this network and of the way in which it thematizes and mediates the agency behind the narrative act allows us to ask the more theoretical question what narrative functions figures of speech, (in a rhetorical sense), can be said to produce. The close reading of the particular text is thus supplemented with a brief delineation of the framework in which the methodological outlook of narratology and rhetoric can be combined. As such, this article ties in with more recent attempts to describe the function of tropes in narrative, a debate which extends across the disciplines of rhetoric and narratology and which tends to focus mainly on tropes in isolation (cf. Fludernik, Freeman and Freeman; Kimmel).

'Consuming' One's Fellow-Citizens

Heine established his fame with the late-Romantic poetry collected in Buch der Lieder (1827), although his ironic deconstruction of exhausted Romanticist ideals was often overlooked in the predominantly sentimental mode of reception. Taking its cue from the digressive style of Laurence Sterne, Heine's prose resorted to the freedoms of the descriptive and fictionalized autobiography. Only loosely embedded within the framework of a travelogue, his Reisebilder ('travel pictures') allowed him to convey political ideas under the conditions of harshened post-Metternich censorship. Through the figure of the whimsical drummer Le Grand in Napoleon's army, which the title of the book refers to, Heine expresses his adherence to the ideas and values of the French Revolution and his unabashed admiration for Napoleon. This declared sympathy for the French style both in politics and aesthetics amounted to a deliberate provocation of his German audience. Heine went into exile in Paris in 1831. We will limit our analysis to chapter XIV in order to allow for a thorough rhetorical close reading as well as in view of the fact that this chapter has often been avoided (Kolb 32f) or considered to be very "undiplomatic" (Phelan 96). The scenic impetus of this particular chapter situates the narrator as an 'I-witness' strolling on the city's luxurious promenades of Hamburg. From the outset, however, these scenic elements are bracketed by an extended form of figurative discourse. The imagery turns the reality of Hamburg's rich merchants into a source domain which allows the narrator to characterize the enterprise of his satiric writing on a meta-level. The satiric observer-as-writer, responding to the advice that he should obey the Horatian advice and wait for nine years before having his texts published, claims that he is not inclined to do so, since he has such a wealth of "material" at his disposal:

   I am in the same place, and I can say that I feel very pleased to
   think that all these fools I see here can be used in my writings,
   they are money in the bank, cash in hand. I'm in clover. The Lord
   has blessed me, there is a particularly fine crop of fools this
   year, and as a provident housekeeper I consume only a few, select
   the most fertile and store them up for the future. I am often seen
   on the promenade, cheerful and merry. Like a wealthy merchant,
   walking among the chests, bales and barrels in his warehouse and
   rubbing his hands with glee, so I walk among my people. … 
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