Rilke’s angels and metaphor

Are we seeing a theme emerge? A lot of thinking about figurative language lately. William Empson writes, in The Structure of Complex Words, of metaphor as the sudden perception of an objective relation:

It is clear that we may do this before we can explain it […] Original pieces of thinking have, I suppose, nearly always been started on metaphor, and so far from being peculiarly “emotive” and indulgent of folly, a metaphor is often a loophole for common sense.

We have all read of engineers and scientists, as well as poets and artists having this sudden perception of an objective relation, of a connection that appears to have always been so. If we ask this type of language and thought a question, if we ask “what is metaphor… for?” where does this lead us? This may require expansion, so when do we employ metaphor, and to what end? True, all language contains metaphorical elements, or shows itself to be a sedimented cross-section of previous ages’ figurative language, petrified into varying degrees of literalism. Continue reading

American films beginning with "American"

A recent discussion of Shame led to one of those conversations that is not alien to me. I said I hadn’t seen the film, but had read that it was a kind of American Psycho for the teens … or whatever we are calling this decade (consider other compelling definitions of Shame here and here). Now, sometimes these comparisons are superficially illuminating. So we might say that The Social Network is the Citizen Kane for Generation Y. Something like this is a stepping stone to getting to another point in the conversation – they are a slimy, moss covered rock on which we might precariously balance as the deluge of half-formed opinions and almost-thoughts gush past. They are a way of saying “X is the new black“. They are a conversational conceit, to be picked up and dropped as required. Sometimes, however, I don’t know when to drop it. Years of having such conversations (starting in their Ur-form when I worked in a video shop) means I find it all too easy to get swept away, and what is a blog good for if it isn’t a black box to transform a drunken idea into a tendentious argument. You need some structure for this if it is to be useful, however, so the matrix of my model is the following: Continue reading