Irish modernism and the problem of metaphor: Interactions between the imagination and the materiality of language in the literature of Beckett, Joyce and Yeats
Duncan, Amanda Sue
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"Irish Modernism and The Problem of Metaphor: Interactions Between the Imagination and the Materiality of Language in the Literature of Beckett, Joyce and Yeats" examines the unconventional role that metaphor plays as an essential figure in the literature of James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and W.B. Yeats. It maintains that the unusually strong interest of each author in the non- conceptual, musical or physical possibilities of the linguistic sign can be read as a form of resistance to the means-to-ends constitution of instrumental language, which each saw as a defining characteristic of hegemonic discourse. What emerges, I argue, out of this attention to the dynamic processes of literary creation over the transmission of a fixed idea is an original kind of tropology that elevates sensory impressions over ideal meaning, the predicate over substance, the image over the sign. Drawing initially from Beckett's analysis of "primitive" or "direct metaphors" in Joyce's Finnegans Wake –where content and form appear as indistinguishable–I demonstrate how we can trace in Beckett's work the development of an immanent model of figuration that shatters the sign's referential relation to the outside world. In Beckett's work, the primary function of metaphor will emerge as a movement in which the imagination manages to break free from the given in order to respond "directly" to the dynamic possibilities that are internal to language. Beckett's post-war literature is exemplary in this respect: here the movement of metaphor functions primarily to isolate the poetic image from its parasitical attachment to the symbol in order to put thought into contact with a fluid visualization, with the continuity and mobility of the real.