Epic (The New Critical Idiom)


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About the Series

The answer 'poraro ' is nearer, and i c acrivares rhe pun on rhe word 'eye' in a way rhar produces an elemenrary form of wir.

Again, the word 'eye' is an example of carachresis. The presence of rwo possible answers , one obvious and wrong, and one rhat is correcr bur nor obvious, is a fearure of many riddles. Alrernarively, insread of an obvious bur wrong answer rhere may simply be a block, an insoluble puzzle.

More precisely, ir relies on rhe face char any noun carries wirh ic a sec of predicares, a ser of qualiries char we normally associare wirh ir ,. The riddle selecrs properries which. The 'work ' of rhe riddle involves a crafted play wirh the overlap between these p redicate-sets. They are synonyms, have a common core of meaning; and this core is conveyed in a relation of symbolisation which is organ- ised by a range of rhetorical figures both at the semantic level and at the level of sound.

This is the reason why catechism questions don't count as riddles: the question and the answer are not synonymous. Tzvetan Todorov thus defines the riddle as the unity within a dialogic couplet of a predicate and a subject: a set of properties, and the thing they describe. Taken together, this dialogue of subject and predicate gives a definition of the thing, either of the kind you would find in a dictionary or of the kind you would find in an encyclopaedia, and definitions are pieces of 'public' knowledge which must be sharable.

This is why answers known only to an individual, like Samson's riddle, are not appropriate to the 'true' riddle Todorov The underlying form of the riddle is thus something like this:. Yet is it true that riddles have only two parts, co rresponding to a question and an answer 4 or 5?

Series: The New Critical Idiom

In one sense, yes: this is how rid- dles are represented in written form. Bur in practice the answer is fre- quently not given by the person questioned , and is rather the last of three moves, which Goffman characterises as ' l question, 2 thought and give-up, 3 answer' Goffman It is , normatively, the qttestioner who supplies the answer after defeating his or her interlocutor.

In order to account for this discrepancy between two different ways of under- standing the riddle, we need now to think about it in terms of the social practice in which it is embedded, the action it performs within a frame- work of social interaction, and that helps to shape its inner dynamic. In these terms, the riddle can be understood as a verbal comest staged over a hidden know ledge. Enacting a duel between two or more interlocutors, it passes from enigma to revelation and conversational vi ctory and defeat. Describing it as a charm a magical spell in reverse, Northrop Frye characterises the riddle as a trap that can be sprung if we g uess the right answer, whereas rhe unguessed or unguessable riddle may destray us Frye Thus, 'riddles often imply some kind of en.

Ir is insufficient, then , to think of rhe riddle solely as a verbal form. It is , more broadly, a discursive practice which constructs a certain kind of relationship between its protagonists. Traces of the sacr:ed or taboo hang around the secret knowledge possessed by the questioner Caillois , and the challenge and response built inco the structure of question and answer encode the form of a ritual ordeal. Thi s is elegantly indicated a contrario in the form of Swahili riddle interaction reported by Kallen and Eastman, where the 'answer' rakes the form of a story in which both the riddle-giver and the recipients are given the solution by an old woman.

This solving of the puzzle by a third party 'de-emphasises the divisive elements originally present in the riddle interchange, and softens the blow ro the riddle recipients who could nN themselves supply the knowledge required of them ' Kallen an.! Eastman 42 3. When one does not know what it is, then it is something; but when one knows what it is, then it is nothing. Taylor 4. The 'it' here is the riddle itself: riddles lose their point when th.

Goffman agrees :. The purpose of the asked person's move is not to inform the asker about the answer but to show whether he is smart enough to uncover what the asker already knows. But here the interaction falls flat if indeed the correct answer is uncovered.. Thus riddles should have one good solution , and rhis solution, just as in the detective srory, should be both in principle available ro rhe respondent , and in practice nor available.

This formal requirement shapes the kind of interaction the genre makes possible: rhe work rhar is done by riddles is that of linking people rogerher around a game of knowing and nor-knowing. Again, I should stress that rhese rules apply only ro the 'Western' form of the riddle: in some African forms rhe respondent's approach is governed by rhe fact rhar 'rhe connection between question and answer is fixed by tradition and popular accep- tance' Haring What I have described thus far is, on rhe one hand , a logical struc- ture which I take ro be characteristic of the Western riddle, what Scott 74 calls a 'partially obscured semantic fit' between a subject and a set of predicates, and, on rhe other, a structure of enunciation which has to do with a stylised contest between questioner and respondent, waged as a struggle for possession of a secret or hidden knowledge.

These are both dimensions of the presentation of an enigma, and rhey are central ro the social meaning of the riddle; a third dimension has to do with the thematic content of riddles. Of course, riddles can be about anything. We can guess from rheir frequent occurrence as children's games rhar they have something ro do with learning about the basic categories of the world , in part by upset- ting them , playing around with them ; and perhaps rhe majority of rhe world 's riddles refer ro the ordinary th ings of daily use.

But in the more elaborate riddles of literary and folkloric tradition , certain topoi recur- rent ropics of discourse which are embryonically present in the simpler forms rend ro emerge as characteristic. I identify three of rhem: 'thing- ness'; sexuality; and rhe disorder of nature. But consider riddle' number 44 in Muir's edition of rhe Exeter Book, in my translation:.

A curious thing hangs by a man's thigh Full under the cloth. It is pierced in front. It is stiff and hard and it stands proud ; When the man pulls up his garment Over his knees he wants to poke With the head of his hanging thing that well-known hole That he has often filled before. Here rhe descriptive detail is developed for irs own sake, emphas. Yet this descriptive decail is at the same time a functional part of the poem 's game of misleading the reader into supposing a sexual content.

These riddles suggest that a concern with the details of thingness is also a form of sexual curiosity, and the riddle form is perhaps ideally suited ro exploring it. The or her thematic area that I find characteristic of rhe riddle is f. A Jamaican riddle similarly plays with negation:. A man have a corn field and he says, ' If they come, they won't come; and if they don't come, they come'. The king ask him the meaning of that. He tell him, 'If your pigeons come , your corn won't come; and if your pigeons don 't come, your corn will come'.

Abrahams The more striking form of this accentuation of paradox in the riddle occurs, however, in the thematisation of an inverted or ambiguous natural order. A simple example is a group of riddles Taylor , nos. As I went over London Bridge, I saw a lady standing; I pulled off her head and sucked her blood And left her body standing. It is above all in the neck riddle , however, chat the force of negation and the themacisacion of natural disorder most powerfully occur. This is che motif of 'preg nant death':. As I walked out and in again , From the dead the living came.

Six there is and seven there'll be, So tell me this riddle and set me free. A-horse's skull in which he has seen a bird hatching its brood of seven, with one still hatching. I ride on a filly that never was foa led , And carry the mare's skin in my hand.

The man had put earth in his cap, oak leaves in his shoe, cut open a pregnant mare to obtain the foal, and made a whip of the mare's skin. The hero is cm from his mother's womb, either causing her death or following upon.! Lacer, he ob rains a horse chat is also 'unborn '. In some cases gloves are made from the mother's skin. The hero eventually wins a princess with a riddle alluding to his aberrant birch, che confusion of family relations in incest , and the gruesome article of clothing :.

I am not born, neither is my horse. I am the son of the daughter of my father, and I wear the hands of my mother. This whole thematic area has been particularly important in complex literary texts : in Lear's 'Nothing will come of nothing ' in Shakespeare's King Lear , or in the witches' prophetic riddle forecasting chat 'none of woman born I Shall harm Macbeth ' Macbeth, IV, 1, - a riddle answered by Macduff:.

Despair thy cha rm ; And let the Angel , whom thou still has served ,. Tell thee, Macduff was from his mother's womb Untimely ripp'd. Macbeth, V, 8, Where the riddle explores natural disorder as an extension of its fasc i- nation with logical contradiction or ambiguity, and treats it in the same. The 'dark night' chat 'strangles the travel- ling lamp'. Yet the very richness of this metaphorical focus is in part made possible by the generic structures of the riddle on which Macbeth draws. The riddle is in one sense a 'simple' form but it is also a complex working of its raw materials: the logic of subject and predicate, the cultural organisation of the categories of being, the agonistic dynamics of question and answer, and the social force of the secret.

It is only the beginning of an analysis to posit a distinction between simple and complex forms; however useful this distinction may be heuristically, all simple forms are in the long run complex. The prophetic riddles in Ma. From the prophecy they cake the sense of an inevitable face ; from the riddle , the structure of an apparent paradox which is resolved in an unex- pected way, as well as the link berween patterns of order and disorder in language and in the natural world.

By welding these two forms together, the play fuses the 'non-time' of the riddle Dorst with the prophecy's drive towards the future : from being a static, non-narrative form, the riddle here becomes dynamic; and the delivery of the answer to a question we had not suspected to be one 'What is the man who is not born of woman I' comes to work as a crucial moment of plot-reversal.

The play thus rakes the two genres, prophecy and riddle , into itself, enriching its own texture by drawing upon their structural force. But what does it mean for our understanding of genre ro say that a text in one genre incorporates a text in another, and what are the conditions that make this possible? In order to begin formulating an answer ro these questions , I want to look more closely at the concept of the speech situation and the relation of 'voices ' within it. In this sittn- tion, each speaker figures him- or herself as T and their inrerlocuror as 'you'.

Each of these pronouns is a representation of the presence of the speaker ro themselves and ro each other, but each of these pronoufls also has the capacity to represent each person in situations other than the present one. Thus I can say that 'I was unhappy yesterday ', me aning that 'I here and now ' am speaking of myself 'I then' as other than my present self, just as 'you will be in Paris romorrow' projects the present 'you ' into a 'you' imagined in another time and place.

This basic speech situation thus already looks rather complex as a result of this capacity of the T and the 'you' to represent both a present and an absent figure, or both present and absent aspects of the same fig- ure. It is further complicated when we notice that these pronouns have a shifting reference: they are not names attached ro bodies , but labile des- ignations of places from which and to which to speak. With the addition of the third major slot i.

From this structural fact flows another: char every piece of spe aking may embed another piece of speaking. I can ci te myself or you or another person as speaking, at another rime and place wheth e r real or fictive , in the first person: 'He said ro me "I don't understafld ''. The structure of enunciation in conversational exchange thus involves three different ways in which the self-ofspeech the 'I' and the 'you', the subject of utterance is displaced and distinguished from the actual people who speak the utterers, or subjects of enunciation : the speaker may refer to him- or herself, or to their interlocutor, as being in another place and rime; the 'I' and 'you' of the speaking selves shift between speakers; and other speaking selves may be embedded in any act of speech.

The selves operating in any speech situation are projections in language rather than empirical actualities. Goffman calls them 'enacted capacities' Goffman 46 , and talks of the personal pronoun as 'a figure in a statement' which represents us to others, and others to us. We rend to assume, nevertheless, that the statements I make when I speak are fully authored by me: that I am their sole source, even though I speak, to paraphrase Derrida , in a language and a logic which I did not invent and cannot folly control, and even if my speech is full of citations of the language of others.

But this assumption supposes that lan- guage consists of statements isolated from each other. If, on the contrary, we accept that language mostly happens in the form of dialogue, then any statement is to some degree a response to another: whether I am replying to you, or merely anticipating your response to my statement, what I say will to some extent incorporate your actual or expected counter-statement. It inflects my speech, which in turn is 'accompanied by a continual side- ways g lance at another person' Bakhrin : This is a constant theme in Bakhtin's writing: language is internally shaped by its dialogic orientation.

Any utterance is characterised by what he calls its 'addressivity' Bakhrin 95 , and thus exists in 'a dialogically agitated and tension-filled environment of alien words, value-judgements and accents, weaves in and out of complex interrela- tionships, merges with some, recoils from others, intersects with yet a third group..

Even a single word may be heard dialogically if it is perceived 'nor as the impersonal word of language but as a sign of someone else's semanric position, as the representative of another person's urterance; that is , if we hear in it someone else's voice' Bakhrin Language in use that is, discourse is filled with the dialogic play of speech acts and the m eanings that attach to chem.

Reported speech is, for Bakhcin and for Volosinov, the primord ial example of this acrive, tension-filled play of speech-positions within. A reported statement is rhema- tised by and within its context but retains its difference, entering the syntactic field of the embedding sentence without surrendering its own syntactic and semantic integrity. Even when its syntax is modified , as in indirect discourse 'He said he didn't understand ' or free indirect d is-.

And the reason why this is important is that 'what is expressed in the forms employed for report ing speech is an active relation of one message to another, and it is expressed, moreover, not on the level of the theme but in the stabilised construc- tional patterns of the language itself' Volosinov Study of the forms of reported speech has theoretical precedence even over the study of dialogue, because 'these forms reflect basic and constanr ren- dencies in the active reception of other speakers' speech', something which is fundamental as well for d ialogue Volosinov It is this focus on the dialogic play of utterances that leads to Bakhtin's later concern with the integration and themarisation of.

The novel is his privileged model of a com- plex secondary genre:. To a greater or lesser extent, every novel is a dialogised system made up of the images of 'languages', styles and consciousnesses that are co ncrete and inseparable from langua ge. Language in the novel not only represents, but itself serves as the object of representation. What the novel gives us, through such technical devices as free ind irect discourse and the use of 'intonarional quotation marks', is 'the image of another's language and outlook on the world , simultaneously represenw;: and representing' Bakhtin Incorporating such genres as the confession, the diary, the letter, travel notes, and biography, the novel processes these generic forms as '"frames" or "fixes" on the world' :.

Each of these genres possesses its own verbal and semantic forms for assimilating various aspects of reality.

[the New Critical Idiom] John Frow - Genre (2006, Routledge)

The novel, indeed, utilises these genres precisely because of their capacity, as well worked-out forms, to assimilate reality in words. Bakhtin Indeed , the novel is so dependent on other genres that it itself 'has the appearance of being merely a secondary syncretic unification of other seemingly primary verbal genres' Bakhtin : It is more like a fusion of other genres than a genre in its own right , but this is precisely what gives it its force: in absorbing 'voices ' from the culture, the novel activates the reality-forming dimensions of genre.

The key Bakhtin coinage here is 'heteroglossia', the orientation cowards a multiplicity of other voices and languages which so marks the srylistics of the novel and which is realised through a range of stylised vocalisations:. Authorial speech, the speeches of narrators, inserted genres , the speech of characters are merely those fundamental compositional unities with whose help heteroglossia can enter the novel; each of them permits a multiplicity of social voices and a wide variety of their links and interrelationships. Bakhtin : Heteroglossia is not just a matter of the incorporation and stylisation of other genres, then: it covers the full range of citation of other speech forms and of the play between different positions of enunciation.

Yet insofar as other genres appear in the novel in the form of 'voices ', com- plexes of ways of speaking and subject matter, these different levels of structure are treated equivalently by the novel. The cryptic riddle form embedded in 'none of woman born I Shall harm Macbeth ' - reall y a concealed question to which the answer is 'Macduff was from his mother's womb I Untimely ripp'd ' - is presented to us by way of this particular instance of the genre.

Indeed, this is the only way we know about the structures of genre: through particular texts from which we extrapolate a more general logic. The embedding of the logic of one genre within the logic of anothu takes place textually, then ; and the general process of which I have beer't speaking could perhaps be called citation: that is, the shifting of text from one textual and generic context to another. Briggs and Bauman 14 1 give the example of the Kuna people's curing texts called irkarkana from the Panamanian terricory of San Blas which are d is..

Their uses range:. Yet much of the logic. A letter inserted into a third-person narrative retains the structure of first-person speech , together with its connotations of intimacy and directness, within the new speech situation that now frames it and gives it a differ- ent function. This is similar to Volosinov's point about reported speech retaining its semantic and even syntactic integrity within the embed- ding sentence Volosinov : The embedded text has been 'keyed', co employ a useful phrase of Erving Goffman's: shifted from a primary to a secondary framework which is patterned on the first but perceived co be quite different from it.

Goffman's initial example of keying, borrowed from Bateson , is of the way animals play by pretending co fight: what looks like hurtful and aggressive behaviour is in fact bracketed, suspended , so that 'bitinglike behaviour occurs, but no one is seriously bitten' Goffman Human behaviour is rich in analogous forms of bracketing: make-believe and fantasy, aes- thetic activity more generally, contests and ceremonials, practising or replaying or rehearsing, and the 'regrounding ' of an activity in a context where it means something quite different, such as work performed for charity.

One definition of aesthetic practices is that they are keyings of the real : representations of real acts or thoughts or feel ings wh ich are not themselves, in the same sense, real. Shifting texts to another generic context has that kind of effect: it suspends the primary generic force of the text, but not its generic structure.

In the last chapter I quoted Miller's definition of genre as ' typified rhecorical actions based in recurrent situations' Miller a: Now I need co add to this the qualification that, insofar as texts are constantly 'keyed', constantly cited in other contexts, they are thus constantly shifted out of the situation tO which they typically respond. Take the following embedding of a letter in a narrative context Austen :. She had read Miss Crawford's note only once; and how to reply to any thing so im perfectly un derstood was most distressing.

I do not know what I write, but it wou ld be a great favour of you never to mention the subject again. With thanks for the. The conclusion was scarcely intelligible from increasing fright, for she found that Mr Crawford, under pretence of receiving the note , was coming towards her.

We see Fanny, that is to say, momentarily from the 'inside' as indeed w e do every time her speech is directly reported before switching back to an 'external' view. At the same time, however, it is precisely the gene ric charac reristics of the letter as a form of social exchange which work here to structure the scene's dramatic irony. At this point in the novel Fanny is subjec r to moral pressure both from Heney Crawford, who wishes to marry her, and from his sister Mary.

The same thing happens in Choderlos de Laclos's Dangerous Liaisons , where a letter written by the Presidente to Valmont telling him she will have nothing to do with him is precisely a way of continuing their relationship Laclos : 2 10 ; or more extremely, when the Presidente keeps returning Valmont's letter which he recycles in new envelopes, the letter communicates as a pure fact of relationship rather than as a content. Part of what the complex aesthetic genres imitate, then, is other gen- res and the effects they produce.

In doing so they displace the genres they ci te from their primary manner of producing these effects and rum them into a thematic object.

revolexituju.tk : Epic (The New Critical Idiom) () : Paul Innes : Books

They work - co quote Volosinov again - as 'speech about speech, utterance about unerance' Volosinov A more general word than 'citation' for this phenomenon of speech or writing, or images which refers to other speech or writing , or images.. What I mean by this is the range of pro- cesses by which a text invokes another, but also the way texts are constituted as such by their relationships with other texts. No text is unique ; we could not recognise it if it were. All texts are relevantly sim- ilar to some texts and relevantly dissimilar to others. Similarity and dif- ference form one pole of intertextual relations; citation , including implicit or explicit invocation, passing allusion, parody, and even at times the significant absence of reference to a text , forms another.

All texts are shaped by the repetition and the transformation of other textual structures. Genre is central to this process. Like reported speech , write Briggs and Bauman:. When discourse is linked to a particular genre, the process by which it is produced and received is mediated through its relationship with prior discourse. Unlike most examples of reported speech, however, the link is not made to iso- lated utterances, but to generalised or abstracted models of discourse production and reception.

Briggs and Bauman This is to say that intertextua. The French critic Laurent Jenny has asked whether it is appropriate to apply the concept of intertexmality to references to a gen. But he immediately con -. The remaki ng of one film by another gives a particularly clear insight into this crystallisation of the structure of a genre in a s ingle texr.

To rake another example, John Biguenet argues plausibly that. Home Alone repeats a central fearure of that genre of animated cartoons the Roadrunner series, for example in which plots are foiled and bodily hurt is reversible Biguenet ; it is the genr e as a whole that the film assumes as its intertextual base, rather than any- particular example of it alrhough one only needs to know a sing le example in order ro 'know' the genre. Likewise, when A Chorus Line self-consciously remakes Forty-Second Street , what is remade is both that movie and the genre of the 19 30s Holl ywood musi - cal.

Bur rhis repetiti on is not a simple continuity : as with nearly all remakes, the larer film both picks up pieces of the former, knowingl y. Cinematic remaking is a way of displaying the changes of a world through the changes in a genre, and it offers a compelling model of a practice which makes it impossible for us co think of texts as closed and self-contained bits of aesthetic sub- stance. Genre is, amongst ocher things, a matter of discrimination and taxonomy: of organising things into recognisable classes.

In this respect it belongs co a much larger group of classifying activities chat permeate every aspect of daily life, from informal and ad hoc ones like sorting our dirty dishes from clean ones, co more formalised ones like planning a meal or buying che right sec of cools for a job. All of these activities involve the use of knowledges whi ch are embedded in the flow of everyday practices.

Accounts of taxonomy tend to rake as their prototype the pow. We assume, according co Bowker and Star, that a workable sys- tem of classification has the following properties: first , "there are consis- tent , unique classificacory principles in operation', such as atomic. We also rend ro think of classifications as being like srandards: explicit, formalised, durable rules which extend over several communi- ties of practice. The neoclassical accounts of rbe literary genres rhar prevailed in Europe in much of rhe sevenreenrh and eighreenth cen- turies approached rhem in this spirit, as normative rules with universal validity rather than as ad hoc, changing, and inherently fuzzy practices.

The equation of genres with systems of rules is one of a number of metaphors that have shaped the genre of genre theory. Exploring these metaphors , David Fishelov : speaks of four main sets of analogies through which twenri erh-cenrury critics have conceptualised rhe literary genres: the biological species; the family, and the resemblance between family members; rhe social institution, made up of conventions, norms, or contracts; and rhe speech act. Thomas Beebee 3 speaks of four stages of genre criticism since rhe Renaissance, in which genre is understood successively as rules, as organically developing species, as pat- terns of textual features, and as conventions of reading.

And Rick Altman 14 sees the concep t of genre in film theory working as a blueprint the formulae governing production , as structure the formal framework of the film , as a label in marketing and distribution , and as a contract regulating relations with the audience. To pur rhis differentl y, and sticking wirh rhe magic number four, we could say rhar accounts of genre always draw on some other, authorita- tive realm for rheir metaphors, conceiving genre as a fact of language, as a sociological fact , as a marrer of social eriquerre, or as something like rhe natural organism.

In each case rhe metaphor provides a way of thinking sys remarically abour a form of ordering rhar is in many ways resisranr ro sysrem. Ir has been above all rhe model of rhe biological species, building on rhe organic connorarions of the concepts of 'kind' and 'genre', rhar has been used ro bring the authority of a scienrific discourse to genre theory.

Ferdinand Brunetiere's Evolution of Genres in Literary History is rhe key rexr here , bur rhe structural model of the relation of a species ro the taxonomic levels above and beneath it, and of the internal unifor- mity and closure of rhe species, permeates the whole field. Altman i 6. In practice, none of this is particularly useful for thinking about the literary or other kinds , for rhe good reason rhar genres are facts of cul- ture which can only with difficulty be mapped onto facts of nature.

Specifically, we can make the following objections ro rhe biologi cal. Conversely, there- fore, rhe properties of the rexr cannot be directly or simply de rived from irs genre. As Schaeffer purs ir:. When we seek to elucidate the relationship of the Aeneid to the epic, the question we ask ourselves is not that of its belonging to the cl ass as it may be defined once the Aeneid is a part of it, but that of its shaping force, the shaping force that is precisely one of the reasons the class such as we know it today possesses one appearance rather.

Schaeffer i 7,4. The model of taxonomy rhar I have called 'Aristotelian ' assumes that there can be something like an exhaustive classification which can 'place. But using likeness as the basis for a classification raises the problem of where the line of dissimilarity is ro be drawn : 'how is one ro decide that family resemblance does not exist? Fowler addresses the same question when he criticises Wittgenstein's emphasis on directly exhibited resemblances at the expense of questions of function, asking: 'How is the theory ro distinguish between patience games and fortune-telling'' His answer - that we need ro stress 'biological relations between the members ' relations of influence or imitation or of inherited codes Fowler 42 - perhaps indicates how deeply rooted the bio- logical model remains in our thinking about cultural taxonomy.

A refinement of the theory of family resemblances is the account developed in cognitive psychology of classification by prororype: the pos- tulate that we understand categories such as bird through a very con- crete logic of typicality. We take a robin or a sparrow to be more central ro that category than an ostrich, and a kitchen chair t0 be more typical of the class of chairs than a rhrone or a piano stool. Rather than having clear boundaries , essential components, and shared and uniform properties, classes defined by prorotypes have a common core and then fade into fuzziness at the edges Palrridge 5 3.

This is t0 say that we classify easily at the level of prororypes, and with more difficulty - extending fearures of the prorotype by meraphor and analogy ro take account of non-typical features - as we diverge from them. The Iliad, the Odyssey and the Epic of Gilgamesh are all texts that we class as epics, but the Iliad is the prorotype we use ro determine the category into which the others fall - and, using another prorotype, we might well class the Epic of Gilgamesh with religious narratives such as the biblical Genesis.

The judgement we make 'is it like this, or is it more like thatn is as much pragmatic as it is conceptual, a matter of how we wish t0 contexrualise these texts and the uses we wish to make of them. It is not that formal categories have no place, but rather that 'people juggle vernacu- lar or folk classifications rogether with the most formal category schemes', and that 'they subvert the formal schemes with informal work-arounds ' Bowker and Star A more radical conclusion that we might draw from this discussion is that, in dealing with ques- - tions of genre, our concern should not be with matters of taxonomic substance 'What classes and sub-classes are there?

To which class dac;. Its faults -. Plato d. The distinction being made here is between t:he speech of the poet and the represented speech of characters; in the t hird ,. The crucial move , the one chat lays rhe basis for Western genre rhe- ory, rhen cakes place wirh rhe identification of these three modes of rep- resentation of speech wirh parricular genres. Socrates summarises as follows:. Now I think I can make plain to you what I was unable to before, that there is one kind of poetry and taletelling which works wholly through imitation, as you remarked, tragedy and comedy, and another which employs the recital of the poet himself, best exemplified , I presume, in the dithyramb, and there is again that which employs both, in epic poetry and in many other places, if you apprehend me.

Plato i c. Of rhe many problems raised by chis passage, let me single out only the one which is presented by the mention of rhe dithyramb: a sort of choric hymn ro the god Dionysus, the few extant fragments of which hardly seem to be examples of 'pure narration' , yet which are certainly not lyric poems in the modern sense of the word.

The dichotomy through which Socrates organises this tri logy of genres figural imita- tion I authorial narration rhus bears an ambiguous relation to rhe later generic triads that have been derived from ir and which tend co desig- nate the lyric as their third category. Ir is in any case clear thar there is no sysrematic articulation of rhe poetic genres here, but only a ser of generic examples drawn from an underlying distinction between rwo ways of representing events and characters in time. Let us now rum to rhe ocher major theorisation of genre in antiquity, Arisrotle's Poetics, which begins with Arisrotle saying that he will speak nor only of poetry in general 'bur also of its species and rheir respeccive capacities'.

All of rhe poeric kinds, he writes, are 'modes of imitation', but they differ from one another in three respects : 'either by a difference of kind in their means , or by differences in che objeccs, or in che manner of their imitations'. Finaliy, rhe genres of poetry differ by manner. Arisrotle's distincrions repeat those of Socrates :. Given both the same means and the same kind of object for im ita- tion , one may either 1 speak at one moment in narrative and at another in an assumed character, as Homer does; or 2 one may remain the same throughout, without any such change; or 3 the imi- tators may represent the whole story dramatically, as though they were actually doing the things described.

Aristotle i94i: ia. Now, the specification of different objects of imitarion - essentiall'y a theory of decorum, rhe srylisric level chat is appropriare to differenr spheres of acrion - does porentially lead rowards a genuine theorisarion of genre , and Aristotle uses ir as the basis of his distinccion berween comedy and rragedy. Bur by 'means' Aristotle understands somerhing like rhe semiotic medium in which a texr is embedded , involving colour and line, rhree-dimensional mass , rhe tone and pitch of t:be human voice, projected ligh t..

As Gerard Generre argues, rhe face char rhe Poetics deals only wirh rragedy and rhe epic means rhar Plaro's distinccion between pure and impure narrative caregories drops our, replaced by a single cat- egory of narrarive exemplified by rhe epic, nor rhe dirhyramb - the lac- rer, he argues, is a kind of 'phantom genre' since all narrative is more or less 'impure' , i. The world of verbal arr is rhus divided between two major presen.

Another way of putting it would be in terms of Henry James's opposition between narrative ' telling ' and dramatic 'showing'; but this misses the verbal dimension that both presentational modes have in common. Perhaps the clearest way of expressing the opposition between these two categories is through the Bakhtinian dichotomy of the representational and the rep- resented word : language that refers both ro the world and to other lan- guage, and language embedded within other language. While this still leaves open the question of the peculiar semio tic status of drama as a story without a teller, and indeed is reductive in thinking of drama - as Plato does - as 'mixed' speech with the narrative connections subtracted, it does get at some of the complexities of the layering of one piece of speech within another, the tension between voices in any poetics of quo- tation ; and it thus opens up the question of the relation between lan- guage, voice, and voiced bodies.

Rather, it has taken one of two pathways : on the one hand, it has contented itself with a listing of the empirically existing genres, without concern for the grounds on which they are differentiated; on the other, it has attempted to develop a sys- tematic account of genre on the basis of a misreading of the Socratic triad. The first of these traditions is at once the more prevalent and the less interesting.

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The great Roman rhetorician Quintilian recommends a number of genres to chose who would become orators: hi story, philoso- phy, three classes of oratory, and eight poetic genres - epic which includes didactic, pastoral , and scientific works such as those of Hesiod, Theocritus, and Lucretius , tragedy, Old Comedy, New Comedy, elegy, iambic poetry in iambic metre , satire, and lyric poetry. Much the same list can be found in Sidney's Defence of Poesie, written in , and in the artes poeticae arts of poetry, or poetics of many other Renaissance authors.

The emergence of new genres such as tragicomedy does little to disturb the dominant paradigm , in which an Aristotelian schema concerned with the epic and the dramatic coexists with an empirical and descriptive accounr of those genres Aristotle doesn't mention. Thus Boileau's Art poetique deals in canto 3 with the major genres of epic, tragedy, and comedy, while canto 2 'strings together idyll, elegy, ode, sonnet, epigram, rondeau, madrigal, ballad, satire, vaudeville, and song, without any comprehensive classification '; and Rapin 's Reflexions sur la poetique of the same year argues that, while nearly all genres can be reduced to epic narration and drama action , all those that cannot are to be considered 'imperfect' Genette It is lyric poetry that is the problematic term in this triad.

Aristotle is silent about it, apart from brief references to the flute and the lyre, and Plato's use of the dithyramb to exemplify pure narrative diegesis, which can perhaps also be translated as 'presentation ' has been the opposite of clarifying. The problem is simply that 'lyric', which comes co occupy the slot for which dithyramb is the example, is not a narrative genre, and it is not clear that it is a fundamental mode of presentation of speech at all.

The move that is tentatively made by the Hellenistic critics is to transform the three modes of presentation of speech authorial, figural, and mixed into three genres; this is the term genera used by Diomedes in the late fourth a century. From the late Renaissance - Irene Behrens notes its occurrence. Cervantes, Milton, and Dryden - the third 'genre' is designated as the lyric, and the now-familiar triad of the epic, dramati c, and lyrical starts , to become conventional currency. When Friedrich Schlegel complained in thar 'We already have so many theories abour poetic genres.

Why have we no concept of poetic genre ' Schlegel 7 , ir was to this lack of whar David Duff calls 'a philosophical theory of genre, as distincr from a purely descriptive account of individual genres' Duff 3 , rhar he was calling attention. Yer these three forms, which are adjectival in nature rather than nominal - the epical, rhe dramatic , the lyrical - are larger than rhe individual genres , which they contain. Goethe rhus distin- guishes , in rwo of rhe notes appended in ro rhe West-bstlicher Divan, between the multiplicity of genres proper or Dichtarten allegory, ballad, drama, elegy, epistle, fable, idyll , ode, novel , parody, romance, satire The larrer are essential, 'inner forms ' rather rhan contingent and hisrorically variable ways of writing, and rhey divide the universe of writing berween three different sers of expressive and conceptual capacities.

This way of thinking abour writing gives rise to an extensive specu- lative activity char seeks ro theorise the fields of sense that ir rakes rhe 'natural forms ' to be. For Hegel , the epic mode is the vehicle of an objective disclosure of the exterior universe, and ir corresponds ro the childhood of rhe human race ; lyric is rhe subjective disclosure of rhe inner world of particularised individuals, and ir has ro do wirh rhe sepa- ration of rhe personal self from rhe community; and drama is the synthe- sis of the rwo , the objecrificarion of subjectivities in dialogue and acrion.

For other writers each mode is associated with a different tense, a different grammatical person first-person lyric, second-person drama, third-person epic , a different psychological set. For Karl Vieror the modes convey three 'basic attitudes', with rhe lyric expressing feel- ing, the epic, knowledge, -and drama, rhe will; for Ernest Bovee they are ' essencial modes of conceiving life and the universe' Hernardi : 12, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man :. Art necessarily divides itself into three forms progressing from one to the next. These forms are: the lyrical form, the form wherein the artist presents his image in immediate relation to himse lf; the ep ical form wherein he presents his image in mediate relation to himself and to others; the dramatic form, the form wherein he presents his image in immediate relation to ot hers.

The lyrical form is in fact the simplest verbal vesture of an instant cf emotion , a rhythmical cry such as ages ago cheered on the man who pulled at the oar or dragged stones up a slope. He who utters it is more conscious of the instant of emotion than of himself as feeling emotion. The simplest epical form is seen emerging out of lyrical lit- erature when the artist prolongs and broods upon himself as the cen- tre of an epical event and this form progresses till the centre of emotional gravity is equidistant from the artist himself and from oth- ers.

The narrative is no longe r purely pers onal. The personal ity of the artist passes into the narration itself. The dramatic form is reached when the vitality which has flowed and eddied round each person fills every person with such vital force that he or she assumes a proper and intangible aesthetic life. The personality of the artist, at first a cry or cadence or a mood and then a fluid and lambent narrative, finally refines itself out of existence, impersonalises itse lf, so to speak Joyce - Victor Hugo sketches our a similar evolutionary schema in the preface ro his play Cromwell , and indeed it was to become a nineteenth-cenrury commonplace.

They become a taxonomic kaleidoscope in which the too- seductive pattern of the triad - a form receptive to any meaning at all - passes through endless metamorphoses, surviving on the crest of dubious reckonings. An important qualification co this essen tialist view of the three spheres of generic sense is made when Goethe's two distinct categories of genres Dichtarten and the natural forms Dichtweisen, or N aturformen are taken co hold a more complex relation to each other.

Thus Emil Staiger conceives the three Naturformen as styles rather than as genres , which means that a drama may, for example, be 'lyrical' in its expressive key Tonart. This move, which distinguishes between the 'styli sti c' and 'generic' dimensions of 'lyric', 'epic', and 'drama', generates a tension between the natural kinds and genres proper and thus a much wider range of possible combinations. One way of formalising this dual set of variables is through the figure, proposed by Goethe and carried co parodic extremes by Julius Petersen, of a wheel in which the three spokes represent the natural kinds, and specific genres are distributed around the wheel in relative proximity to or distance from them.

Alternatively, more subtle differentiation can be achieved by sub-dividing the generic triad into further rriads. Albert Guerard thus proposes the following classification:. All such schemata, however, continue to beg the question of the logical relation between the three natural kinds : that is, the question of whether they can be distinguished exhaustively from each ocher by means of criteria which are rhe same for each. In Joyc-e, si milarly, the criterion of the immediate or mediated relation of self to other generates ambiguities for each of the three forms.

And does not rhis placing of self and orhers on the same plane blur important distinctions between the aurhor, rhe position of enunciation , and fictional characters? In what sense is l yric poetry an 'immediate relation to the self? Is it merely epic speech withom the characters, and might the lyric T not be cons idered a form of charac rer, a fig uring-forth rather rhan a direcr expression of the self? And how would the difference between first-person and third-person narration affect rhe proposed 'mediate relation ' between the arrisr and hi s characters?

Finally, the sc hema of rhe natural forms poses difficult questi ons both of exclusion and of inclusion. To which mode are we to assign 'the essay, the feu illeron, rhe puzzle, the fo rmal address, the newspa pe r report , the polemical satire, and the proverb' Hemardi On the other hand, the essentialist logic of the schema leads to an ovn- inclusiveness which means that difficult or 'intellectual' poets such as Gongora, Holderli n, Mallarme, or Prynne are assimilated to rhe ' rhyth- mi cal cry' of the lyric, or rhat the ascription of the novel to the 'epic' mode leads the Hungarian critic Georg Lukacs to think of the later genre as a 'degraded epic'.

Whenever particular, historically contingent genres are subsumed within these larger patterns, the problems of logi- cal fit become formidable. The logical relationship is something like that between genus and species, a metonymic relation of the part to the whole. Yet these wholes are no longer, as they were for Plato and Ariscotle, merely enunciative structures the forms of representation of speech , since they have a thematic dimension: the natural forms are expressive of states of mind, or of attitudes cowards the world, or of temporal pattem- ings.

Genette thus views them as a something like archigenres:. Archi-, because each of them is supposed to overarch and include, ranked by degree of importance, a certain number of empirical genres that - whatever their amplitude, longevity, or potential for recurrence - are apparently phenomena of culture and history; but still or already - genres, because Genette Underlying this judgement is a prior theoretical distinction between genres, which Genette takes co be defined by their thematic content and co be 'properly literary categories' Genette 64 , and the enuncia- tive modes specified by Plato and Ariscotle, defined by their different forms of presentation of speech and belonging co that branch of linguis- tics called pragmatics which is concerned with the actions effected by texts.

Northrop Frye, as Genette notes, is one of the few modern critics to have developed this conception of the pragmatic underpinnings of literary speech, writing that 'words may be acted in front of a specrator; they may be spoken in front of a listener; they may be sung or chanted; or they may be written for a reader' Frye 24 7. Claudio Guillen likewise suggests that there are more than three pragmatic modes: together with 'storytelling, rhythmic song , and dramatic simulation' he cites 'monologic discourse' and letter-writing Guillen Frye calls this dimension of literary language the 'radical of presentation' ; it could also be thought of as an aspect of the semiotic medium in which texts are embedded.

The problem with the Romantic triad, and with ics fallacious geneal- ogy, is that ic confuses these two different orders of organisation: the logical order of the Placonic and Aristotelian 'modes' ' "there are and there ca11 only be three ways of representing actions in language," etc. Presentational modes are, for Genette, something like a priori forms of literary expression, whereas genres are historically contingent and variable. And because these are dis- tinct orders, they cannot be thought co be in a relation of inclusion.

What I would now like to suggest is that the term 'mode' be reserved for use in a somewhat different sense. One of the inherent problems wich working with genre theory is of course the lack of an agreed and coherent terminology. What I mean by this is the 'adj ec ti- val' sense suggested by Fowler, in which modes are understood as ,d ie extensions of certain genres beyo!

Genette speaks of an ex is- tential or anthropological 'feeling' 'that is properly epical, lyrical , dra- matic - bur also tragic , comic, elegiac, fantastic , romantic, etc.


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Rather than standing alone, modes are usually qualifications or modifications of particular genres gothic thriller, pastoral elegy, satirical sitcom , and in this respect they resemble the firsi: term in Guerard's classificatory scheme dramatic lyric , lyrical drama , epic drama. Exhausred genres such as rhe Gothic romance may survive in rheir modal form - quire specracularly so in the case of rhe gorhic mode, which passes rhrough early-Vicrorian stage melodrama inro the stories of Edgar Allan Poe and rhe novels of Charles Dickens , and rhence into the vampire novel, the detecrive novel, and a number of other narra- tive genres, and more directly from melodrama into a range of Hollywood genres including rhe 'old house' movie, film noir, and rhe conremporary horror movie.

Equally, modes, like genres, may them- selves become exhausred : Fowler cites rhe heroic mode as one rhar has largely become obsolete Fowler : The concepr of mode would include, but is nor limired ro, such forms as rhe heroic, rhe tragic, the comic, the lyrical, rhe picaresque, the elegiac, the encyclopaedic, the satiric, the romance, the fantastic , the pastoral, the epigrammatic, the didactic, and the melodramatic.

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The New Critical Idiom Series

Condition: Gut. Sprache: Englisch Gewicht in Gramm: The epic The Critical idiom, Paul Merchant. Publisher: Methuen , This specific ISBN edition is currently not available. View all copies of this ISBN edition:. Synopsis First published in , this work examines the tradition of the epic and the many forms in which it has presented itself over time.

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