Michaels’s figurative language – applying

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Contemporary Canadian author and poet Anne Michaels gave courses in Creative Writing at the University of Toronto before the commercial success of her own fiction and poetry allowed her to stop teaching full-time (Crown 2009). If we were to go back in time and attend one of those courses we would have a better than usual chance of writing a decent piece of literature using the information that we receive from her there. We return to the significance of the term ‘decent’ in this context in the Conclusion of this doctoral thesis. The instructions Michaels provided in these classes were clear and precise, and they constitute indications of the ways in which she herself went about writing at the time, and continues to go about writing to this day. In our hands their implications would be potentially profound; in Michaels’s hands the potential is realised.

The theorists – thinking about language

The academic Certeau and the sociologist Bourdieu appear to share views on the ways in which people live and interact. These theorists see people as existing in a relationship of domination. One group of people, for various reasons, is able to dominate and oppress another group of people. In differing ways, both theorists explore the power that people wield, and to which other people are subject, through language.

Ricoeur – how we use metaphor

Creating a metaphor Paul Ricoeur (1913–2005) was a French philosopher and historian who studied certain linguistic and psychoanalytical theories of interpretation (EB 2008). In The Rule of Metaphor, Ricoeur (1977) traces the development of his ideas regarding the concept of metaphor through three linguistic disciplines, each of which relate to particular linguistic entities. The word is the linguistic entity of the discipline of classical rhetoric, the sentence is that of the discipline of semiotics and semantics, and discourse is that of the discipline of hermeneutics. This pairing becomes a tripling when Ricoeur (1977) also points out that metaphor has the quality of a form, then of a sense and finally of a reference, respectively.

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Unconsciously acceding to the legitimate language

Consumers do not simply submit to symbolic domination, or express a belief in that which dominates – they accept or recognise a language as legitimate because their habitus predisposes them to do so. The linguistic market in which they grow up, or in which, as adults, they act, exercises certain allowances and restrictions on their dispositions, and the dispositions are adapted in order for these ‘holders of a given linguistic capital’ to gain material and symbolic profit (Bourdieu 1991: 51).42 And this all occurs without the person being aware of it, without their having decided it – bearing in mind the characteristic of durability that Thompson (in Bourdieu 1991: 13) links with a state of pre-consciousness, a state not easily accessible to conscious reflection.

Chapter 1 The theorists – thinking about language
Certeau – how we behave
Ricoeur – how we use
metaphor Bourdieu – how we communicate
Klemperer – how the Nazis
manipulated the German language
Chapter 2 Michaels’s figurative language – applying
the theory Certeau – the practices of writing and reading
Certeau – the practice of walking
Ricoeur – metaphor to work
Bourdieu – dominationand the bodily hexis
Gubar – empathic identification
Fuss – corpse poetry
Michaels – living-poems
Chapter 3 The triple powers of language – destroying, recovering, enacting good
The destructive power of language
The recuperative power of language
The moral power of language
Chapter 4 Michaels’s poem ‘What the Light Teaches’ learning the lesson of the light
Paul Celan – the foil
Celan – the corpse poet
‘What the Light Teaches’ – real-life subjects
‘What the Light Teaches’ – a close reading

These Shining Themes The Use and Effects of Figurative Language in the Poetry and Prose of Anne Michaels

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