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Chiasmus and Culture

Chiasmus and Culture

Boris Wiseman
Anthony Paul
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Chiasmus and Culture
    Book Description:

    Anyone who has heard of chiasmus is likely to think of it as no more than a piece of rhetorical playfulness, at times challenging, though useful for supplying a memorable sententious note or for performing a pirouette of syntax and thought. Going beyond traditional rhetoric, this volume is concerned with the possibility of using the figure of chiasmus to model a broad array of phenomena, from human relations to artistic creation. In the process, it provides the first book-length study not of chiasmus, the rhetorical figure, but of chiastic thought. The contributors are concerned with chiastic inversion and its place in social interactions, cultural creation, and more generally human thought and experience.They explore from a variety of angles what the unsettling logic of chiasmus (from the Greek meaning "cross-wise"), has to tell us about the world, human relations, cultural patterns, psychology, and artistic and poetic creation.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-961-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION Chiasmus in the Drama of Life
    (pp. 1-16)
    Anthony Paul and Boris Wiseman

    The essays in this volume are concerned with chiastic inversion, and its place in social interactions, cultural creation and, more generally, human thought and experience. They explore from a variety of angles what the unsettling logic of chiasmus has to tell us about the world, human relations, cultural patterns, psychology, and artistic and poetic creation. They treat chiasmus not only as a figure of speech, but as a generative principle, an aesthetic idea, a method of composition, a tool of ideological manipulation, a matrix of social interaction, a philosophical problem, a metaphor, an elemental image or sign. At many points...

  5. Part I The Pathos of Chiasmus

    • CHAPTER 1 From Stasis to Ékstasis: Four Types of Chiasmus
      (pp. 19-44)
      Anthony Paul

      Mistrust of rhetoric is as old as rhetoric itself. It has been maligned as the stock-in-trade of power seekers, political and intellectual, the box of tricks of the professionally deceitful and the intimidating jargon of the professionally obscure. This double mistrust is voiced by Montaigne, who associates rhetoric with public disorder: ‘It is a means invented for manipulating and stirring up the mob and a community fallen into lawlessness … Rhetoric flourished in Rome when their affairs were in their worst state and when they were shattered by the storms of civil war’ (Montaigne 1993: 342) – ‘C’est un outil inventé...

    • CHAPTER 2 What is a Chiasmus? Or, Why the Abyss Stares Back
      (pp. 45-68)
      Robert Hariman

      Chiasmus usually is not seen as an important trope or as a trope at all. Even Paul de Man’s use of it involved a sleight of hand – chiasmus was featured initially inAllegories of Readingto dismantle the idea of transcendental signification, but the real action in deconstruction proved to be elsewhere.² Twentieth-century rhetorical theory was focused on metaphor, metonymy, irony, and (less so) synecdoche, and, with that, the notion of ‘master tropes’ that are far more important than the many minor figures sprinkled throughout speech (Burke 1969a; White 1973).

      Chiasmus seems caught at this crossroads between profundity and mere...

    • CHAPTER 3 Chiasmus and Metaphor
      (pp. 69-88)
      Ivo Strecker

      Chiasmus is an excellent rhetorical tool to move and ‘turn’ people’s minds and emotions. Since Antiquity, this figure has been widely used in verbal and written communication, yet discourse about its stylistic features and role in human life has remained confined to select circles of poets, literary critics, rhetoricians, anthropologists and scholars of the mind. Publications explicitly devoted to it are accordingly few, and when you ask the proverbial man in the street what a chiasmus is, the most likely answer will be ‘I have never heard of it’.

      It is different when it comes to other figures. Irony, for...

  6. Part II Epistemological Reflections on Chiasmus

    • CHAPTER 4 Chiasm in Merleau-Ponty: Metaphor or Concept?
      (pp. 91-115)
      Isabelle Thomas-Fogiel

      Jacques Bouveresse, inProdiges et vertiges de l’analogie, deplores the transference of concepts from one field of knowledge (e.g. mathematics or physics) to another (e.g. philosophy).¹ In his view, continental philosophy of the half century has continually confused ‘ metaphor’ and ‘concept’, ‘analogy’ ‘rigorous relations’, thus leading the discipline towards ‘connections which, from a cognitive point of view, hardly go beyond the level of the simple association of ideas’ (Bouveresse 1999: 37).² But is the transference of notions from one field of knowledge to another really as arbitrary as Bouveresse supposes? Has the migration of concepts not given rise to...

    • CHAPTER 5 Chiasmi Figuring Difference
      (pp. 116-123)
      Stephen Tyler

      Every epistemological discourse, whether it be epistemology proper, or one of the pseudo-epistemologies called perception or cognition, begins with an account of the origin of identity – of the mastery of difference that reduces chance and chaos to patterns of recurrence and ordered regularity. One need only reflect on the central role these discourses give to the ideas of category and categorization to get a sense of the absolute necessity of this origination of ‘sames’, and also to divine the problems it creates. Categories create sames by an act of forgetting – the forgetting of differences. This is so, whether the classificatory...

    • CHAPTER 6 Forking: RHETORIC χ RHETORIC (a meditation upon Rhetoric 1354a 1–11, Deleuze and Joan Miró)
      (pp. 124-140)
      Philippe-Joseph Salazar

      Rare are the humanistic disciplines that can claim a unique and dramatic foundation, and mention anUrtext. Usually such eccentric claims belong to religions, or, less eccentric yet no less stochastic to sudden developments in the sciences. Rhetoric isRhetoric. Or, to replace ‘is’ with the symbol of chiasmus: Rhetoric χRhetoric, whereby identity is predicated on marking aKreuzung, a disposition that either binds to fortify (like a bandage or a bond binds the fragments of a broken leg, or two beams), or a rhythmic arrangement of words that binds together meanings into a new, reparative, sequence (Chantraine 2008:...

  7. Part III Sensuous Experience Mediated by Chiasmus

    • CHAPTER 7 Chiasm in Suspense in Psychoanalysis
      (pp. 143-147)
      Alain Vanier

      Dictionaries provide two or three definitions of the word chiasm, depending on whether or not they distinguish between ‘chiasm’ and ‘chiasmus’. In trying to think its possible relevance to psychoanalysis,¹ it is the first definition – ‘a sign in the form of the Greek letter χ (chi) on the margin of a manuscript, indicating a rejected passage’² – that immediately fits the bill. This mark can function as a figure of one of the basic operations of censorship in the psyche: the rejected passage remains latent, only appearing in the manifest text in distorted form, and must be deciphered in order to...

    • CHAPTER 8 Quotidian Chiasmus in Montaigne: Arguing Impotence and Suicide
      (pp. 148-160)
      Phillip John Usher

      Rather than aiming to make a given point of view memorable or afford it public appeal, the rhetoric that Montaigne deploys throughout hisEssais(1580–92) generally functions anti-rhetorically – to unseat knowledge, to generate and to confer doubt, and to position human judgement in the fray of contradictory arguments. As Lawrence D. Kritzman has summarized, Montaigne is, above all, ‘un rhétoricien qui s’intéresse plus au fonctionnement de son texte qu’à une vérité absolue’ (a rhetorician more interested in his text’s functioning than in absolute truth) (Kritzman 1980: 162). It is not that Montaigne, marshalling rhetoric antithetically, isonlyinterested in...

    • CHAPTER 9 Travestis, Michês and Chiasmus: Crossing and Cross-Dressing in the Work of Néstor Perlongher
      (pp. 161-184)
      Ben Bollig

      Néstor Perlongher (1949–92) is best known in his native Argentina as a poet and as an anthropologist in Brazil, where he lived for much of the 1980s.¹ His border-crossing life is reflected by the importance of the chiasmus and crossing in his work. This piece aims to trace the development of the chiasmus and chiastic thought in Perlongher’s poetry and related anthropological works, and to demonstrate through his works the great importance of chiasmus as a literary and cultural driving force in a number of contexts, in particular the lived experiences of sex and mysticism. His earliest poems, written...

  8. Part IV Chiastic Structures in Ritual and Mytho-Poetic Texts

    • CHAPTER 10 Parallelism and Chiasmus in Ritual Oration and Ostension in Tana Wai Brama, Eastern Indonesia
      (pp. 187-218)
      E. Douglas Lewis

      As part of the International Rhetoric Culture Project, Strecker and Tyler begin the first volume of the series ‘Studies in Rhetoric and Culture’ (Strecker and Tyler 2009) with the thesis that ‘rhetoric … is the decisive factor in the emergence of cultural diversity past and present. … there is no “zero degree rhetoric” in any of the patterns of culture’ (Strecker and Tyler 2009: 1), meaning ‘there is no “zero degree” rhetoric in any utterance because there would be no utterance without a rhetorical impulse’ (Kennedy 1997: 4–5). By Strecker’s and Tyler’s account, one of the original foci of...

    • CHAPTER 11 Chiasmus, Mythical Creation and H.C. Andersen’s ‘The Shadow’
      (pp. 219-238)
      Boris wiseman

      Whilst studying the myths told by various Amerindian societies, Lévi-Strauss noticed peculiar variations in the images they contained. For example, in one version of the story of Botoque (see The Raw and the Cooked , myths M7-M12) the hero, who has gone hunting for macaws, climbs a tree where he finds two eggs. He throws them to his brother-in-law who is waiting to catch them, but as they fall, they transform into stones that cut his brother-in-law’s hands. In another version of this myth, told by a neighbouring population, Botoque climbs the ladder to the nest of macaws, and then...

  9. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 239-242)
  10. Index
    (pp. 243-256)