Aspects and metaphor


One could divide humanity into two classes: 1) those who master a metaphor, and 2) those who hold by a formula. Those with a bent for both are far too few, they do not comprise a class.”

Heinrich von Kleist.

Do we “master a metaphor” just by seeing anew the world or thing changed by it, supplemented by it — as a person might master ‘an aspect’ of something confronted, know how to ‘let the aspect dawn,’ letting the thing now seen under a new, unexpected aspect speak anew?  Or does it mean living under that aspect, as if the thing seen under a new aspect demanded from me a change in receptive-responsiveness?

Kleist seems to say sometimes it is the greater part of virtue to “hold by a formula.”


7 comments on “Aspects and metaphor

  1. dmf says:

    i like the image of living under aspects, a new astrology if you will.
    catlin writes in terms of transcendence but i’m thinking more along the lines of con-versio

  2. j. says:

    i think i found this passage in the recent archipelago books selection of kleist.

    i hadn’t ever sought ought the german before, and so i’m surprised to find that it’s quite different (surely not just idioms being rendered quite distinctly into english from superficially similar german, for emphasis??):,+Heinrich+von/%C3%84sthetische,+philosophische+und+politische+Schriften/Fragmente

    Man könnte die Menschen in zwei Klassen abteilen; in solche, die sich auf eine Metapher und 2) in solche, die sich auf eine Formel verstehn. Deren, die sich auf beides verstehn, sind zu wenige, sie machen keine Klasse aus.

    or perhaps there’s more than one version?

    the introduction of self-understanding into the picture sure changes things.

    before that i would have wanted to say that mastery of a metaphor means first of all being able to -use- it, to -say- rather than to -see-, though obviously that’s how we’re drawn to explain someone’s being moved to use a metaphor, to put something they see or ‘see’ into a form of words more adequate than literal ones would be (if they would at all). and that this thought, starting with the metaphor as a form of words, makes me think of metaphor’s use in relating to other people (and to one’s difference from other people), in contrast to which ‘formula’ strikes me not just as a rule but as something completely indifferent to people.

    • efmooney says:

      Thanks, J. Much to think about here. I’m just scratching the surface, juggling the Wittgenstein passages of ‘aspect dawning’ with Thoreauvian passages of ‘new day dawning,’ and wondering if literary figuration gives any help. I need to mull over your thoughts here.

      • j. says:

        i’m teaching ‘sounds’ from walden soon, and my lead-in a couple of weeks ago was very heavy on ‘the present moment’ as a special focus of thoreau’s (life, and writerly) interest. i notice that besides emphasizing that again, the first few paragraphs of ‘sounds’ invoke the sun-and-time language (often used metaphorically or sort of metaphorically – ‘morning is when i am awake and there is a dawn in me’) that occurs heavily elsewhere (ch. 2, e.g.). but the chapter begins by contrasting the language of books with ‘the language which all things and events speak without metaphor’.

        they do without, but he has to use it when translating (a la ch. xviii, ‘their truth is instantly translated’?) what things and events say to him, or what can be read in them, into speech?

        i feel like the incessance, the perpetualness, that thoreau tends to mark moments, nature, the world with, is a contrast to the way in which wittgenstein thinks of aspects dawning, but i don’t really know.

  3. efmooney says:

    J. I started to write and went on at such length that I’ve turned it into a new post. Thanks for getting the wheels turning.

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