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Verbal Art, Verbal Sign, Verbal Time

Verbal Art, Verbal Sign, Verbal Time

Roman Jakobson
Krystyna Pomorska
Stephen Rudy
With the assistance of Brent Vine
Copyright Date: 1985
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Verbal Art, Verbal Sign, Verbal Time
    Book Description:

    Roman Jakobson, one of the most important thinkers of our century, was best known for his role in the rise and spread of the structural approach to linguistics and literature. His formative structuralism approach to linguistics and literature. His formative years with the Russian Futurists and subsequent involvement in the Moscow and Prague Linguistic Circles (which he co-founded) resulted in a lifelong devotion to fundamental change in both literary theory and linguistics. In bringing each to bear upon the other, he enlivened both disciplines; if a literary work was to a him a linguistic fact, it was also a semiotic pheonomenon - part of the entire universe of signs; and above all, for both language and literature, time was an integral factor, one that produced momentum and change. Jakobson’s books and articles, written in many languages and published around the world, were collected in a monumental seven-volume work, Selected Writings (1962-1984), which has been available only to a limited readership. Not long before his death in 1982, Jakobson brought together this group of eleven essays - Verbal Art, Verbal Sign, Verbal Time - to serve as an introduction to some of his linguistic theories and especially, to his work in poetics. Jakobson’s introductory article and the editor’s preface together suggest the range of his work and provide a context for the essays in this book, which fall into three groups. Those in the first section reflect his preoccupation with the dynamic role of time in language and society. Jakobson challenges Saussure’s rigid distinction between language as a static (synchronic) system and its historical (diachronic) development - a false opposition, in his view, since it ignores the role of time in the present moment of language. The essays on time counter the notion that structuralism itself, as heir to Saussure’s work, has discarded history; in Jakabson’s hands, we see a struggle to integrate the two modes. In central group essays, on poetic theory, he shows how the grammatical categories of everyday speech become the expressive, highly charged language of poetry. These essays also deal with the related issues of subliminal and intentional linguistic patterns of poetry. These essays also deal with the related issues of subliminal and intentional linguistic patterns in poetry - areas that are problematic in structural analysis - and provide exemplary readings of Pushkin and Yeats. The last essays, on Mayakovsky and Holderlin, make clear that Jakobson was aware of the essential (and in these instances, tragic) bond between a poet’s life and art. The book closes with essays by Linda Waugh, Krystyna Pomorska, and Igor Melchuk that provide a thoughtful perspective on Jakobson’s work as a whole.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5564-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-2)
    Krystyna Pomorska and Stephen Rudy
  4. My Favorite Topics
    (pp. 3-8)
    Roman Jakobson

    The question of invariance in the midst of variation has been the dominant topic and methodological device underlying my diversified yet homogeneous research work since my undergraduate attempt of 1911 to outline the formal properties of the earliest Russian iambs. The interplay of invariance and variation continued to attract my attention ever more insistently. Versification, with its diaphanous dichotomies of downbeat—upbeat, break—bridge, and with its correlation of two fundamental metrical concepts, namely design and instance, offered the self-evident possibility of determining the relational invariance that the verse retains across its fluctuations, and of defining and interpreting the scale...

  5. The Dimension of Time

    • Dialogue on Time in Language and Literature
      (pp. 11-24)
      Roman Jakobson and Krystyna Pomorska

      KPIn one of your most recent theoretical works on the aims of the science of language among contemporary sciences—a short essay on the history of linguistics that appeared in 1972 inScientific American—you referred briefly to the doctrine of the neo-grammarians, whose methodology was basically concerned only with the history of language. One of the achievements of Ferdinand de Saussure was to overcome these theories that had ruled for so long. But later, in hisCourse in General Linguistics, he in turn reduced the object of study of the system of language to only one of its...

    • Problems in the Study of Language and Literature
      (pp. 25-27)
      Roman Jakobson and Jurij Tynjanov

      1. The immediate problems facing Russian literary and linguistic science demand a precise theoretical platform. They require a firm dissociation from the increasing mechanistic tendency to paste together mechanically the new methodology and old obsolete methods; they necessitate a determined refusal of the contraband offer of naive psychologism and other methodological hand-me-downs in the guise of new terminology.

      Furthermore, academic eclecticism and pedantic “formalism” — which replaces analysis by terminology and the classification of phenomena — and the repeated attempts to shift literary and linguistic studies from a systematic science to episodic and anecdotal genres should be rejected.

      2. The history of...

    • Sign and System of Language: A Reassessment of Saussure’s Doctrine
      (pp. 28-34)
      Roman Jakobson

      It is remarkable that Saussure’sCours de linguistique généralewas frequently mentioned in this symposium, as if one wished to establish what has changed in the basic assumptions of general linguistics over the fifty years which separate us from the lectures of the Genevan master. For the theory of language and for linguistics as a whole it was indeed half a century of cardinal transformations. It seems to me that our fruitful discussion conveys a clear notion as to what in this famous heritage requires far-reaching revisions, and which parts of Saussure’s teaching—in the version edited by his pupils...

  6. Poetry of Grammar and Grammar of Poetry

    • Poetry of Grammar and Grammar of Poetry
      (pp. 37-46)
      Roman Jakobson

      According to Edward Sapir, the juxtaposition of such sequences asthe farmer kills the ducklingandthe man takes the chickmakes us “feel instinctively, without the slightest attempt at conscious analysis, that the two sentences fit precisely the same pattern, that they are really the same fundamental sentence, differing only in their material trappings. In other words, they express identical relational concepts in an identical manner.”¹ Conversely, we may modify the sentence or its single words “in some purely relational, nonmaterial regard”² without altering any of the material concepts expressed. When assigning to certain terms of the sentence a...

    • Two Poems by Puškin
      (pp. 47-58)
      Roman Jakobson

      During the late 1930s, while editing Puškin’s works in Czech translation, I was struck by the way in which poems that seemed to approximate closely the Russian text, its images and sound structure, often produced the distressing impression of a complete rift with the original because of the inability or impossibility of reproducing their grammatical structure. Gradually, it became clear: in Puškin’s poetry the guiding significance of the morphological and syntactic fabric is interwoven with and rivals the artistic role of verbal tropes. Indeed, at times it takes over and becomes the primary, even exclusive, vehicle of the poems’ innermost...

    • Subliminal Verbal Patterning in Poetry
      (pp. 59-68)
      Roman Jakobson

      Whenever and wherever I discuss the phonological and grammatical texture of poetry, and whatever the language and epoch of the poems examined, one question constantly arises among the readers or listeners: are the designs disclosed by linguistic analysis deliberately and rationally planned in the creative work of the poet and is he really aware of them?

      A calculus of probability as well as an accurate comparison of poetic texts with other kinds of verbal messages demonstrates that the striking particularities in the poetic selection, accumulation, juxtaposition, distribution, and exclusion of diverse phonological and grammatical classes cannot be viewed as negligible...

    • On Poetic Intentions and Linguistic Devices in Poetry: A Discussion with Professors and Students at the University of Cologne
      (pp. 69-78)
      Roman Jakobson

      Kasack:[. . .] You raised the rather difficult question to what extent we, as scholars of literature, may ask ourselves the question whether certain devices deviating from a rule or conforming to a rule — you clarified this very well yesterday — are used consciously or unconsciously. A clue to an answer might be the comparison between different versions, and I am curious whether you have found a conscious employment of prepositions or articles, or other words on this level. The fact that we can find it in the area of rhyme, rhythm or syntax in a wider sense...

    • Yeats’ “Sorrow of Love” through the Years
      (pp. 79-108)
      Roman Jakobson and Stephen Rudy

      1.0. Paul Valéry, both a poet and an inquisitive theoretician of poetry as an ‘art of language,’ recalls the story of the painter Degas, who loved to write poems, yet once complained to Mallarmé that he felt unable to achieve what he wanted in poetry despite being ‘full of ideas.’ Mallarmé’s apt reply was: “Ce n’est point avec des idées, mon cher Degas, que I’on fait des vers. C’est avec des mots” (Valéry, 1945:141). In Valéry’s view Mallarmé was right, for the essence of poetry lies precisely in the poetic transformation of verbal material and in the coupling of its...

  7. Poetry and Life

    • On a Generation that Squandered Its Poets
      (pp. 111-132)
      Roman Jakobson

      Majakovskij’s poetry—his imagery—his lyrical composition—I have written about these things and published some of my remarks. The idea of writing a monograph has never left me. Majakovskij’s poetry is qualitatively different from everything in Russian verse before him, however intent one may be on establishing genetic links. This is what makes the subject particularly intriguing. The structure of his poetry is profoundly original and revolutionary. But how is it possible to write about Majakovskij’s poetry now, when the paramount subject is not the rhythm, but the death of the poet, when (if I may resort to Majakovskij’s...

    • The Language of Schizophrenia: Hölderlin’s Speech and Poetry
      (pp. 133-140)
      Roman Jakobson and Grete Lübbe-Grothues

      In 1802, at the age of thirty-two, Hölderlin, who had already previously suffered several attacks, fell ill, “with an acute schizophrenic psychosis” according to the medical diagnosis. In a letter to Hegel dated July 11, 1803, Schelling describes him as “mentally quite unhinged,” and though “still capable” of producing some literary work “at least up to a certain point, his mind is completely deranged in all other respects.” In August 1806, Hölderlin’s mother received a letter from his intimate friend, Isaac Sinclair, warning her that it was no longer possible that “my unhappy friend, whose madness has become extreme, should...

  8. Jakobson’s Legacy

    • The Poetic Function and the Nature of Language
      (pp. 143-168)
      Linda R. Waugh

      What is it that differentiates a poetic text from a non-poetic text? What makes poetic discourse different in kind from other types of discourse? In other words, what are theintrinsic linguistic propertiesof the text which make it a poem: what is there about theinternal structureof a poem which ‘announces’ that it is a poem? What is characteristic of ‘poetic’ elements in prose and in ‘ordinary’ language? What in fact is thepoetic functionof language?

      “The Set (Einstellung) toward the MESSAGE as such, focus on the message for its own sake, is the POETIC function of...

    • Poetics of Prose
      (pp. 169-177)
      Krystyna Pomorska

      The Russian Formalists undertook, for the first time, an analysis of prose encompassing all of its structural components; significantly, some of these components had until then not been considered “structural,” or, to use terminology more in keeping with the OPOJAZ, had been viewed as incapable of being formalized. These young Russian scholars explored several areas in an entirely new way. First, they showedsjužet(“plot”) andfabula(“story line”) as related but not at all identical factors. Second, they introduced the idea ofskaz(oral narration) and consequently the idea of the narrator as a mask, which entailed a clear-cut...

    • Three Main Features, Seven Basic Principles, and Eleven Most Important Results of Roman Jakobson’s Morphological Research
      (pp. 178-200)
      Igor A. Mel’čuk

      This paper is intended to be a beginner’s guide to Roman Jakobson’s insightful, variegated, and multifariousmorphological research. There is, to be sure, no shortage of scholarly works that concentrate on the fascinating and intriguing phenomenon which is Roman Jakobson. Let me mention at least Holenstein 1975 or Waugh 1976 (a very clear and well arranged survey), where further relevant references are found, not to speak of the fourJakobson Festschriften(Halle et al. 1956;To Honor Roman Jakobson1967; Gribble 1968; and Armstrong—Schooneveld 1977), which include a number of articles dedicated to Jakobson’s scientific creation (cf. also Halle...

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 201-202)
  10. Name Index
    (pp. 205-208)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 209-209)