Condensation, Displacement, Jacques Lacan, Literary Theory, literature, Metaphor, Metonymy, Paradigmatic, philosophy, Post structuralism, Psychoanalysis, Roland Barthes, Semiotics, Structuralism, Syntagmatic
We all are familiar about metaphor where a word is represented by another for ornament sake. For e.g. The desert needs an oasis of women. Desert refers to the body and it forms the tenor of the metaphor which means the represented and oasis refers to vehicle, the word which acts as a carrier for the body.
Metonymy also called as an extended metaphor is the naming of one by another. For e.g. Shakespeare’s famous line: ‘All the World’s a stage’ is a metonymy. Here, life as representing the stage or theatre is manifested. Another example of a metonymy would be the crown for royalty and Empire for former British colonies.
Metaphors and metonymies have been conceptualized in grammar, semiotics and psychoanalysis. Metaphors and metonymies have been connoted into an axis. There are two axes, one the paradigmatic and the other the syntagmatic.
Let’s look at how metaphors and metonymies operate as conceptions in grammar. Metaphors operate at as the provision of phonemic content and metaphors in grammar form the paradigmatic axis. For e.g. the [c] in cat can be replaced [b] to make bat. One phoneme can alter the lexical content of the word. This placement of a single phoneme to make a word makes metaphor rest on the paradigmatic axis.
Metonymies on the other hand contain the semantic content of language and metonymies form the syntagmatic axis. It refers to the fact that semantic content can be manipulated by changing the order or form of words which may or may not result in the change of meaning. For e.g. Rome was copulating with a strumpet can be changed to Rome was having sexual intercourse with a whore. Here the semantic content is changed but it does not radically change the meaning of the sentence. Another example with altered semantics of meaning content would be: You can choose to love the serpent or the dove.
Metaphors and Metonymies in semiotics put on the garb of being significations of the signifier and the signified which again go on to make signs of language. A sign in semiotics would be made of two concepts: the signifier and the signified. For e.g. if we say that: Rose is Passion. Here the Rose is a physical tangibility and passion in an abstract sense is an idea. According to the theory of semiotics, the signifier is connoted to be the metaphor and it rests on the paradigmatic plane. Again semiotics emphasizes that the signified becomes the syntagmatic axis. Semiotics studies language as a signification involving the play of signs. Many semioticians like Prof. Roland Barthes have dissected signs that are constructed in culture, advertisements and the fashion industry.
I would like to show the working of metaphors and metonymies in psychoanalysis, especially dreams. Much of the work on metaphors and metonymies can be credited to Jacque Lacan. Lacan became famous by his prediction that ‘the unconscious mind is structured like language’. A dream may manifest as two components and those components in Freudian language are condensation and displacement. A condensed dream is a metaphor forming the paradigmatic axis and a displaced dream is a metonymy forming the syntagmatic axis.
A condensed dream would symbolization of dream symbols from an actual life situation into an imaginary realm. An example of a condensed dream would be: I see a resurrection of my dead father from the grave and chasing and snatching from me all my liquor bottles. In real life my father was very liberal. The father image was a substituted representation of my matriarch and wife who frequently threaten me that they will send me to the asylum if I drink. A condensed dream can be connoted as lying on the paradigmatic axis and becomes metaphoric.
In psychoanalysis, a paradigmatic metaphor depicts substitution and syntagmatic metonymy portrays contiguity (adjacent or neighboring).
In a dream of displacement the image of the dream makes the dreamer escape from his or her real life or the dream manifests as being replaced with images that are socially acceptable where as the unconscious of the dreamer is pregnant with violations of the social norm. For e.g. in my dream I see a nagging wife but I conveniently hide from the reality that I am unemployed, and I bum around boozing and smoking and doing no work. Displacement in dream conceptuality lies on the syntagmatic axis and in psychoanalysis becomes a metonymy.