Friday, 24 August 2012

Metaphorical Outlines



In this post, I suggested that fiction is able to release the 'metaphorical outline' of things because of the absence of a real-world referent. This passage from Bruno Schulz, for example, surely has such an outline* as it would not if it were a passage of autobiography:
For, once you had entered the wrong doorway and set foot on the wrong staircase, you were liable to find yourself in a real labyrinth of unfamiliar apartments and balconies, and unexpected doors opening on to strange empty courtyards”
Authors of course rely on the metaphorical outline even – or especially – when their writing is not obviously figurative. Simply to describe a dark bank of cloud, without commentary or adjectival overload, is to suggest something ominous, something impending. This outline is not something the author throws onto or lends objects by clothing them in descriptive epithets. It is already impacted into the object.

This is not because there are floating archetypes that objects 'embody', but rather because objects are first of all caught up in our worldly paths and projects. We never never have access, presumably, to the cloud ‘in-itself’. It is already - as soon as named - enclosed in the web of human significance. The metaphorical outline is something that attaches to the object through practise and convention.

The writer is, more often than is recognised, someone who glosses this outline, makes it legible rather than imparts it. 

* By 'outline' I don't mean that things become 'just metaphors' and lose their ordinary sense. The 'ordinary' sense is still primary, but has a second life, as it were, a metaphorical shadow. 

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