Sunday, October 06, 2013

Leslie Chamberlain on Roman Jakobson

TLS September 20, 2013

from "Dreams of displaced men" by Leslie Chamberlain:

The flexible way with truth and personal identity that Jakobson learnt seemed to have entered his work both indrectly, in his treatment of encoded meanings in poetry, and indirectly, in his praise for the poetic lie. His essays of the 1920s and 30s celebrated the emotional lie that sustained the hear, and the literary forgery that sustained the nation. Poets, he felt, lived in their personal myth, which was a special kind of truth. . . . In his poetics he cherished the freedom of the word always to mean something else. As he puts it in "What is Poetry" (1933), "Poeticity is present when the word is felt as a word and not as a mere representation of the object being named or an outburst of emotion, when words and their composition, their meaning, their external and inner form, acquire a weight and value of their own instead of referring indifferently to reality". 
If Mayakovsky transcended his misery "in the form of a cycle of transformations undergone by the hero", then Pasternak's lyric prose was "a railway journey during which his excited hero experiences a change of locality . . . ". There Jakobson imagined the vertical axis of imagination and contrasted it with the horizontal, not as evidence of the different ways in which speech can become imparied, but reflecting how, to escape an impossibly shut-down reality, the creative self can still dream; or it can lose itself in displacement. Two fundamental possibilities of continuing self-expression, metaphor and metonym, were open to the soul under pressure.

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