Since the publication of Roman Jakobson’s famous 1956 essay “Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances”, we have tended to read the relationship between metaphor and metonymy as a dialectical one. The essay argues that this approach stands in need of revision, since metonymy, as a trope—and as a trope, moreover, of contingency—undermines the dialectical relationship between the syntagmatic and the paradigmatic axes. This has far-reaching implications, specifically for the assessment of literature and its ethics. Since metaphor functions structurally analogous to dialectics itself, metonymy and its role in realism and neorealism might offer us a way to think an “ethics of contingency” that acknowledges the role of contingency, rather that suppressing it and its role in preventing closure through sublation.
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