IconicityEJES 5.1 (2001) Special Number
- Olga Fischer and Max Nänny: "Introduction: Iconicity and Nature"
- Simon Alderson: "Chance and Imagination in Literary Iconicity."
- Michael Burke: "Iconicity and Literary Emotion"
- Adina Ciugureanu: "The Ideogram as an Iconic Dimension in Ezra Pound’s Early Cantos"
- Silvia Kouwenberg and Darlene LaCharité: "The Iconic Interpretations of Reduplication: Issues in the Study of Reduplication in Caribbean Creole Languages"
- Tomas Pollard: "Telegraphing the Sentence and the Story: Iconicity in In the Cage by Henry James"
- Michael Webster: "Magic Iconism: Defamiliarization, Sympathetic Magic, and Visual Poetry (Guillaume Apollinaire and E.E. Cummings)
IconicitySpecial Number of the European Journal of English Studies (EJES) 5.1 (2001)
Olga Fischer and Max Nänny:
"Introduction: Iconicity and Nature"
Aqui nella isola el mar, i quanto mar,
esce da sé a ogni istante,
dice che sě, dice che no, poi che no,
en azurro, en schiuma, en galopo,
dice che no, poi che no,
non puede estare tranquillo.
‘Me chiamo mar’, repite,
apicicandose a una pietra
senza riuscire a convincerla.
Alora, con sete lingue verdi
de sete tigri verdi,
de sete cani verdi,
de sete mari verdi,
la percorre, la bacia,
la inumidisce e se batte el petto
repitiendo el su nombre.
Alora, che cosa te ne pare?" "Strano." "Como strano, tu sei un critico severo, eh?" "No, no, no... no’la poesia, strano...
strano come mi sentivo io mentre la dicevate". "E como ti sentivi?"
"Non lo so, le parole andavano di qua
e di lŕ, no?" "Como el mar, alora." "Esatto, como...come il mare."
"Ecco, este č il ritmo!" "Infatti, mi č venuto il mal di mare..." "Il mal di mare?" "E’che...mi...non so spiegare... mi sentivo come una barca sbattuta in mezzo a tutte queste parole..." "Como una barca sbattuta dalle mie parole..." "Eh..." "Tu lo sai cosa hai fatto, Mario?" "Che ho fatto?" "Una metafora."
Here on the island the sea, so much sea
It spills over every time
it says yes, it says no, then again no
in blue, in foam, in a gallop
it says no, then again no
It cannot be still
‘my name is sea’, it repeats
striking at a stone
Without being able to convince it
So, with seven green tongues
of seven green tigers
of seven green dogs
of seven green seas
it runs over it, kisses it
overflows it and beats its breast
Repeating its name.
Well, what do you think of it?" "Strange." "What do you mean, strange, you are a severe critic, eh?" "No, no, no, I don’t mean the poetry, I mean … strange how I felt when you were saying it." "And how did you feel?" "I don’t know, the words went to and fro, didn’t they?" "Just like the sea." "Exactly, just like the sea." "Well, that is the rhythm!" "In fact, I felt quite seasick …" "Seasick?"
"It is … I … I cannot explain …. I felt
like a boat rocked in the middle of all
those words…" "Like a boat rocked
by my words …" "Eh yes …" "Do you know what you have made Mario?" "What have I made?" "A metaphor."
(Il Postino, 1995, directed by Michael Radford, with Philippe Noiret and Massimo Troisi)
Iconicity and Nature
In the above dialogue between the poet Pablo Neruda, exiled on a small island near Naples in Italy, and Mario Ruoppolo, a postman who delivers his daily mail, we get a glimpse of the naturalness of iconicity. Mario is unlettered and his interest in Neruda is aroused first of all because he is foreign and different, but mostly because he seems to be able to understand women, unlike the postman, for Neruda seems to be able to charm them with his poetry. Mario obviously has a natural, instinctive feeling for poetic song and he reacts physically to the poem that Neruda recites while they are sitting on the beach at the edge of the tranquil, blue-green sea. Mario feels seasick because he is affected by the rhythm of the poem: The constant toing and froing (‘dice che sě, dice che no, poi che no’), accompanied by repetitions, both lexical (‘con sete lingue verdi de sete tigri verdi, …’) and syntactic (‘en azurro, en schiuma, en galopo’; ‘la percorre, la bacia, la inumidisce’), each balancing the other, perfectly mimes the constant and rapid forward and backward movement of the waves. Mario doesn’t react to the lexical content of the words in the poem, nor to the subliminal erotic connotations. He does not feel the poem to be strano despite the rather unexpected presence of green tigers and green dogs. He feels strange himself because the words affect him purely physically, emotionally, and not verbally or rationally.
In the context of the film, it is rather wonderful that Mario can only describe his reaction to the poet’s words by means of a metaphor (strictly a simile). It is the first time in fact that he has made up his own metaphor. Before that and without having a real understanding of the concept of metaphor, he had imitated the metaphors that Neruda uses in his own poems in order to try and impress a girl. This dialogue is so moving because Neruda shows that Mario is a poet, he demonstrates to him indirectly that he can create his own poetry, that there is no need for him to dress up in ‘borrowed lines’.
The main point about the dialogue for us here is that it shows that iconicity is basic to all human beings — not only to poets — and to their use and comprehension of language. In spite of the fact that a large part of language has become purely conventional (‘symbolic’ in Peircean terms), there is still a very clear instinctive drive in us to use and react to language as something that is ‘natural’ and concrete, to react to its signs (verbal forms) as if they are an immediate reflection of the world as we experience it. Ivan Fónagy, one of the earliest linguists to emphasize the importance of the iconic in language in all of his research, writes that iconicity is not ‘a marginal verbal kind of play’ but ‘a basic principle of live speech, and more generally, of natural languages’. He suggests, furthermore, that when we produce live speech, we, as it were, pass the units generated by our mental grammar through an iconic ‘Modifier’ or ‘Distorter’.
It has been noted many times before that children (and the simple postman in the dialogue is a bit like a child in this respect) are particularly susceptible to the iconic in language. This is presumably the case because they are still in the process of learning the conventional rules of grammar and the mostly arbitrary significations of the lexical signs. And while doing so, children rely much more heavily on the ‘natural’ aspect of language and on the ‘natural motivation’ discoverable in the signs and the sign system. Children are also masters in so-called folk-etymology, i.e. they have a very clear need to make arbitrary signs transparent by relating parts of the sign to other previously learned signs so that the arbitrary sign makes sense to them in a ‘natural’ way. Thus an English-speaking girl was once heard to use ‘awful pedic’ shoes instead of ‘orthopaedic’ shoes, because ‘ortho-’ made no sense to her while ‘awful’ clearly did. And a Dutch child transformed opereren ‘to operate upon’ into openreren because the activity obviously had to do with opening people up. Folk-etymology, therefore, is a type of diagrammatic iconicity (for the term see also below) through which children, and also adults, make sense of the world. They do this by linking unknown (parts of) words to known (and therefore more ‘natural’ or transparent) words.
There are many studies that have drawn attention to the strong iconic streak in children. Clotilde Pontecorvo’s study on ‘Iconicity in Children’s First Written Texts’ investigates how it may work on the typographic level. She shows that children initially interpret the alphabetical letters and words formed by them as ‘pictures’, more or less identical to the way the first scripts were formed in historical times, where heavily schematised pictures of objects served to denote those objects. Children also express a feeling for diagrammatic or relational iconicity in that they might represent a small object by smaller letters than they would use for a large object. As far as sounds are concerned, Ivan Fónagy’s work shows that children make much more spontaneous use of onomatopoeic words and sound symbolism than adults. In his article on ‘The Child as a Linguistic Icon Maker’, Dan Slobin’s interest is in the way children learn their grammar. He writes, ‘children strive for transparency of meaning-form correspondences in their acquisition of language, often reshaping the material of the parental language to make it more iconic’. For instance, children show a tendency to place a negative operator outside the verbal clause in order to indicate that the scope of negation should be the whole proposition and not just the verb, so instead of saying ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘I don’t do this’, they would say (temporarily, until they have learned the ‘correct’ grammatical rule) ‘No do this’. Similarly, they show a very clear tendency to place what belongs together mentally also together syntactically, even when their parents do not do this.
The same kind of endeavour, the striving for a transparent relation between meaning and form, is noticeable in the formation of new, simplified languages, such as pidgins. When people need to communicate without a common language, they are, so to speak, in the position of the child, and they resort to natural and iconic signs, as well as having recourse to more arbitrary or symbolic bits and pieces from their own native language. Well-known strategies in pidgins are the use of reduplication or repetition to indicate ‘intensity’ (as in fainfain ‘very lovely’, or benben ‘crooked’, from ben ‘bend’); or to indicate a result or change of state, which is a special type of intensity (still seen in some languages like ancient Greek and Old English in the reduplicated forms of the past participle); or to indicate plurality (e.g. sansan ‘sand’).
Apart from the iconicity of the rhythm present in Neruda’s poem cited above, the metaphor of the barca that Mario uses, is another interesting example of iconicity. In theories on iconicity, quite generally a distinction is made between two basic types of iconicity, i.e. ‘imagic iconicity’ and ‘diagrammatic iconicity’ (the latter term we have already briefly made use of above). In imagic iconicity there is a more or less direct one-to-one relation between the ‘sign’ (usually a stem, i.e. a morphologically unstructured form) and the ‘signified’. The ‘sign’ is the physical verbal form which may consist of sounds (in speech) or of letters (in writing); the ‘signified’ is the concept or object that the sign corresponds with in the real world as experienced by us. The best-known examples of the ‘imagic’ type are onomatopoeic signs such as ‘miauw’ or ‘moo’, or of course visual icons such as paintings or photographs. These signs are motivated by the ‘object’ in the real world that they represent, and they are therefore non-arbitrary. Many examples of sound symbolism also fit here (although on the cline between fully iconic and fully symbolic — or fully conventional — they already move closer towards the symbolic pole), since often there is a physical relation between the articulation of a sound and its ‘meaning’. Thus, for most people, there is an association between high front vowels and lightness or physical closeness, and between low back vowels and darkness, distance or openness. The reason for these shared associations is that the meaning or interpretation of these vowels (as separate from the meaning of the lexical item in which the sound occurs) is linked up physically with the tactile or visual articulation of these vowels: [i:] being articulated with almost closed lips and the tongue drawn up high in front, while with a low back vowel such as [a:] the lips are wide apart and the tongue low down in the mouth. The iconicity of rhythm that we referred to in connection with Il Postino is also an example of this first, imagic type, in that the rhythm of the poem directly enacts the rhythm of the waves, and it is this which makes Mario feel seasick.
In diagrammatic iconicity on the other hand, the direct, concrete relation between the sign and the signified is missing. Instead, there exists an iconic link connecting the relation between the elements on the level of the sign, and the relation between the elements on the level of the signified. This definition makes immediately apparent that diagrammatic iconicity, in contrast to imagic iconicity, always involves more than one single element, that is, it involves morphologically complex structures, be it compounds or derivations or a string of words. It is the relation between the verbal elements that iconically reflects the relation between the activities on the conceptual level. An example of this would be temporal iconicity, which is a very natural form of iconicity in language: the string of elements on the form-level simply mimes the temporal order of activities in the real world. Thus, a clause like I went to Foyles and bought a book is diagrammatically iconic of the sequence of activities performed in real time, while a clause like I bought a book when I was in Foyles is not, because in real time one has to enter a bookstore first before one can make a purchase. Another example of diagrammatic iconicity is plural formation: in the majority of the world’s languages the plural is iconically expressed by adding an extra morpheme to the stem thus showing that the plural is literally more. It must be clear that this relational iconicity is rather different from imagic iconicity in that, as for instance in the case of the plural, the plural morpheme itself does not mime the plurality of the real world object. A reduplicated or repeated stem expressing the plural, such as used in Malay and in many pidgins and Creoles (see also below), would be more iconic than an arbitrary plural inflexion, but still it would not be imagic.
A more complicated form of diagrammatic iconicity is the metaphor, because it works the other way around. The relations that are seen as linked or symmetrical in the first place refer only to the level of the signified, and not to the level of the signs themselves. A metaphor is created or understood because the language user associates elements of meaning that a particular concept has for him with elements of meaning of another concept, and on the basis of that association or comparison he decides to use the same sign for both. Thus a (male) poet, thinking of ways to express the abstract notion of love or passion that he feels for a woman, may be thinking of concrete visual or tactile aspects of his beloved, like the softness of her skin, her fresh beauty or the blushing of her face while making love. In addition, the feel, shape and colour of her pudenda may have led the poet to associate it with an object or concept from a different field that shares the same features. Thus, the ‘soft, velvety, red, fresh aspects of the rose’ may have suggested to him the use of the sign of the ‘rose’ as a metaphor for his feelings and experience of ‘love’. The metaphor that Mario creates, or which is suggested to him, is a little different because rather than elements of similarity it is elements of contiguity that really play a role here. The physical aspects of a boat cannot be related directly to Mario’s feelings of being agitated or tossed (so this metaphor is different from the one of the ‘rose’, which directly reflects visual and tactile qualities of the beloved herself). It is because a boat is an object or container associated with tossing, rather than reflecting tossing directly, and because it is connected with the water which tosses Mario that Mario resorts to barca as a metaphor to convey his own agitated feelings. Thus, the associations that suggest a metaphor may be both metaphorical and metonymic.
It is interesting to observe in this connection that it is not always possible to make a sharp distinction between the two basic types of iconicity, the imagic and the diagrammatic type. Often they are intermingled or exist side by side at the same time. Ralf Norrman, for instance, has shown that some metaphors border on the imagic in that the reason why one sign is chosen to stand for another may also be based on their formal make-up (the level of the sign), which is itself an imagic reflection of their ‘nature-like’ appearance. As an example, he discusses the use of the cucurbits (pumpkins, melons etc.) across a wide variety of languages as a metaphor for plumpness, juiciness, fertility, fast growth, shortness of life etc. According to Norrman, this family of fruits has been used metaphorically not only because of a number of physical features whose semantic components are ‘plumpness’, ‘fertileness’ etc., but also because of the sound symbolism (imagic iconicity) found in the terms for cucurbits, which are phonetically remarkably similar in many, even unrelated, languages. This shows that these signs are hardly arbitrary, but that their ‘sound shape’ is partly motivated by the object that they represent. Thus, in the names for the most familiar cucurbits (cf. cucumber, Du. komkommer, It. cocomero, pumpkin, Du. pompoen, melon, marrow etc.) we get a frequent occurrence of bilabial and velar consonants, suggesting massive roundness and fast growth, and of reduplication, mimicking intensity (size) and rapid swelling. In this light, it is not surprising that cucurbits are seen as doubly appropriate metaphors for the concepts mentioned above because there are imagic as well as diagrammatic iconic links between sign and signified.
There is another type of iconicity distinguished by some scholars which again is different from the above two types, but here too it is difficult to observe clearly demarcated categories. This type is linked up with what Roman Jakobson has called the ‘poetic function’ of language. It involves the way in which language may refer back to itself, whereby extra meaning may be created without an ‘outer’ semiotic sign-function. That is, in these cases there is no semiotic link with a non-linguistic object or concept in the real world, but there is a link between signs on a purely textual level, which link may give those signs extra meaning. Various terms have been used for this. Laurel Brinton refers to the phenomenon as ‘auto-iconism’, Jřrgen Dines Johansen uses the term ‘second-degree’ iconicity, while Winfried Nöth favours ‘endophoric’ iconicity, contrasting it with ‘exophoric’ iconicity which comprises the semiotic types discussed earlier. Even though these different terms do not all precisely correspond to one another, they all express the basic idea that form may not only mime meaning, but that form may also mime form thus giving both the miming and mimed form extra meaning, taking meaning from one another. Again, it seems clear that the creation of metaphor forms a kind of bridge between pure exophoric iconicity (i.e. relating to something outside language) and pure endophoric iconicity (remaining on the purely textual level). For the extra meaning that is conveyed by endophoric iconicity does make use of extra-linguistic associations, just as metaphor does in miming or linking form with form on the basis of extra-linguistic or real world associations.
These endo- and exophoric categories can be fairly easily distinguished on a purely logical basis, as for instance Winfried Nöth shows in his theoretical semiotic discussion referred to above. Matters become much more complicated, however, when one tries to categorize concrete examples. Wolfgang Müller shows this quite clearly in his discussion of the iconic force of rhetorical figures in Shakespeare. According to him, the chiastic structure of Shakespeare’s ‘fair is foul and foul is fair’, which as a textual ‘mirror-symmetry’ would fall under the heading of endophoric iconicity (as Nöth [op.cit] indeed asserts), has in fact far greater force in the play because, as Müller convincingly demonstrates, it ‘deconstructs the opposition of fair and foul’. It relates iconically not only to the thematic structure of the play (which relation may perhaps still be called endophoric or intratextual), but is also an expression and a comment on a whole world view, which we cannot interpret in any way without a knowledge of that world, without going outside the text.
In this special issue of the European Journal of English Studies, we would like to show how iconicity works on the level of language (be it natural language or literary language), not so much theoretically but as part of a real life experience, i.e. as interpreted by human beings who live in a real world and use their experience of the world to produce words or structures or texts, or to interpret the structures with which they are confronted. All the contributions included here make use of the framework or the theory of iconicity as it has been worked out by linguists and semioticians (as sketched above), but their primary concern is to show how iconicity works.
Simon Alderson: "Chance and Imagination in Literary Iconicity"
The author begins with saying that critics have shown three types of reaction to iconicity in literary texts: 1) iconicity is present and relevant to literary discussion; 2) iconicity is present but accidental and hence not relevant to discussion (‘chance’); 3) iconicity is not objectively present, but exists only in the reader’s mind (‘imagination’). He then discusses the critics’ criteria for relevance: a) some evidence of authorial intention and b) some clear evidence of textual objectivity.
He then looks at some other examples of form or structure whose intentionality or even textual reality have been debated in the 20th century: such as Skinner’ s scepticism about alliteration in Shakespeare’s sonnets that raised a debate about intentionality and ‘instinct’, resulting in the insight that alliteration is ‘incidental’ and not accidental. He also shows that Jakobson’s concept of ‘intuition’ avoided a binary opposition between ‘design’ and ‘chance’. As further examples he discusses critical scepticism about wordplay in the classics and scepticism about Renaissance number symbolism.
He then argues that chance and imagination have been used to reject claims for iconic form since the 18th century but that in the late 17th and early 18th centuries (Cowley, Dryden, Pope) ‘chance’ iconic form was positively evaluated which was due to contemporary interest in iconic practices discerned in classical authors. He then discusses statements by Pope and Spence who insist on the intentionality of Homer’s iconic craft. He remarks on 18th century blurring of boundaries between chance and authorial intention and he relates the key terms ‘chance’ and ‘design’ to the key discourse of contemporary theology.
Accordingly chance forms were not seen as random but as a product of the poet’s impassioned mental state and as a product of the nature of the English language, both being outside the conscious control or understanding of the poet. Two facets of iconicity were seen as sources of the power and beauty in poetry: imitation of external reality by language and the expressive representation of inner emotional states by the ‘natural’ utterances of passion. Taking the 18th century as an example, he pleads that the discussion of literary iconicity need not be restricted by outdated standards of intentionality and that more historically grounded work on iconic forms, on the way people read must be done, suggesting that a careful grounding of the discussion in the latest linguistic research into the role of iconicity in language and cognition is necessary. And above all, he pleads for an improvement and development of our concepts of intuition and instinct as features of literary composition.
Michael Burke: "Iconicity and Literary Emotion"
This contribution is also interested in emotion and iconicity but discusses this relationship from a rather different angle. By means of a section from a novel by Paul Auster and a poem by George Macbeth, he investigates in how far iconic form may also convey emotion which is separate from semantic content (we have seen some of this in the excerpt from Il Postino above). Burke also discusses in how far the arousal of emotion through iconic form may in turn alter the semantic message of the text. Taking Leech and Short’s iconic concepts of ‘enactment’ and ‘dramatic performance’ as his starting point and focusing on such receptive emotions as ‘oppression’ and ‘intimidation’, Burke transcends the boundaries of neuro-psychology, linguistics and literary reception studies. For he argues that emotion plays a far more significant meaning-making role in iconic analyses of literary texts than was assumed to be the case earlier. In his excerpts he shows how this works on various grammatical or typographic levels. In Paul Auster’s novel, Ghosts, for instance, the brevity of the clauses and the absence of time relations creates a feeling of disorientation, while in Macbeth’s poem ‘Scissor Man’, it is especially the sounds and the typographic form of the poem that convey a sense of threat.
Adina Ciugureanu: "The Ideogram as an Iconic Dimension in Ezra Pound’s Early Cantos"
After some general remarks on the linguistic sign, Ciugureanu discusses Pound’s idea of the image, of the perfect, i.e. motivated sign and his distinction between three types of poetry: melopoeia, phanopoeia and logopoeia, the first sometimes making use of iconic images and the latter two of iconic diagrams. After citing Pound’s definition of the ideogram (via Fenollosa), she considers his extension of the idogrammatic method to myths: his superimposition of fragmented episodes and key-words which allude to scenes from various myths to create a symbol of a sensation or of an abstraction, a symbol whose parts may relate to each other as iconic images or form an iconic diagram. She then analyses several mythical ideogram in Pound’s Cantos: the ideogram for despair and revenge in "Canto IV", the ideograms for seduction in "Canto I" and "Canto IV" and the ideograms for destruction and violence in "Canto II" and in "Canto IV".
Silvia Kouwenberg & Darlene LaCharité: "The Iconic Interpretations of Reduplication: Issues in the Study of Reduplication of Caribbean Creole Languages"
The aim of this paper is to explore the extent to which the iconic principle, that ‘more of the same form’ corresponds to ‘more of the same meaning’, is evidenced in reduplications in various Caribbean Creoles (including English-, Spanish-, Dutch-, and French-lexifier Creoles). We will demonstrate that the form/meaning relationship is not a simple one, but requires a fine-grained analysis that considers the inherent semantic properties of the base, and allows for language-specific instantiations, which may display considerable departure from a transparent form/meaning relationship.
Reduplication refers to a morphological relation between a base and a derived form which involves the repetition of all or part of the base. Where all of the base is repeated, we speak of whole-word reduplication; where only part of the base surfaces in the reduplicant, it is referred to as partial. Reduplication is considered one of the hallmarks of Creole morphology, along with morphological conversion and compounding.
In spite of the fact that reduplication is generally considered to be a defining characteristic of Creole languages, including those of the Caribbean, there has been surprisingly little research on the topic. Other than reduplication, conversion and compounding, Creole languages generally display isolating morphology and few productive affixes.
There is a long-standing and widely held view that reduplication constitutes one of the iconic elements of language. As noted by Botha, ‘reduplication is a means of word formation that manifests a measure of iconicity: form and meaning resemble each other in a quantitative respect’. One of the simplest statements of the non-arbitrary relation between iconicity and reduplication is made by Lakoff and Johnson to the effect that ‘more of form stands for more of content’; because reduplication involves more of the same form, an iconic interpretation is expected to involve more of the same content.
Our study of Caribbean Creole reduplication has resulted in four inter-related findings with respect to the iconicity of reduplication. These findings form the focus of the present article. The first finding is that there exist in most, if not all, corpora, iterated forms that we refer to as apparent or pseudo-reduplications. As we shall show in section 2, these need to be distinguished from real reduplications to allow a meaningful analysis of reduplication in a given language or body of languages.
The second finding concerns those reduplications that can be considered iconic, within the broad definition given. What we have found is that some finer distinctions need to be made within the concept of iconicity. As we shall see when we consider the data in more detail, a basic distinction emerges between continuous and discontinuous interpretations of ‘more of the same’. Furthermore, iconicity can be seen to interact with inherent semantic properties of the base, resulting in some ambiguous interpretations that are found both cross-linguistically and within a single language (section 3).
A third finding that has emerged from our study of reduplication in Caribbean Creole languages is that although not all reduplication can be considered iconic, the distinction between iconic and non-iconic reduplications is not clearly dichotomous. Rather, iconicity can be reflected in the interpretation of a reduplication to different extents. Transparently iconic reduplications and opaque, non-iconic reduplications represent endpoints on a continuum, and each language contains reduplications that rest along various points on the continuum (section 4).
The fourth general finding concerns the form of reduplication in Caribbean Creole languages. Our research reveals that there are departures from strictly whole-word reduplication within some of the languages considered, and that these formal departures are linked to semantic transparency/opacity and to iconicity/non-iconicity. This will be the subject of section 5.
An overview of the Caribbean Creoles that we considered is given in (1).
Tomas Pollard: "Telegraphing the Sentence and the Story: Iconicity in In the Cage by Henry James"
Basing his study on Henry James’s story In the Cage in which a telegraphist in her cage and the sending, receiving and decoding of telegrams by the rich is the thematic centre, Pollard shows how James reconfigures the plot and the sentence itself into the obtuse, fragmented shape of a telegraphed message. He sees the iconicity of the novel in its segmented scenes of the plot and in the elliptical syntax of its sentences because he considers the fragmented scenes to be imitations of the segemented information of a telegraphic dispatch, even speculating that the 27 chapters are textual icons for the 26 letters plus full stop in Morse code. Similarly, the action of the plot is seen to imitate the end-oriented transmission of information by the telegraphic dispatch due to the importance given to repressed surprise details turning up a the endings of events. Protecting one’s privacy and the minimal use of words to save money turn both the telegram and the story into kind of puzzle. In addition, the conclusion of the plot mimics the need of waiting for the completion of the telegraphic message. Thus, the plot of In the Cage imitates the transmission of a telegram by its focus on the telegraphist’s attempts at guessing the meanings of messages before all the information can be verified. The novel also contains a handful of elliptical sentences that mimic the fragmentation of language in telegrams and its seeming non-intelligibility. Pollard also looks at the iconicity of animal imagery in the story and at its dislocated syntax as an icon of the telegraphist’s class-consciousnes, her ambivalence of feelings about the rich. Finally, the namelessness of the telegraphist is seen in iconic terms: her development as a character is said to imitate the end-oriented dispatch of a telegram.
Michael Webster: "Magic Iconism: Defamiliarization, Sympathetic Magic, and Visual Poetry (Guillaume Apollinaire and E.E. Cummings)"
Webster starts out with a few remarks on the literary devices of defamiliarization and differentiates its principle of making the natural unnatural from that of iconicity which, also having an alienating effect, tends to make the unnatural seem natural. He then discusses the magic character of literature which makes the past come alive and characters seem real. Thus poetic incantation becomes magic invocation by a feat of animation on the reader’s part. Webster then examines Apollinaire’s visual poem ‘Coeur couronné et miroir’ as a form of magic ritual or charm that relies on sympathetic magic which the reader must complete and perform. According to Webster the poem combines the ancient and the modern: it uses emblematic iconism, hermetic magic and modern techniques of collage and juxtaposition to call forth by means of a reader-activated aesthetic spell the living person of the absent poet. He then looks at a few poems by Cummings in the light of the magic spell. In the poem on the rubythroated hummingbird he interprets its pun (‘i’ and ‘eye’) as well as the visually shaped text, which resembles the head of the bird seen from above, as iconic transformation. He then examines two poems by Cummings for their non-magic iconic creation of movement by means of spacing, capitalisation and onomatopoeia: Buffalo Bill’s rapidity of shooting and a hummingbird’s bouncing from flower to flower. He then interprets a more hermetic Cummings poem that by means of typographic iconicity renders a child’s staring eyes and fuses past and present. Finally, he looks at the poem ‘plant Magic dust’ and offers some thoughts (derived from Auden) on defamiliarisation and the activation of magic in the reading process through metaphoric means (homoeopathic magic) and metonymic means (contagious magic). He concludes that "through magic, iconism connects the poem to the world of nature while at the same time creating a defamiliarising tension between icon and symbol."