«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 ...»
My thesis is that the formal, technical and stylistic aspects of creators' approaches concretely manifest content in culturally and historically antithetical ways through a particular trope.
Creators seek to discover and construct such a central trope of form in a dialectical, even dialogical, circle of testing and understanding. This process allows them to express their desires, both those willed and those revealed by the trope. The term metaphor(m) used in the title is a pun; it describes the core of the theory — that such tropes are both metaphoric and meta-formal. My theory is grounded in the continuing scholarship on conceptual metaphor pioneered by cognitive linguists and scientists, particularly George Lakoff, Mark Turner and Mark Johnson and the personal and cultural process of struggle as advance by Harold Bloom in his work on poetic misprision. The theory of central trope is applied to single paintings, series of paintings, installation works, electronic media, the expanded text concept, art history timeline models, comics, and artistic cultural inheritance. This dissertation is in the traditional form of a book, but with the addition of paintings and sections in sequential comic form as well as an actual installation comprised largely of paintings.
ABSTRACT DEUTSCHMETAPHOR(M): ZUR THEORIE DER KERNMETAPHER IN DER KUNST
Die vorliegende Dissertation entwirft und überprüft eine Metapherntheorie und bringt diese in der visuellen Kunst zur Anwendung. Der Verfasser geht dabei von der These aus, dass in formalen, technischen und stilistischen Aspekten gestalterischer Schaffensprozesse besondere Tropen oder Metaphern zur Anwendung kommen, die antithetisch auf kulturelle und historische Ausdrucksformen reagieren. Um ihre formale Kernmetapher aufzuspüren und konstruktiv zu entwickeln, bedienen sich Kunstschaffende eines dialektischen, wenn nicht sogar dialogischen Verfahrens, in dessen Verlauf Erkenntnis und Überprüfung wechselseitig zum Einsatz kommen. Dieser Prozess bringt ihr Verlangen zum Vorschein – das beabsichtigte ebenso wie jenes, das durch die Metapher enthüllt wird. Beim Begriff Metaphor(m) handelt es sich um ein sinniges Wortspiel, das auf den Kern der Theorie abzielt, denn die diskutierten Tropen sind sowohl metaphorischer wie metaformaler Natur. Die Theorie stützt sich auf eine lange Reihe wissenschaftlicher Untersuchungen zur konzeptuellen Metaphorik (allen voran die Arbeiten der Sprach- und Kognitionswissenschaftler George Lakoff, Mark Turner und Mark Johnson) sowie auf Harold Blooms Traditionstheorie und dessen Aufsätze zur "kreativen Fehl-Lektüre" (poetic misprision). Die Theorie der Kernmetapher wird auf einzelne Gemälde, Bilderserien, Installationen, elektronische Medien, das Konzept des erweiterten Textbegriffs, Zeitleisten der Kunstgeschichte, Comics und künstlerisches Kulturerbe angewandt. Die Dissertation erscheint in traditioneller Buchform, enthält aber zahlreiche Bilder und Zeichnungen, Abschnitte in sequenzieller Comicform sowie eine mehrheitlich aus gemalten Bildern bestehende Installation.
This dissertation presents, describes, investigates, performs and embodies an original theory of trope in art. My proposition is that the formal, technical and stylistic aspects of creators' styles concretely embody content in new, yet culturally and historically antithetical ways. One central trope of form is sought and discovered by creators. This tool allows them to express their desires, both those willed and those discovered within the trope. The term metaphor(m) used in the title is a pun. Puns can be particularly slippery when used in theories.
However, this one works so well I consider it, only partially tongue-in-cheek, to belong to me as a trademark: Metaphor(m)™, as can be seen throughout this dissertation on the paintings which begin each chapter.2 This word describes and embodies the core of my theory — that such tropes in the hands of artists and authors are both metaphoric and meta-form.
My claim is that a vocabulary of "foundational cognitive metaphors" is at work in the formal, technical, and stylistic aspects of the works of artists and other creators. One central trope is brought into being through a figurative vision of one or more aspects of the form, most often by way of what George Lakoff and Mark Turner refer to as "image mapping" or "image schemes."3 This central trope may be located in construction, composition, paint handling, color, dialogue, syntax, or other qualities of the aesthetic object. It can be a complex comprised of various metaphors, metonymies and other figurative forms. These may be extended, elaborated, composed, questioned, and/or otherwise manipulated.
Due to cognitive science there have been major breakthroughs in understanding tropes.
This began in earnest approximately twenty years ago, yet has been most impressive over the last decade. Especially in the last few years, major cross-disciplinary communication has been cultivated concerning the connection between "poetics" and thought in general. Many approaches, including the one presented here, are inspired by and profoundly indebted to the continuing work on conceptual metaphor by George Lakoff, Mark Turner and Mark Johnson.
Such a large portion of research is grounded in cognitive psychology and science that some even call this new outlook on the mind a "cognitive revolution." It is important to know, George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), p. 6.
This is not because of a wish to discourage anyone else from using this theory or term, if they are so inclined. In fact I rather encourage it. However, a trademark allows control of how it is used, if need be.
Additionally, most powerful terms in our postmodern culture seem to have that small tm after them. I have joined the club. Finally, this little symbol pleasingly fits the comic/show-card style of the Covers paintings at the start of each chapter.
"Foundational metaphors," "image-mapping" and "image schemes" are important in all the publications of George Lakoff and his co-scholars. Foundation metaphors were brought to the attention of a wide public first through the book Metaphors We Live By. The best short descriptions of image-mapping and image schemes are in Lakoff and Mark Turner’s More than Cool Reason: A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1989).
Introduction 2though, that the man who has inspired many of us, Lakoff, has a background in linguistics and logic. There are other contributors to the study, analysis and application of trope to thought including scientists from other fields, literary and cultural theorists, philosophers (especially from aesthetics and the philosophy of mind), artificial intelligence and computer experts, scholars of religion, scholars of literature, and even a few creative artists and authors. The discovery animating all of this is that trope is the basis of thought, thus language is one instance of it, not the other way round. This new concentration on the human power of cognitive imagination strengthens some old contentions of artists and inspires new observations, such as the theory in this dissertation.
The personal and cultural process lying at the heart of the discovery of creators' individual metaphor(m)s is the antithetical struggle they enter into with their precursors. This is the "agon," a battle based in love and fear, so well described by Harold Bloom. His inspired concept of misreading, or misprision as he calls it, borrowing a wonderful word from Shakespeare, offers the important clarification of why the invention of a metaphor(m) takes place. His "agonistic"” revisionism, cognitive metaphor, and the theory of central trope will be shown to interlock with reciprocal rapport.4 The postmodern flowering —even, until recently, overwhelming hegemony — of literary theory, or critical theory as it is more broadly termed, has both bolstered and limited contemporary discourse on the arts. It is thus a necessity to address such postmodernist metacriticism in this paper. Likewise, philosophy has experienced a surprising growth in the stature of aesthetics, once the barely tolerated foster child of metaphysics, to a position of vital importance in the discipline. How insights gleaned from this field bear on the theory of central trope will also be canvassed. I seek to integrate certain aspects of important theories from both these camps into my notion, when they either parallel or contribute to it. Major literary-critical thinkers and aestheticians have indeed made very discerning insights and speculations, which have direct pertinence for my theory. By looking for useful tools in both areas, I will be avoiding the still almost war-like divisions between the two fields. Whereas it would be hoped that all could learn from one another, there may be even a three-pronged separation emerging: literary criticism vs. aesthetics vs. cognitive metaphor. We must get beyond such partisan thought, fostered by petty jealousies between academic disciplines, old rivalries between schools of thought, and simple nationalism. The theory of metaphor(m), while simple in many ways, is integrative and cross-disciplinary in its search for the actuality of the various dialectics of the creative act. I occasionally focus on my disagreements with specific theorists in order to clarify the thought process in my own presentation here. This should not mask the huge debt I owe to all the philosophers and thinkers I mention. I see theorization at its best as a polyphonic dialogue, often even an argument. I may have the tendency to appear polemical, but I genuinely desire heartfelt discussion.
Therefore, in the following chapters, metaphor(m) will be seeking "similar souls," but also countering opponents. A particular strength of my theory is that Formalism is subsumed and transumed in it, rather than denied or faithfully obeyed. My theory allows the incorporation of certain positive aspects of what has been called (artworld) Formalism or (literary-world) New Criticism and Structuralism, while in effect standing them on their
heads, showing form to be a function of achieved content. Such object-obsessed hypothesizing is shown to be a useful, but not exclusive, tool. In another vein, the theory of central trope is an attempt to create a pugnacious logic of critical poststructuralist interpretation, which is however purged of post-deconstructivist nihilism.
A general comment on terminology is in order. The term trope is used in this paper when figurative language in general is meant. Metaphor is one usual term for the idea which is discussed here. Unfortunately, though, this word is used in two distinct applications, one general and one particular. Confusion often results from this failure to distinguish the species from the genus. Metaphor may mean alternately either figurative expression itself, the genus — therefore identical with figurative language or trope — or that particular instance thereof, the species, usually described as follows.
A figure of speech, an implied analogy in which one thing is imaginatively compared to or identified with another, dissimilar thing. In metaphor, the qualities of something are ascribed to something else, qualities that it ordinarily does not possess. 5 That is the famous description of metaphor as a "comparison without a like or as," which is always taught in high school and secondary school literature classes. "Achilles is a lion." Useful terminology does not allow a thing to be a species of itself. Other terms bring other difficulties, all probably reflecting the various underlying philosophies of the animal under study. Various general terms include trope, figure and figurative language. The latter two would cause a problem when the theory is applied to visual art as well as literature.
Anything containing the word language is not interdisciplinary enough and figure in visual art is widely used to mean the human form (e. g. "figure painting").These terms are inadequate in reference to literature anyway. They clearly reinforce views of the subject opposite to those espoused in this paper. Connotations such as figure skating or ornateness come to mind, declaring metaphor to be no more than decorative fancy. There are linked terms such as scheme, conceit, symbol, rhetoric, poesy, poetics, analogy, etc. Yet each expresses a particular idea somewhat askew of the intentions here. It will be shown that some of these terms describe ideas which are corollaries or particular instances of metaphor(m). In short, the problems with many terms reflect old, deficient and competing theories of the thing itself.
Trope is difficult because it is derived from turning, which might suggest that analogies of any sort are decorative twists on normal "transparent" speech. However, it seems that trope and its concomitant adjectives tropological or tropaic are the most promising. Turning can be envisioned in other, more evocative images and analogies. Therefore it will serve as the general term, metaphor will be chiefly used in its specific application ("no like or as" species), occasionally substituting for the general, along with the other terms mentioned, where this occurs in common use and for stylistic variety. It is included in the title for the word play as noted, and because it remains an important keyword in any literature search of poetics. In addition, cognitive science now uses the term for the broad, analogical basis of thought itself.
Linking striven-for content, discovered form, antithetical historical and critical cultural awareness, metaphor(m) is proposed as a general theory of trope in the arts. This is primarily a theory aimed at visual art, especially painting, but cross-disciplinary in implication, making suggestions about application to other art forms. For the sake of economy in argument and my
own strengths, art forms other than painting will be touched on only in passing. It is hoped, however, that an interdisciplinary understanding of this theory will encourage readers to envision its potential usefulness in other arts and genres.
The theory of central trope is applied in this paper specifically through discussions of several visual artists (Vincent van Gogh, Charles Boetschi, Leonard Bullock, among others);