Glossary of formalist terminology

O'Toole, Lawrence Michael and Ann Shukman (eds.), 1977. A contextual glossary of formalist terminology. In: Formalist Theory. Russian Poetics in Translation, Vol. 4. Oxford: Holdan Books.

The subject of literary science is not literature, but literariness, i.e. that which makes a given work a literary work. Up till now, however, historians of literature have mostly behaved like the police who when they want to arrest someone take in everyoen and everything found in the apartment and even chance passers-by. Historians of literature have in the same way felt the need to take in everything - everyday life, psychology, politics, philosophy. Instead of a science of literature we have fetched up wit ha conglomeration of cottage industries. (Jakobson 1921: §II in O'Toole & Shukman 1977: 17)
[Noveishaya russkaya poeziya. Nabrosok Pervyi. Viktor Khlebnikov [The newest Russian poetry. First draft. Viktor Khlebnikov], Prague]
I don't know anything about the literary science of that time but today the scene seems equally intermeshed and confusing.
When we talk of ideological criticism, i.e. of criticism where the dominant criterion is not aesthetic but social or philosophical, it does not mean that we exclude all purely literary purport from such criticism. In the first place, every method of examining verbal material, whatever the degree of its literary consciousness, must of necessity be one of the historical-literary factors, the totality of which make up the literary background of the period. Secondly, even ideological criticism always has its poetics, though it is a poetics that is less practical, more summary, and more difficult to decipher. (Ginzburg 1927: 87 in O'Toole & Shukman 1977: 18)
['Iz literaturnoi istorii Benediktova' ['From the literary history of Benediktov'], Poetika, II, Leningrad, 83-103.]
That is, even researchers who turn to literature for sake of convenience still cannot avoid turning to historical-literary factors (the literary background of the period).
A writer draws after him a chain of other people's linguistic consciousness, a suite of narrators, who make combinations of new systems of skaz out of books, archaic elements [...] or out of conversational and dialectic elements [...] The stylistic movement is then enclosed in the narrow sphere of linguistic consciousness, in thrall to the conditions of the social life portrayed. (Vinogradov 1926: 38 in O'Toole & Shukman 1977: 19)
['Problema skaza v stilistike' ['The problem of skaz in stylistics'], Poetika, I, Leningrad, 24-40.]
Very simplistically: no author begins from a truly blank page.
The work is a system of correlated factors. Correlation of each factor with the others is its function in relation to the whole system. It is quite clear that every literary system is fromed not by the peaceful interaction of all the factors, but by the supremacy, the foregrounding, of one factor (or group) that functionally subjugates and colours the rest. This factor bears the name that has already become established in Russian scholarly works of the dominant. (Tynyanov 1927a: 4 in O'Toole & Shukman 1977: 20)
['Oda kak oratorskii zhanr' ['The ode as an oratorical genre'], Poetika, III, Leningrad, 102-128. References to reprint in Tynyanov 1929: 48-46 (Arkhaisty i novatory [Archaists and Innovators], Leningrad.).]
It is easy to see that there's a hierarchy and a predominant function in Jakobson's communication model after the foregrounded factor in the literary work.
The work of art is first and foremost a sign. A sign is an object that serves the perceiving consciousness as a substitute for some system of ideas which is its meaning. The essence of signification is the substitution of th eirrational, the fluctuating, the complex by the rational, the fixed, the simple. For this reason a sign is always a perceptible datum. Consequently, since it is a sign, the work of art must possess a perceptible substratum which in accord with the generally accepted terminology we shall term the material. In the work of art the material serves only as substratum upon which is realized a certain organization, usually termed artistic form [...] Material and form are the two basic points of view dictated by the definition of the work of art, the basic factors of artistic structure. (Bernshtein 1927: 28-29 in O'Toole & Shukman 1977: 21-21)
['Esteticheskie predposylki teorii deklamatsii' ['Aesthetic presuppositions for a theory of declamation'], Poetika, III, Leningrad, 25-44.]
The meaning of a symbol is a system of ideas and the function of signification is (or at least seems to be) to substitute "the complex, the fluctuating, the complex" system of ideas with "the rational, the fixed, the simple" perceptible material sign-vehicle. This account has a Wittgensteinian feel to it, at least when it comes to the specificity of a symbol's meaning.
Literature is a language construction which is perceptible precisely as a construction, i.e. literature is a dynamic language construction. (Tynyanov 1924: 14 in O'Toole & Shukman 1977: 22)
['Literaturnyi fakt' ['The literary fact']. References to reprint in Tynyanov 1929, 5-29. (Originally 'O literaturnom fakte', Lef, 2, 1924, 100-116.)]
Recall the poetic function that makes a verbal construction perceptible as poetry.
Poetry is language in its aesthetic function. (Jakobson 1921: §II in O'Toole & Shukman 1977: 22)
Or that.
In emotional and poetic languages, the linguistic images (phonetic and semantic) concentrate more attention on themselves, the connection between sound and meaning is closer, more intimate, and the language by virtue of this is more revolutionary, inasmuch as habitual associations by contiguity recede into the background. (Jakobson 1921: §II in O'Toole & Shukman 1977: 2)
In this way both emotional and poetic language are "ostensive" (they concentrate attention on themselves). The meaning is more closer and more intimate because it doesn't rely so much on reference as on the nature of its expression: in emotional utterances the content is secondary and the paralinguistic cues are primary; in poetry the content in similarly secondary and the aesthetic qualities of the poetry are primary.
The material of poetry is language. [...] The specific tendency of poetry [...] in the last analysis comes down to breaking up the structure of language into its elements which are then reconstructed [in such a way that] the correlations of parts are transposed, shifted, and consequently, there is laid bare and precisely calculated the actual significance, valency, linguistic value of these component parts. In other words poetic creation is work on the word not only as a sign, but as a thing possessing its own construction, the elements of which are re-evaluated and re-grouped in every new poetic utterance. [...] It must not be forgotten that in acquiring a poetic function the word does not thereby lose its other functions, including the communicative one; the latter are merely covered with a new constructive principle. (Vinokur 1923: 105, 109, 110 in O'Toole & Shukman 1977: 23)
['Poetika. Lingvistika. Sotsiologiya' ['Poetics. Linguistics. Sociology'], Lef, 3, 104-113.]
This is how the poetic function focuses on the message for its own sake. That is, it focuses on the message as a thing, as something other than mere message, but something with poetic/aesthetic value, its own construction or constructive principle.
In the verse-line, according to this law, all the words that make up the line are in a special correlation, in a denser interaction; hence a word does not have the same sense in poetry, but is different from practical speect of all kinds, and from prose. Moreover, all form words, all the secondary words that pass unnoticed in speaking, become in verse extraordinarily prominent and meaningful. (Tynyanov 1927b: 70 in O'Toole & Shukman 1977: 25)
['Ob osnovakh kino' ['On the foundations of cinema'], in Poetika kino, ed. B. Eikhenbaum, Moscow-Leningrad, 53-85.]
Similarly, our everyday practical movements have a different sense in dance. For example, Lil B performing his "cooking dance" is quite different from actual cooking.
By equivalent of a paetic text I mean all non-verbal elements which in some way replace it, first and foremost partial omissions, then partian substitution by graphic elements and so on. [...] The appearance of equivalents does not signify any lowering or weakening, but, on the contrary, the pressure and intensity of unexpected dynamic elements. They are clearly different from pauses: the pause is a homogeneous element in speech which stands for nothing but itself, while in an equivalent we are dealing with a heterogeneous element, differing in its very functions from the elements among which it is interposed. [...] an equivalent cannot be transmitted acoustically, only a pause can. (Tynyanov 1924a: 43, 47 in O'Toole & Shukman 1977: 27)
[Problema stikhotvornogo yazyka [The problem of verse language], Leningrad. References to 2nd ed., Moscow, 1965.]
It is actually quite unique for the notion of "non-verbal" appearing at this early date. That is, this notion was still in development in various fields. This definition here may very well be a source for Jakobson's cryptic "nonverbalized but verbalizable". The non-verbal element is here seen as replacing or substituting the verbal element. It is, indeed, nonverbalized, but only in the context of a poetic text.
How are we preconditioned to decipher polysemic lyric utterances? First of all by the traditional conventions of word-usage and of poetic style in general; next by the context (that is, by the obligatory significance of the given totality of speech elements, by the interaction of words); [...] (Larin 1927: 67 in O'Toole & Shukman 1977: 28)
['O lirike kak raznovidnost' khudozhestvennoi rechi (semanticheskie etyudy)' ['On the lyric as a kind of literary speech (semantic studies)'], Russkaya Rech' (novaya seriya) I, Leningrad, 42-73. Page references to the reprint in B.A. Larin, Estetika slova i yazyka pisatelya, Leningrad, 1974.]
This is what I think "verbal context" (of the speech act) means, as opposed to "nonverbal situation" (of the interaction).
In order to find in the structure of the poetic word this ontological correlation to the normal, - (and one might almost say here 'natural'), interest of the reader in the personality of the writer, it is enough to recall that, from the point of view of the biographer, a poem is not so much a particular cultural manifestation as an action by the author, the form of his behaviour - this idea was our starting point. [...] The word is not only the expression of some semantic content but also a social and psychological act on the part of one who utters it. Consequently it not only conveys to us, in its predicative forms, ideas and images, but it also suggests to us by its expressive forms, the pose, manner, and behaviour of the person who performs the act of predication. (Vinokur 1927: 78-80 in O'Toole & Shukman 1977: 28-29)
[Biografiya i kul'tura [Biography and culture], Moscow.]
It is quite understandable why this quote is in the category of "pragmatics". In the final analysis a poem is a speech act.
A poem does not, however, simply exist in history: it is a particular and specific cultural object. It exists in culture as a poem. Our task is therefore to seek out in the structure of the poem as a particular historical object, those features of which it could be said that, since they are what makes the poem a poem, they endow it with everything that is for it specific and typical. This specificum of the poetic structure is poetic inner form, the bearer of the special poetic significance of the word, the basis of its imagery and symbolic quality. It is here that takes place the transition from the simple-historical to the poetic as such, it is here that lies the 'forbidden one' in which the varied and random material taken from current social reality is raised by creative effort to the power of poetic existence sui generis. (Vinokur 1927: 75 in O'Toole & Shukman 1977: 29)
A similar ethos underlies my search for nonverbal imagery and symbols in Estonian culture.
The form of a literary work must be conceived of as dynamic. This dynamism is to be seen 1) in the notion of the constructional principle. Not all factors of a word have equal value; dynamic form is brought about not by the combination of factors, nor by their fusion (cf. the frequently used concept of 'correspondence'), but by their interaction and, consequently, by the foregrounding of one group of factors at the expense of another group. When this happens the foregrounded factor deforms the subservient ones. 2) The sense of form is, moreover, always a sense of flow (and hence of change) in the relationship between the subordinating constructional factor and the subservient factors. [...] Art lives in this interaction, in this struggle. Without a feeling of the subservience, of the deformation, of all the factors in relation to the factor that plays the constructional role, there can be no fact of art. [...] If the sensation of the interaction of factors disappears (a feeling which presupposes the presence of two principles: one subordinating and one subservient) the fact of art is lost; it becomes automatized. (Tynyanov 1924a: 28-29 in O'Toole & Shukman 1977: 30)
I wonder if this is the same reason why the functions of Jakobson's communication model have a hierarchy... And I kind of get why this "deformation" is necessary - it's because it's almost a literal de-formation, or as Shklovsky or Tynyanov put it somewhere in the above quotes, the replacement or substitution of one form with another. This is pretty much the nature of innovation and creativity and also involves sarcasm and parody. If there is no dominant and consequently no subservience (nothing is renewed, parodied, looked at from another angle, etc.) then there indeed is no art, just a formulaic repetition. In even a more broader scheme of things, this is why music, art, literature and other aspects of culture can never be finished and finalized, perfect for ever and ever. It is why there will always be "something new", even if it's merely another take on something old.
The organizing feature of art, by which art is distinguished from other semiological structures, is the direction of intention not towards the signified but towards the sign itself. The organizing feature of poetry is intention directed on to the verbal expression. The sign is a dominant in an artistic system and when the historian of literature takes as his principal subject not the sign, but what is signified, when he studies the ideology of a work of literature as an independent and autonomous entitiy, he destroys the hierarchy of values of the structure he is studying. (Theses, 3, c, 5. in O'Toole & Shukman 1977: 31)
['Theses', Travaux du Cercle Linguistique de Prague, 1, 1929.]
Not the poetic function but the organizing feature of poetry. Not the set (Einstellung) towards the message, but the intention towards the verbal expression. I still think we should turn to Anton Marty to make sense of not only Jakobson's emotive and poetic functions but also Tynyanov's auto- and synfunction and how they compare to Marty's auto- and synsemantics.
The existence of a fact as a fact of literature depends on its differentila quality (i.e. on its correlation with either the literary or the non-literary series). In other words its existence depends on its function. (Tynyanov 1927: 35 in O'Toole & Shukman 1977: 32)
['O literaturnoi evolyutsii' ['On literary evolution']. References to reprint in Tynyanov 1929, 30-37. (Originally 'Vopros o literaturnoi evolyutsii', Na literaturnom postu, 10, 42-48).]
Very much akin to his thesis co-written with Jakobson the next year.
The study of literary evolution is only possible if literature is treated as a series or system related to other series and systems and conditioned by them. An investigation must proceed from the constructional function to the literary function and from the literary function to the verbal. It must elucidate the evolutionary interaction of functions and forms. (Tynyanov 1927: 46-47 in O'Toole & Shukman 1977: 32-33)
This seems to spell out that literature is only one aspect of the system of systems (whatever it may be), and must be treated as such if it is to be studied. That is, literature is interconnected with all other aspects of... well... culture, society, nature, whatever.
The correlation of each element of a literary work, as a system, wit hothers, and, naturally, with the system as a whole, I term the element's constructional function. On closer inspection, such a function turns out to be a complex concept. The element simultaneously correlates: on the one hand, with the series of similar elements in other works as systems and even in other series, and, on the other, with other elements in its own system (the 'autofunction' and the 'synfunction'). For example, the lexis of a given work can be correlated simultaneously with literary lexis and general language lexis on the one hand, and with other elements of the given work on the other. (Tynyanov 1927: 33 in O'Toole & Shukman 1977: 33)
Intuitively one feels that these should be opposite: that the autofunction should concern elements of its own system and synfunction should concern similar elements in other systems. BUT! It makes perfect sense when we consider that auto- and synfunction are modeled after Anton Marty's semasiology. In that case it appears clearly that: Synsemantic words and phrases are meaningful only when they occur in the company of other words or, as synfunction stipulates, in relation with other elements in its own system. Autosemantic words and phrases on the other hand are meaningful in isolation, independent of context and, according to the autofunction, can be correlated with similar elements in other works, systems and series. I really must advocate turning to Anton Marty to make sense of Prague thinkers.
The dominant may be defined as the focussing 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 1935: 82 in O'Toole & Shukman 1977: 34-35)
['The dominant' (unpublished Czech text of lecture). Page references to the English version in Readings in Russian Poetics, M.I.T., 1971, 82-87.]
In his communication model the predominant function seems more like a methodological curiosity (e.g. one views one function as dominant) but it is becoming abundantly clear that in some way or form Jakobson is trying to say that the dominant is a precondition of a speech act.
The purpose of art is to transmit the sense of a thing as seen not as recognizing; the device of art is that of 'making things strange' and of making form difficult, increasing the difficulty and time taken to perceive since the process of perception in art is an aim in itself and must be prolonged: art is a way of experiencing the making of a thing and what has already been made is of no importance. (Shklovsky 1927: 13 in O'Toole & Shukman 1977: 35)
['Iskusstvo kak priem' ['Art as device'], Sborniki po teorii proeticheskogo yazyka, II, 3-14. Reference to the reprint in Shklovsky 1929, 7-23. (O teorii prozy, Moscow. 1st ed. 1925.)]
This idea is a play on William James's observation that higher intelligence means greater delay between stimuli and reaction. While the intelligence of lower animals may appear as almost mechanical, in humans the measure of intelligence is how great a duration there is between an action and its rewards. I can't find the exact quote that reminded me of Shklovsky when I read James. In any case, Shklovsky has turned this idea around and viewed art as something that is meant for the intelligence of man, to give its most complex organ something to make sense of by making it strange.
We have the word 'set'. It breadly denotes 'the author's artistic intention'. And yet it sometimes happens that 'the intention was good, but the execution was poor'. Furthermore the author's intention can be no more than the yeast. Once equipped with some specific literary material, the author retreats from his original intention and submits to the material [...] Let us cross out the teleological connotation, the 'intention', from the word 'set'. What do we get? The 'set' of a literary work (series) turns out to be its speech function, its correlation with everyday life. (Tynyanov 1927: 42-43 in O'Toole & Shukman 1977: 36)
A verification - the "set" towards something is actually "setting" (Einstellung on sätestumus). The matter is made more confusing only by the fact that Einstellung also means "adjustment" and "attitude" in psychology.
The literary system correlates with the nearest non-literary series - the spoken word, with the material of adjacent verbal arts and of everyday speech. How does it correlate? In other words, where is the nearest social function of the literary series. This is where the term 'set' becomes meaningful. The set is not merely the dominant of a work (or genre) which colours functionally the subsidiary factors; it is at the same time the function of the work (or genre) in relation to the nearest non-literary series, that of speech. This is why the set to the spoken word is so enormously important in literature. (Tynyanov 1927a: 49 in O'Toole & Shukman 1977: 37)
Literature does "correlate" a lot with spoken word. This passage also hints that nonverbal communication can also be a "non-literary series", although it's correlation with the literary series is lesser than that with the spoken word.
The concept of 'set' or speech function applies to the literary series or the system of literature, but not to an individual work. The individual work has to be correlated with the literary series before we can speak of its set. We will not apply the law of large numbers to small ones. By trying to establish at once the subsequent causal series for individual works and individual authors, we are studying not the evolution of literature, but its modifications; not how literature changes and evolves in correlation with other series, but how adjacent series deform it - a question also worth studying, but belonging to a totally different dimension. (Tynyanov 1927: 44-45 in O'Toole & Shukman 1977: 37)
This suggests that in case of the "predominant function" in Jakobson's communication model, the "set" towards one of the functions is not a matter of an individual speech act, but a matter of "genre" (in the loose sense of the words), such as poetry, interjections, greetings, explicating the meaning of words, etc. In the end, this is a matter of theoretical typologies, not about the empirical analysis of communication.
The means of expression is an inseparable part of the message it contains. This heightening of attention towards the means of expression is known as a set to expression. As we perceive language of this kind we automatically sense the means of expression, that is, we notice the words which make up the expression and the way they are arranged in relation to one another. The means of expression take on a certain value of its own. Language centaining a set to expression is called literary, as distinct from practical speech which does not have this set. (Tomashevsky 1930: 9 in O'Toole & Shukman 1977: 37)
[Teoriya literatura. Poetika [Theory of literature. Poetics] Moscow-Leningrad, 1930. (First edition, 1925).]
More on the poetic function: in practical speech the means of expression (the language used) is not as important as it is in literature, where the means of expression "take on a certain value of their own". This value, one can presume, is aesthetic, poetic, or even literary value.


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