A Time for the Humanities: Futurity and the Limits of Autonomy

By James J. Bono; Tim Dean et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
Articulation and the Limits of Metaphor

Ernesto Laclau


1

In a well-known essay, Gérard Genette discusses the question of the interdependence between metaphor and metonymy in the structuration of Proust’s narrative.1 Following the pathbreaking work of Stephen Ullmann,2 he shows how, on top of the central role traditionally granted to metaphor in Proust’s work, there are other semantic movements of a typical metonymic nature whose presence is, however, necessary for metaphor to succeed in its figural effects. A hypallage such as “sécheresse brune des cheveux” [the brown dryness of hair3]—instead of “sécheresse des cheveux bruns” [the dryness of brown hair]—would be a typical example of such metonymical displacements. Genette, however, insists from the very beginning that it is not a simple question of recognizing the coexistence of both metaphor and metonymy in the Proustian text, but of showing how they require each other: how without the one shading into the other, neither of them could play the specific role that is expected from them in the constitution of a narrative economy. In his words, “far from being antagonistic and incompatible, metaphor and metonymy sustain and interpenetrate each other, and to give its proper place to the second will not consist in drawing a concurrent list opposed to that of metaphors, but rather in showing the

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