Papers from Jakobson's SW (5)

Jakobson, Roman 1981 [1933]. What is poetry? In: Rudy, Stephen (ed.), Selected Writings III: Poetry of Grammar and Grammar of Poetry. The Hague (etc.): Mouton de Gruyter, 740-750.

We have only to realize what pleasure the great Russian poet Xlebnikov derived from typographical errors; the typograptical error, he once said, is often a first-rate artist. (Jakobson 1981 [1933-1934]: 741)
The artist's affinity for mutation (cf. Cheng 2001: 151).
The borderline dividing what is a work of poetry from what is not is less stable than the frontiers of the Chinese empire's territories. (Jakobson 1981 [1933-1934]: 741)
Horse_Ebooks twitter account is considered being contemporary interneti poetry.
Soldan describes the relationship between an erotic poem and a poet's erotic life as if he were dealing with static entities in an encyclopedia rather than a dialectical alliance with constant shifts, as if he regarded a sign and the object designated by it as monogamously and immutably bound to one another, as if he had never heard of the age-old psychological principle of the ambivalence of feelings - no feeling is so pure as to be fre from contamination by its opposite feeling. (Jakobson 1981 [1933-1934]: 742)
I haven't heard of it, but I have sure noted something like it in descriptions of nonverbal behaviour that refer to emotions, sometimes quite ambiguously. I call these ambiguous descriptions.
The diary described the author's physiological acts - both genital and anal - with epic tranquillity. It records, in laborious code and with the inexorable accuracy of a bookkeeper, the manner and frequency of his sexual gratification with his mistress Lori. (Jakobson 1981 [1933-1934]: 743)
Well, what else should one keep a diary about? Breakfast, lunch and dinner?
Every verbal act in a certain sense stylizes and transforms the event it depicts. How it does so is determined by its slant, its emotional content, the audience it is addressed to, the preliminary "censorship" it undergoes, the supply of ready-made patterns it draws from. Because the poeticity of the verbal act makes it very clear that communication is not of prime importance, "censorship" here can be relaxed, toned down. (Jakobson 1981 [1933-1934]: 746)
Compare this to Jakobson's later communication model and what features this list draws on. Also, what I call "concourse" is one of the factors that stylize and transform the way events are verbally depicted. The cloud vs sunshine scheme to convey facial expressions of emotion, for example, is one stylistic device Estonians used profusely a hundred years ago but don't anymore.
In art, it was the motion pictures that revealed clearly and emphatically that language was only one of a number of possible sign systems, just as astronomy had revealed that the earth was only one of a number of planets and thus revolutionized man's view of the world. (Jakobson 1981 [1933-1934]: 749)
If you say so.

Jakobson, Roman 1981 [1935]. The dominant. In: Rudy, Stephen (ed.), Selected Writings III: Poetry of Grammar and Grammar of Poetry. The Hague (etc.): Mouton de Gruyter, 751-756.

The dominant may be defined as the focusing component of a work of art: it rules, determines, and transforms the remaining components. It is the dominant which guarantees the integrity of the structure. (Jakobson 1981 [1935]: 751)
But how do you know if the component you are focusing on is the dominant component and not just your own preference?
However, we must constantly bear in mind that the element which specifies a given variety of language dominates the entire structure and thus acts as its mandatory and inalienable constituent dominating all the remaining elements and exerting direct influence upon them. (Jakobson 1981 [1935]: 751)
Uh-uh, the dominant dominates, but how do you discriminate a dominant when everything in a work of art seems to exert direct influence on all other elements?
Verse itself is a system of values; as with any value system, it possesses its own hierarchy of superior and inferior values and one leading value, the dominant, without which (within the framework of a given literary period and a given artistic trend) verse cannot be conceived and evaluated as verse. (Jakobson 1981 [1935]: 751)
Okay, my bad. I had been thinking about literary art. I don't know anything about verse or its values.
We may seek a dominant not only in the poetic work of an individual artist and not only in the poetic canon, the set of norms of a given poetic school, but also in the art of a given epoch, viewed as a particular whole. For example, it is evident that in Renaissance art such a dominant, such an acme of the aesthetic criteria of the time, was represented by the visual arts. Other arts oriented themselves toward the visual arts and were valued according to the degree of their closeness to the latter. On the other hand, in Romantic art the supreme value was assigned to music. Thus, for example, Romantic poetry oriented itself toward music: its verse is musically focused; its verse intonation imitates musical melody. (Jakobson 1981 [1935]: 752)
Oh. It's like how today some film-makers are oriented towards video games and try to give their films a video-game aesthetic (and/or physical laws).
From this point of view, a poetic work cannot be defined as a work fulfilling neither an exclusively aesthetic function nor an aesthetic function along with other functions; rather, a poetic work is defined as a verbal message whose aesthetic function is its dominant. (Jakobson 1981 [1935]: 753)
Dno, as far as I can tell, when the aesthetic function is the dominant, there have to be other functions along with the aesthetic function to dominate over.

Jakobson, Roman and J. Tynjanov 1981 [1928]. Problems in the study of language and literature. In: Rudy, Stephen (ed.), Selected Writings III: Poetry of Grammar and Grammar of Poetry. The Hague (etc.): Mouton de Gruyter, 3-6.

The history of literature (art), being simultaneous with other historical series, is characterized, as is each of these series, by an involved complex of specific structural laws. Without an elucidation of these laws, it is impossible to establish in a scientific manner the correlation between the literary series and other historical series. (Jakobson & Tynjanov 1981 [1928]: 3)
For my purposes, concourse is merely one of these "other" series. That is, how people think, feel and talk about nonverbal behaviour and communication changes historically as most everything does.
The history of a system is in turn a system. Pure synchronism now proves to be an illusion: every synchronic system has its past and its future as inseparable structural elements of the system: (a) archaism as a fact of style; the linguistic and literary background recognized as the rejected old-fashioned style; (b) the tendency toward innovation in language and literature recognized as a renewal of the system. (Jakobson & Tynjanov 1981 [1928]: 4)
Which is why I consider the history of the study of nonverbal communication to be worth studying itself.
The concept of a synchronic literary system does not coincide with the naively envisaged concept of a chronological epoch, since the fromer embraces not only works of art which are close to each other in time but also works which are drawn into the orbit of the system from foreign literatures or previous epochs. An indifferent cataloguing of coexistent phenomena is not sufficient; what is important is their hierarchical significance for the given epoch. (Jakobson & Tynjanov 1981 [1928]: 4)
This much is also apparent is music. At any given moment people listen to what is new and groundbreaking alongside with what is old and withstood the test of time.

Jakobson, Roman 1981 [1958]. Linguistics and poetics. In: Rudy, Stephen (ed.), Selected Writings III: Poetry of Grammar and Grammar of Poetry. The Hague (etc.): Mouton de Gruyter, 18-51.

The success of a political convention depends on the general agreement of the majority or totality of its participants. The use of votes and vetoes, however, is alien to scholarly discussion, where disagreement generally proves to be more productive than agreement. Disagreement discloses antinomies and tensions within the field discussed and calls for novel exploration. (Jakobson 1981 [1958]: 18)
This is why in my blog I more often disagree than agree with something. Completely agreeable stuff is inconsequential and superfluous.
I have been asked for summary remarks about poetics in its relation to linguistics. Poetics deals primarily with the question, What makes a verbal message a work of art? Because the main subject of poetics is the differentia specifica of verbal art in relation to other arts and in relation to other kinds of verbal behavior, poetics is entitled to the leading place in literary studies. (Jakobson 1981 [1958]: 18)
Differentia specifica sounds much better than "banal minutae".
Poetics deals with problems of verbal structure, just as the analysis of painting is concerned with pictorial structure. (Jakobson 1981 [1958]: 18)
Now I wonder if the study of nonverbal communication deals with the structure of behaviour? Although several notorious books bear this kind of name (relating behaviour and structure), the notion itself is contested - how can behaviour be a structure when it implies constant movement, change and dynamics?
We can refer to the possibility of transposing Wuthering Heights into a motion picture, medieval legends into frescoes and miniatures, or L'apres-midi d-un faune into music, ballet, and graphic art. However ludicrous the idea of the Iliad and Odyssey in comics may seem, certain structural features of their plot are preserved despite the disappearance of their verbal shape. (Jakobson 1981 [1958]: 19)
This seems like a characteristic of intersemiotic translation.
Likewise, a second objection contains nothing that would be specific for literature: the question of relations between the word and the world concerns not only verbal art but actually all kinds of discourse. Linguistics is likely to explore all possible problems of relation between discourse and the "universe of discourse": what of this universe is verbalized by a given discourse and how it is verbalized. The truth values, however, as far as they are - to say with the logicians - "extralinguistic entities", obviously exceed the bounds of poetics and of linguistics in general. (Jakobson 1981 [1958]: 19)
As another attempt to define concourse, I'll put forth that involves the what and how of verbalizing the "universe of behaviour". To use even more cumbersome notions, it implies a translation from the sphere of behaviour to the sphere of discourse.
Obviously we must agree with Sapir that, on the whole, "ideation reigns supreme in language", but this supremacy does not authorize linguistics to disregard the "secondary factors". The emotive elements of speech, which, as Joos is prone to believe, cannot be described "with a finite number of absolute categories", are classified by him "as nonlinguistic elements of the real world". Hence, "for us they remain vague, protean, fluctuating phenomena", he concludes, "which we refuse to tolerate in our science". Joos is indeed a brilliant expert in reduction experiments, and his emphatic demand for the "expulsion" of emotive elements "from linguistic science" is a radical experiment in reduction - reductio ad absurdum. (Jakobson 1981 [1958]: 21)
But Joos has a point. In the article "Description of Language Design" he argues that phenomena such as the tone of anger in an utterance cannot be described precisely with a finite number of absolute categories, thus should be classified as "non-linguistic elements of the real world" and expelled from linguistic science: "Let sociologists and others do what they like with such things" (Joos 1950: 703). That is, Joos's reduction seems justified. Linguistics cannot capture "the inexhaustible variety of life" in absolute categories.
To be operative the message requires a CONTEXT referred to (the "referent" in another, somewhat ambiguous, nomenclature), graspable by the addressee, and either verbal or capable of being verbalized; [...] (Jakobson 1981 [1958]: 21)
I checked all other occasions where Jakobson talks about the context / referential function in previous readings and this seems to be the only place where Jakobson adds that the context referred to that is required for the message to operative must be graspable by the addressee. Perhaps this is too obvious for mentioning elsewhere, but it does embody a significant difference with Bakhtinian communication models where there are factors besides the code that make the referent graspable - e.g. topic, genre, memory, etc. It is still a mystery why the context referred to must be either verbal or capable of being verbalized. Is it because Jakobson's model is of a speech act and thus must be completely verbal? How does Jakobson manage to ignore the nonverbal aspects of interaction so effectively?
The so-called EMOTIVE or "expressive" function, focused on the ADDRESSER, aims a direct expression of the speaker's attitude toward what he is speaking about. It tends to produce an impression of a certain emotion, whether true or feigned; therefore, the term "emotive," launched and advocated by Marty, has proved to be preferable to "emotional". (Jakobson 1981 [1958]: 22)
How? How has this term proven to be preferable? The source reads: Anton Marty, Untersuchungen zur Grudlegung der Allgemeinen Grammatik und Sprachphilosophie, Vol. 1. (Halle, 1908). The book is available on archive.org but it's in German. Wiki says that the Prague linguistic circle was influenced by Anton Marty, which should come as no surprise. Luckily, the Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry sheds some light on his desicriptive semasiology of emotives:
As Marty regards statements as autosemantica which manifest judgments and communicate to the intelocutor that he or she is to judge in the same way, he characterizes emotives or interest-demanding expressions (interesseheischende A.usdrücke) as those autosemantic which manifest not only emotions, but also volitions (which for him and Brentano belong to one and the same class), and communicate to the interlocutor that he or she is to feel or will in the same way. The analogy between statements and judgments is upheld by Marty to great lengths.
Wow. I know Brentano's view on intention is weird and Husserl makes it even weirder, so that seemingly most phenomenologists would concur that all consciousness is intentional, without really explaining how or why... But this here is actually incredibly insightful. At least in terms of facial expressions of emotions, volition and emotions are indeed related. It's as if this definition includes an implicit understanding of mimicry or "emotional contagion". Jakobson's emotive function should definitely be reviewed from this light.

Jakobson, Roman 1981 [1960]. Poetry of grammar and grammar of poetry. In: Rudy, Stephen (ed.), Selected Writings III: Poetry of Grammar and Grammar of Poetry. The Hague (etc.): Mouton de Gruyter, 87-97.

Jeremy Bentham, who was perhaps the first to disclose the manifold "linguistic fictions" which underlie the grammatical structure and which are used throughout the whole field of language as a "necessary resource", arrived in his Theory of Fictions at a challenging conclusion: "To language, then - to language alone - it is that fictitious entities owe their existence; their impossible, yet indispensable existence". Linguistic fictions should neither be "mistaken for realities" nor be ascribed to the creative fancy of linguists: they "owe their existence" actually "to language alone" and particularly to the "grammatical form of the discourse", in Bentham's terms. (Jakobson 1981 [1960]: 88)
A side-effect or another viewpoint toward "distancing" - the fact that verbal signs and their referents have such a tenuous relation. It is a lot more difficult to use nonverbal behaviour to create fictitious entities. Tsitaat puutub ka oleva ja oletatava vastandusse ja kirjanduse ning ajaloo vahel haigutavasse lõhesse.
[...] IN FICTION, in verbal art, LINGUISTIC FICTIONS are fully realized. (Jakobson 1981 [1960]: 89)
A fuller realization than in legal fictions that Bentham was writing about?
There, where the poetic function dominates over the strictly cognitive function, the latter is more or less dimmed, or as Sir Philip Sidney declares in his Defence of Poesie, "Now for the Poet, he nothing affirmeth, and therefore never lieth". Consequently, in Bentham's succinct formulation, "the Fictions of the poet are pure of unsincerity". (Jakobson 1981 [1960]: 89)
I use similar reasoning for taking liberties for writing pseudo-science in guise of experimental literature and under a pseudonym. How can a nonexistent person, a persona, affirm anything? Fictitious is licentious.
"In this respect grammar bears a resemblance to geometry, which, when giving its laws, abstracts itself from concrete objects, treats objects as bodies deprived of concreteness and defines their mutual relations not as concrete relations of certain concrete objects but as relations of bodies in general, namely, relations deprived of any concreteness." (Stalin 1950 in Jakobson 1981 [1960]: 95)
Similar problematic is apparent in popular books about body language, where concrete behaviours are replaced by patterns and forms. This is especially interesting in Goffman, who took concrete descriptions from literary fiction and abstracted "idioms" out of repeating motives.


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