Week 3 Response: Jakobson and Booth

In the chapter from On Language titled “Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances,” author Roman Jakobson presents the theoretical framework for communication through language. Aphasic neurological disorders allow for a greater understanding of comprehension and formulation functions in the typical human brain. Jackobson’s study provides a close look at the figurative speech used in poetry and prose.

Key Terms
1. Aphasic
2. Similarity Disorder
3. Contiguity Disorder
4. phoneme
5. homeopathic and imitative magic

Term 1. The phoneme, although a large part of linguistic study, may be foreign to literature students and audiences of critical writing. Jakobson moves directly into writing about the phoneme without providing a definition. While this is due to his field and the study’s audience, reading the article becomes much clearer as these small but important definitions are clearly understood. Jakobson refers to language as being a “code,” and being understood as a code through patterns and similarities. Labelling the phoneme as the fundamental character of this code assists the reader in understanding how words become phrases and how these phrases are processed and construed by the human brain.

Term 2. Aphasia may be Jakobson’s most important term. Aphasia sufferers are sometimes victims of strokes or head trauma, while some people may be aphasiac from birth. Aphasia affects both writing and speech. This was my first inquiry upon reading the article. The disorder prompts the study that, in turn, sheds light on the language function of the human brain.

Term 3. Jakobson cites James Frazer’s The Golden Bough when referring to “symbolic behavior” (132). The article touches briefly on the extension of a “metonymic and metaphoric” understanding of the world being a part of the human condition (132). The human being’s perception of the world and its use language having a definite connection is a concept that is important to the entire idea of figurative speech.
“Neither such bundles as /p/ or /f/ nor such sequences of bundles as /pig/ or /fig/ are invented by the speaker who uses them. Neither can the distinctive feature stop versus continuant nor the phoneme /p/ occur out of context. The stop feature appears in combination with certain other concurrent features, and the repertory of combinations of these features into phonemes such as /p/, /b/, /t/, /d/, /k/, /g/ is limited by the code of the given language. The code sets limitations on the possible combinations of the phoneme /p/ with other following and/or preceding phonemes; and only part of the permissible phoneme sequences are actually utilized in the lexical stock of a given language. Even when other combinations of phonemes are theoretically possible, the speaker, as a rule, is only a word user, not a word coiner. When faced with individual words, we expect them to be coded units. In order to grasp the word nylon one must know the meaning assigned to this vocable in the lexical code of modern English” (118).

Language originates in the speaker from a bank of known sounds, and the combinations of these sounds pertain to certain meanings. Expectation and memory play an integral role in language use. The speaker creates sentence structure but not words, and this sentence structure includes the space between words and phrases. This code of language involves the pattern of letter combination, making the spaces between components of this pattern recognition a part of language comprehension and use. Identifying a word outside of this pattern is a matter of knowing the word’s definition.
Question 1: What does the figurative speech function in human communication say about us as a species? Jakobson refers to symbolism outside of language with Frazer’s work.

Question 2: Why does this amount of work feel involuntary or effortless when it is actually heavily decision-laden? Is language a type of self-programming? Do we stick to safe, easily understood language?
In the chapter titled “Telling and Showing” from The Rhetoric of Fiction, Wayne Booth argues that the authorial decision to narrate certain segments of a story, isn’t as easily categorized as poor writing technique as modern critical opinion states. Booth states that the rule of less narration and more dramatization is an arbitrary one. The Decameron is focused upon for a close look at narration that violates this rule yet results in what is considered classic fiction, while also presenting The Odyssey and The Bible as examples. Ultimately, Booth’s chapter focuses upon the author’s presence in a given text and the fact that it can never truly be hidden from the reader, and that many writers employ their own voices to great success.

Key Terms
1. Authorial objectivity
2. Unmediated commentary
3. Dramatization
4. Narration
5. Artificial authority
Term 1. Authorial objectivity in Booth’s thesis is a simple concept when used with Homer or Boccaccio. But, when it is used with modern authors like Forster, those who use their own voice alongside the subjectivity of characters, the terms and their clear delineation can become problematic. The fusing of the two becomes the author’s purpose. Booth’s final sentiment, the impossibility of authorial absence, lends authorial objectivity an aspect of being produced just as the characters’ subjectivity is. The question becomes one of genuine authorial objectivity.

Term 2. The term dramatization is significant to this particular chapter. It gives a name to one side of the argument that is more formal than ‘showing.’ This term is effective in critical writing. It also ties fiction of the novel to reality as well as the stage acting of its origin.

term 3. Narration, like dramatization, labels one side of Booth’s argument and is a more formal term for ‘telling.’ These terms are easily forgotten or taken for granted due to their simplistic natures. They are an important part of a critical writer’s vocabulary and an integral part of the study of literature as a discipline.
“Since Flaubert, many authors have been convinced that “objective” or “impersonal” or “dramatic” modes of narration are naturally superior to any mode that allows for direct appearances by the author or his reliable spokesman. Sometimes, as we shall see in the next three chapters, the complex issues involved in this shift have been reduced to a convenient distinction between “showing,” which is artistic, and “telling,” which is inartistic. “I shall not tell you anything,” says a fine young novelist in defense of his art. “I shall allow you to eavesdrop on my people, and sometimes they will tell the truth and sometimes they will lie, and you must determine for yourself when they are doing which. You do this every day. Your butcher says, ‘This is best,’ and you reply, ‘That’s you saying it.’ Shall my people be less the captive of their desires that your butcher? I can show much, but show only…You will no more expect the novelist to tell you precisely how something is said than you will expect him to stand by your chair ad hold your book.” (Booth 8).

Since the middle of the nineteenth century, dramatization has been critically preferable to narration. This preference and the argument attached to it have been dismissed as simply understood tenets of popular writing. Dramatization possesses a verisimilitude that people identify with as people are not easily categorized and their motives are not easily seen as either positive or negative.

Question 1: Has the invention of the author called for this need for more dramatization?

Question 2: Who exactly, what group or culture, decided that dramatization is preferable to narration?

Works Cited
Booth, Wayne C. The Rhetoric of Fiction. 2nd ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1983. Print.
Jakobson, Roman. On Language. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1995. Print.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s