I want to investigate metaphor and metonymy – how do they relate to each other? I want to learn more fully what metonymy is and I want to see where they cross over. I take metonymy to mean the act of standing in for an absent whole – which may also be considered as a lexicon, they are the same. I had the thought recently that sometimes metaphor and metonymy happen at the same time – that you can have a kind of conceptual metonymy, which goes back to the idea of mental object and structure.
There’s a very fundamental question here though – what is a ‘whole’? Of course wholes are completely within our heads, but they’re still real. What forms can a whole take simultaneously? That is, if I write the word ‘Fire’, can I consider it metonymic for all fires burning in the world at this moment? Throughout history? All possible metaphorical applications of the word fire? Fire as pure metaphor – fire as everything which fired has ever been conceived as or tied to, archetypal fire. But it’s not metonymy if the part is the whole, is it? And aren’t metonyms wholes in themselves? They do not refer back to an absent whole, they construct the whole. The whole is contained – and I hate the language of containment if it’s used improperly – within the part. And maybe that’s why I’ve been using the metaphor of ‘emboitement‘ interchangeably with ‘synecdoche’ and ‘metonym’ – because they are the same! And here is the law: Everything is the same, and everything is completely different. And then, how do we feel those absences? How do I know the whole for which the part stands in? What is the process by which the part constructs the whole?
There’s also the question of granularity – or frequency, they are the same – and how that works. Here’s something I’ve noticed: Measuring the effects of iteration is just as much a measuring of the effects of division. Something can’t iterate unless we’ve said it’s ended and begun again. It’s got to do with the difference between counting 10,000 one dollar bills and counting one 10,000 dollar bill, which I haven’t fully explored yet. Iteration is a matter of negative space – anything which occurs at a high frequency necessarily has more lines drawn between one instance and the next than something which occurs at a low frequency – this means more negative space, more fractures, more lines drawn. More discontinuities. There is unity, smooth space. I’m rambling! Let me quote something from an essay I wrote last term:
“Each journey is composed of an infinite number of constituent journeys, but we only divide time so far as we can usefully allocate an action to a circumstance.
We don’t really worry about the stops before our stop, nor do we worry about each of the moments between each wheel and each section of track. “
Also, “The degree to which there is coordination between systems is the degree to which they can be treated as one in the same for the purpose of scheduling.” That is to say
I also want to explore the difference between stereotype and archetype. Yesterday I had some success conceiving of them in terms of metonymy – under stereotype, the part is taken to be the whole; under archetype, the part is taken to stand in for the whole, to point to something bigger than itself. And there is this quality of being part of something bigger than your self in the I-Thou – I don’t think the I-Thou is something which occurs only between us and the other. It could also occur between things within us – which is everything. Like I say later in the email, the I-Thou is very similar to Deleuze’s ‘Becoming’.
Something I forgot to mention – and it’s always incredible when that happens – is what it means to defy a whole, to defy boundaries. Are we building bridges or are we remembering there was never a gap? Anyway, what it means to cross boundaries – to transgress. What does it mean when I take a word for instance as metonymic of some sensual lexicon beyond the context of my reading – for instance, instead of taking the word fire to be metonymic of a more immediate, sensual fire. What am I doing when I choose to read the fact that there’s a fire in front of me as metaphor for something happening in my personal life. That fire refers back to an absent whole, but which whole? What if I decide the absent whole the fire is referring to is my self? And how do I determine whether something’s ‘related’ to something else in the first place? Why is it any more ‘natural’ that the word fire be metonymic of sensual fire, and not my self?
Or that everything might be metonymic of everything else – keeping in mind how I described metonymy in my first email there. Look at the story of Indra’s Net:
FAR AWAY IN THE HEAVENLY ABODE OF THE GREAT GOD INDRA, THERE IS A WONDERFUL NET WHICH HAS BEEN HUNG BY SOME CUNNING ARTIFICER IN SUCH A MANNER THAT IT STRETCHES OUT INDEFINITELY IN ALL DIRECTIONS. IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE EXTRAVAGANT TASTES OF DEITIES, THE ARTIFICER HAS HUNG A SINGLE GLITTERING JEWEL AT THE NET’S EVERY NODE, AND SINCE THE NET ITSELF IS INFINITE IN DIMENSION, THE JEWELS ARE INFINITE IN NUMBER. THERE HANG THE JEWELS, GLITTERING LIKE STARS OF THE FIRST MAGNITUDE, A WONDERFUL SIGHT TO BEHOLD. IF WE NOW ARBITRARILY SELECT ONE OF THESE JEWELS FOR INSPECTION AND LOOK CLOSELY AT IT, WE WILL DISCOVER THAT IN ITS POLISHED SURFACE THERE ARE REFLECTED ALL THE OTHER JEWELS IN THE NET, INFINITE IN NUMBER. NOT ONLY THAT, BUT EACH OF THE JEWELS REFLECTED IN THIS ONE JEWEL IS ALSO REFLECTING ALL THE OTHER JEWELS, SO THAT THE PROCESS OF REFLECTION IS INFINITE