«Thesis presented to the Faculty of Arts of the University of Zurich for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy by Mark Staff Brandl of USA and ...»
The phrase extended metaphor comes closest to metaphor(m), yet does not encompass it. An extended metaphor sits, so to speak, on top of a work, not at its root as a central trope does. An extended metaphor is generally developed in some detail by an author or artist. It is a more natural conceit. Nevertheless, it remains rather singular, persisting as a technical device used in the composition of one work. The fashion in this paper in which I have used surveying, painting, blocking out and others can be seen as either conceits or extended metaphors.
The Theory of Central Trope 76 The newer term aegis comes from Norman Bryson. It is his attempt to expand intertextual allusion to an important trope. This is clearly influenced by Harold Bloom, who is an important source for my theorizing as well. Since we have metalepsis as the name for the specific trope Bloom favors, that of intertextually playing one trope off a former one, I see no gain in rephrasing this. Additionally, such intertextuality is a small part of my theory, but not the chief one, which revolves around the formation of a central, pervasive trope based on an image scheme or mapping.52 In The Practice of Everyday Life, Michel de Certeau presents his engaging idea of the perruque. This word literally is French for "wig," but is idiomatic for stealing work-time for one's own projects, e.g., such as is the situation when producers of small amateur magazines (called xines) photocopy their publications at their workplaces during work hours. De Certeau sees this as a trope in which the socially powerless hollow out a somewhat Kristevian loophole for themselves within the conditions which dominate them. This is a discerning assessment of a little-studied phenomenon, one I find very attractive, yet more a tactic than a trope, in my opinion, and one which is rather far afield of my theory of artistic central trope.53 This maneuver could, however, be a fertile ground for the invention of a central trope in an individual artist's work.
The British biologist Richard Dawkins created the word meme in his book on evolution, The Selfish Gene in 1976.54 Memes are considered cultural analogues to genes, therefore units of socio-cultural ideas which get passed from one person to another. The term has had little actual scientific success — no one has yet been able to clearly isolate an example or prove its auto-transmitability. Indeed, if such an entity does exist, it resembles a virus more than a gene. Meme is, however, highly fashionable on internet, where it is used to describe any spread of a trendy catch-phrase or word stylization. I find it far too voguish, vague and unproven, to be of any use.
In summary, all of these alternative rhetorical terms describe ideas which are ancillary to, far afield of, or even surface through central trope in the contributing components of an author or artist's vision. Many, such as conceits, schemes, style, and extended metaphors, I would claim are instances in application of metaphor(m).
While discussing terminology, I would like to make a point concerning a way in which my chief term, trope, is not used in this dissertation: the manner in which it currently frequently appears in idiomatic use in the artworld. Far too often the word is bandied about in discussions where it is used as shorthand for referring to a technique or practice within a specific style of art, one which the speaker does not support. The person using the term is thereby in fact accusing an artist of having key elements in his work which are the result of unreflected habits and of unconscious, fallacious symbolism. For instance, Neo-Conceptualists are wont to indict Neo-Expressionists for using brushwork as "simply a trope of genius" or the like. Likewise, Neo-Expressionists will accuse Pop Art influenced artists of "making iconic tropes out of individual handwriting" and so on. Thus, in fashionable artworld abuse, trope becomes no more than a conventional lie. This is vaguely reminiscent of
some of the archaic definitions of metaphor, but more importantly it is a confusion of topos with trope, a common error.
Topoi in literature are conventional themes, motifs, character-types or style elements that are common within a specific genre of literature. For instance, one topos in horror or socalled Gothic novels is the stormy night in a castle; one in hardboiled detective novels is the alcoholic yet ethical loner as chief character. Thus, what artworld users of the word trope are seeking is most likely topos. The characteristic mark of a brushstroke from the hand of an artist as an indicator of individualism was an original invention of the Action Painters, but could be now viewed as having become codified into a topos. Outsourcing, not producing one's work with one's own hands, was a new aesthetic option attempting to incorporate industrial systems into art when the Russian Constructivists first suggested it. The "found object" appeared shockingly anti-humanistic in the hands of the Dadaists. Yet, both of these have turned into very nearly obligatory procedures in Neo-Conceptualism, symbolizing the content mentioned — thus topoi.
The terms trope and metaphor are used in this paper when figurative analogy in general is meant, as is customary in literature; however, I am applying this idea to visual art. For Lakoff and his collaborators, metaphor is a thought process rather than a figure of speech; I follow them and use the combination cognitive metaphor to suggest this most directly. Trope, being derived from turning, can be envisioned in evocative images and analogies. As Gerald L. Bruns writes of Philo of Alexandria, the Hellenistic philosopher who amalgamated
Stoicism, allegory and Jewish exegesis:
Philo's word for "figurative" derives from the Greek trepein, 'to turn,' which means not
transformation (turning one thing into another) but conversion (turning something around):
when confronted with a dark saying, you can make it plain by turning it toward you, because the light it sheds is on its nether side, shining away from you. Frequently, however, what requires turning is not the saying but the one who fails to understand it. If a saying shines its light away from you, you are not standing where you should be; you need to alter your place or condition in order to situate yourself in the light of what is said. 55 Synopsis I have now finished painting a portrait of the nature of the theory of central trope. In following chapters it is tested, exemplified and systematically studied. Let me apply a concluding varnish of brief summation to the picture.
Trope as the basis of human thought, pressed into the tangible stuff and processes of creativity, constitutes metaphor(m), or the theory of central trope. The foremost struggle of strong literary and visual creators is the search for this vital, analogical tool. An important aspect of this agonism is brought about by straining against the confines established by one's artistic precursors. A further phase of this conflict is the attempt by authors or artists to manifest the discovered central trope pervasively throughout their techniques, works and total œuvre. The final result is a dialectical integration of content and form. The profile of meaning Gerald L. Bruns, "Midrash and Allegory: The Beginnings of Scriptural Interpretation," in The Literary Guide to the Bible, p. 638.
The Theory of Central Trope 78 itself is understood in terms of the anatomy of its delivery – and vice versa. Francis Landy writes of the poetry of the Song of Songs that, independent of whether it involves two earthly erotic lovers or a symbolic love between God and his people, "lovers can communicate only through the world, through metaphor. … Something happens that is beyond speech, and it enters language only through displacement."56
Hiking and Thinking Each of the chapters in this dissertation ends with a short comic as personal commentary; in this chapter, the illustrated, sequential form takes center stage. I have long had the desire to do an extended comic sequence of one of our Wanderferien, the hiking vacations my wife Cornelia and I do with our dogs. We not only appreciate the sites and exercise (enduring the physical ordeal is harder for me as I am less fit than Cornelia and the dogs who regularly do dog sport training such as Agility), but also discuss projects and ideas of ours. This was the perfect opportunity, as Cornelia and I along with our young dog River decided to hike a section of the ancient Via Francigena from Pontarlier, in the Franche-Comté region in eastern France, to the town of Vevey in Switzerland, in the canton Vaud, on the north shore of Lake Geneva. We planned ten days on this section of the ancient road between Canterbury, England and Rome. It began as a Roman road and in mediaeval times was an important pilgrimage route. I was at a point in my dissertation where, after the presentation of the central aspects of my theory of central trope, I was about to apply it to my own artwork.
This was an idea of Professor Ursprung's with which Professor Langlotz was very much in agreement. I was a bit reticent, as I generally abhor most so-called artists' statements and the like. Perhaps it is partially the fear of nailing myself down, as changeability has always been very important to me in my art. Also at this time, I was offered the motivating opportunity to do one of the largest Panels painting-installations that I had ever done. It was to be made and presented in an exhibition in an unused ex-fabric-dyeing factory in Switzerland, now an art center. I realized this was my chance to ruminate on the application of metaphor(m) theory to my work, followed by concretizing that thought process in a substantial piece of art, a challenge I could not resist. This chapter is the sequential representation of our journey and my internal and external dialogues. The painting-installation that resulted from this is presented in and as Chapter Five.
Sketching, Blocking and Brainstorming Before I proceed to a chapter presenting and discussing the painting-installation I made embodying the analysis I conducted upon my own art in the last chapter, I would like to broadly sketch a picture of the realm of technical, formal possibilities available to a creator for discovering and constructing a central trope. Thus far in this dissertation, I have used metaphors of land surveying, painting and hiking as conceits traveling through individual chapters. The metaphor I envision for this chapter is a specific type of sketch in which the basic forms of a comic or storyboard are roughed in, often concentrating on areas of shadow and light without any detail; furthermore, in such sketches various possibilities are tried out in a kind of loose brainstorming. Drawing such studies is called blocking out a story or composition, in the sense of laying out the broad masses of the images, not in the sense of obstructing the view of something. Here are two examples of pages on which comic artists have begun to block out the story they are going to draw.
Harold Bloom, Agon: Towards a Theory of Revisionism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982;
paperback, 1983), p. 31.
George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1980; paperback, 1981), p. 145.
Conceiving Metaphor(m)s 107
This is similar to, and perhaps derived from, the approximate physical placement of actors for scenes in a theatrical work during rehearsals, which directors also term blocking. In Chapter Four, I am blocking out how I feel the metaphor(m)al thought process begins in brainstorming arrays of options for various formal features.
To cast an eye back to our chart in figure 8, the discussion now focuses on the left-hand oval: what formal aspects are available and how an image or image schema might be mapped onto them: the right-hand oval. Such possibilities are likely infinite. We must keep the goals of such creativity in mind and view my descriptions as suggestive yet not exhaustive. To continuously widen this vast field has been a mainstay of the activities of creating artworks since at least the advent of Modernism. One of my instructors as an undergraduate was sculptor Roger Kotoske. He conducted a very stirring class chiefly due to one talent and technique of his: the ability to brainstorm. Whenever we the students would bring in a work, discuss a theme for an assignment or look at artwork in slides, he would begin to rattle off additional possibilities for the expansion of the topic or object in other, potential art objects.
"What else could we do with this," he might say, and then brainstorm: turn it upside-down, make it huge, put it outside, change material, intensify details and and and. Innovative possibilities would begin to flow forth from us as well. This chapter is very much in his spirit.
Tools of Thought
What do we want our tropes to do for us, as Bloom asks? We want our tropes to change the way we think. Through such alteration, we want them to offer us understanding, to help us comprehend the world of our experience, and even, perhaps, to assist us in changing that world. This is a large demand, but we should face it in all its hubris, self-contradiction, impossibility and wonder, and not evade it in cloying irony or other self-debasement. All the creative arts introduce new metaphorical concepts or surprising re-readings of older ones.3 This is primarily accomplished by creators through their metaphoric use of elements of the physical world, their materials, methods and formats: their metaphor(m)s, their central tropes.
I have often found it best when contemplating, or teaching, an idea in visual art, to first step to the side and apply it to another artform. Such analogical employment can focus one's thoughts. For such experimental thought I frequently use music. Here I will start with literature, roughing out some features which are ripe for tropaic transformation in this artform.
Aspects of textual media where central trope can be found or built by authors include:
style, syntax, figurative language, length, allusion, dialogue, description, meter, poetics, characters, narrator, narrative, reference, internality/externality, genre, time, rhyme, image,
motif, plot development, format, repetition, transition, rhythm, setting, symbolism, mood, etc.