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Self-Reference: Theory and Didactics between Language and Literature Author(s): Svend Erik Larsen Source: Journal of Aesthetic

Education, Vol. 39, No. 1 (Spring, 2005), pp. 13-30 Published by: University of Illinois Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3527347 Accessed: 29/06/2009 13:01
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Self-Reference: Theory and Didactics between Language and Literature


Semiotics of Self-Reference Literary metafiction constitutes the extreme case of self-referential texts. Therefore we can either discard it as generally irrelevant for the understanding of the cultural functions of texts, or use it as a point of departure for the formulation of both general and basic aspects of such functions. The position taken in this essay will opt for the last possibility, although I know full well that already the term "metafiction" itself inevitably triggers a variety of skeptical reactions. Does it not just refer to some author's self-centered ruminations in the ivory tower? Or a topic for the nerds of literary studies with a taste for theoretical acrobatics? If so, in both cases following metafictional inclinations results in complete isolation from both the context of literature and its readers. However, one may also adopt the opposite position. The metafictional features of literature constitute one of the means by which literature reaches out to its context and also engages its readers. And critical endeavors are not necessarily devoid of anything but their own concepts. They may instead pave the way for methodological and didactic considerations that ultimately make difficult literature more accessible as a cultural phenomenon. Rather than dwelling upon subtle theoretical differences in the definition of what metafiction is, I will therefore engage in a methodological approach: what kind of questions can we put to the texts, and what kind of answers can we reasonably come up with when using metafiction in a methodological and didactic framework? I shall begin by proposing a set of definitions broader than metafiction that will allow me to zoom in on it as a relevant methodological concept that opens for didactic reflections. The notion of metalevel will constitute my starting point. In its broadest sense, a metalevel indicates a position outside a givenfield of objectsor meaningsand in relationto it. But rather than relating
Svend Erik Larsen is Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Aarhus, Denmark and Treasurer of the International Comparative Literature Association. His most recent books, all published in 2002, are Signs in Use, Balzac, and Mutters alene [All Alone]. Journalof Aesthetic Education,Vol. 39, No. 1, Spring 2005 ?2005 Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois


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to the content of the field in question, the metalevel is supposed to serve as a platform enabling us to observe and evaluate basic principles and function of the field. This is the role of, for example, the theory of science or of epistemology in relation to the particular knowledge of various sciences. We may call it an epistemologicalmetalevel. In a more restricted sense, a metalevel comprises a level in relationto a given sign system- rather than to a given field of objects - from which we can observe and evaluate the basic principles defining the function, range and validity of the sign system. This is the role of, for example, musicology in relation to the acoustic arts, art criticism in relation to the visual arts, medicine in relation to bodily symptoms. We may call it an inter-semioticmetalevel. Finally, in its most restricted sense, a metalevel points toward a level inside a given sign system from which we can refer to this sign system itself, but not in relation to a given field of objects or in relation to another sign system. We may call this level an intra-semioticmetalevel. In this context, language is a unique system, which in this capacity shapes literature as a particular linguistic phenomenon. Only inside the semiotic system of language can the intra-semiotic metalevel have two different functions: The first function is as a science of language, linguistics, which is itself a verbal sign system. In verbal scientific descriptions and arguments we may scrutinize the natural or everyday language as a medium, that is, its basic linguistic structures and principles, without taking into consideration its content, which it may share with other media. Texts and pictures may refer to the same phenomenon even if such references do not overlap completely. All other sciences differ from linguistics in this respect, because they cannot deal scientifically with their non-verbal objects through the same non-verbal medium as that which makes up the object, but need the support of a linguistic metalevel or at least of signs that are linguistically anchored. Even mathematics or other strictly formal sign systems are based on natural languages. We may refer to this fact as the specific epistemologicalintra-semiotic metafunctionof language. Second, in language we may construct auto-referential utterances that refer to themselves as linguistic products. Here we may talk about the aesthetic intra-semioticmetafunction.This function is active in language as well as in other media, such as quoting in the visual and auditive arts, but literature is exclusively concerned with the linguistic version of it, although more complex cases may be found in various hybrid art forms. These distinctions allow us to produce a brief definition of metafiction as a textualfunction that is basedon the aestheticintra-semioticmetafunction. A case in point is Leonardo a Vinci's famous Vitruvian Man from his notebooks (1513).1 The text contains a visual and a verbal part. The picture shows a male body, moving arms and legs, and inscribed in a circle and a square with small lines crossing the body parts as if subdividing the body.



VitruvianMan (c. 1493)by LeonardodaVinci Even if we cannot read the text in Leonardo's fine handwriting, it is not difficult to guess that the picture does not refer to some action outside the visual sign system (for instance depicting a man learning to fly), but that the circular and quadrangular geometrical forms in some ways refer to the proportions of body inscribed in them. In other words: an aesthetic intrasemiotic metafunction is exercised by the circle and the square in relation to the body. The surrounding verbal text is a brief summary of Vitruvius' basic idea and a close paraphrase, almost a quote (itself an intra-semiotic metafunction),


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from a few pages of Vitruvius' work on architecture.2 Here Vitruvius explains in numerical detail the ideal proportions of the human body in order to provide us with knowledge of the order of nature. In others words: an epistemological intra-semiotic metafunction is exercised by the verbal text vis-a-vis Vitruvius' work. Moreover: in the entire text the verbal part carries out an inter-semiotic metafunction in relation to the visual part by way of a - necessary - detour via verbal language. The overall function of Leonardo's verbal and visual text is thus based on, but not exhausted by the aesthetic intra-semiotic metafunction. This linkage of aesthetics and knowledge through intertwined metafunctions is essential to understand the methodological and didactic perspectives of metafiction. A closer look at the particular metafunctions involved in metafiction will be necessary to develop these general perspectives. Metafiction and Method All non-verbal sign systems may or may not use the intra-semiotic metafunction. Language alone has to use it. Self-reference is an integral part of the way language works. Furthermore, language is particular inasmuch as it can use, simultaneously, both the epistemological and aesthetic intra-semiotic metafunctions, whereas other media can use only the latter. If we want in films, pictures, sculptures, or music to reduplicate their particular use of the aesthetic intra-semiotic metafunction with the epistemological one, then we must, inter-semiotically as it were, integrate the verbal sign system at the very basis of the reduplication. It can only work through written text, dialogues, titles, songs, or art criticism. Therefore, literature is not metafictional, but employs the self-referential capacities of language, parallel to its use of semantic, morphological, and other linguistic features. Metafiction is not a phenomenon in its own right. It is the outcome of a specific linguistic variety of the general self-referential capacity of all semiotic systems. Hence, a methodological preoccupation with literary metafiction does not aim at a more or less categorical description of its metafictional features, nor does it seek to establish a systematic or historical typology of works according to their metafictional particularities. Some want to emphasize the epochalcharacter of metafiction, placing it as a postmoder and more particularly as an American preoccupation with the dissolution of the subject and of objective reference, while others take a genre-relatedapproach, making prose fiction, and especially the novel, the heart of metafiction with a few privileged older authors as forerunners (Miguel de Cervantes, Denis Diderot, Laurence Sterne) of the modem versions (John Barthelme, Thomas Pynchon, Italo Calvino, John Fowles, and others).3 On the same grounds, but outside the Anglo-American domain, some critics try to find a space for



literature as metafictional in their language, to relativize the postmodern position or to point to other forerunners besides the three famous ones just mentioned.4 But in all these attempts I find no focus on the methodological perspective, the objective of which is to scrutinize how meaning is created in literature so that it is able to grasp the world and captivate the readers and turn their attention to this world through the text by exploiting and not avoiding the general self-reference of language across periods, genres and languages. This methodological approach rests on the basic assumption that selfreference is at work everywhere language and other semiotic systems are at work, which is everywhere, but also that works of literature, like other more or less clearly delimited semiotic fields, use the self-reference differently according to period, genre, literary school, or style. The methodological task, then, is to enable us to grasp this difference and its repercussions, instead of zooming in on different periods (postmodernism or modernism at large) or genres (the novel in particular) or specific themes (the dissolution of the subject) or particular devices (play with narrators), as is done in most criticism of metafiction in order to pinpoint the one and only manifestation of metafiction. I suggest a categorization according to types of self-reference. Such types are invested in literature in various and unpredictable ways - some are used occasionally, some are peripheral even when used; different linguistic elements (syntactical, morphological, and so on) are used to carry out the functions and secure their effect, different periods and genres use different elements for the same functions or emphasize certain functions while excluding others. Since the grammarians of Antiquity, certain elements of language have always exercised an irresistible fascination5 - elements that could carry out a referential function without really referring to anything besides the language process itself - for example, pronouns, certain adverbs, certain morphological forms, and so on.6 These so-called deictic elements constitute a disturbing fact inside a philosophical horizon of substances. The same phenomenon can also be located outside language, thus in an aesthetic intra-semiotic perspective - for example, in Plutarch. In one of his essays on dance in Moralia from the first century AD he notes that pointing [deixis] is something that does not copy the subject-matter, but actually shows it to us.... By pointing they [the dancers] literally indicate objects: the earth, the sky, themselves or bystanders....If this [pointing] is done with precision, so to say, and timing it resembles proper names in poetry when they are uttered with a measure of ornament and smoothness.7 The gestural dimension does not convey meaning to the elements of the dance, but only singles them out as parts of the expression of the dance.


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They indicate the dance as dance, that is, as a gestural sign system, by way of a perfection of the expression as such, called "ornament" and "smoothness," similar to rhyme and meter in linguistic expressions. In spite of its self-referential nature it is clear that pointing is a communicative process inasmuch as senders and perceivers are involved, called dancers and bystanders. Because of and not in spite of the very perfection of the self-reference, the medium itself makes those who perceive the signs aware of something more than the dance, namely, the objects. This is the general deictic function which Roman Jakobson, among others, has given a linguistic specification in his attempt to integrate the deictic function into his well-known model of verbal communication.8 He investigates media-specific elements such as the pronouns that carry out that general semiotic function. The poetic function is his linguistic concept for general linguistic self-reference. It is the presupposition for the existence and the identity of verbal metafiction. But Jakobson's analysis also makes it clear that this function cannot be detached from the remaining five functions contained in his model (the emotive, the conative, the referential, the phatic, and the metalinguistic, the last one being identical to the epistemological intra-semiotic metafunction). This observation has at least two consequences: First, the six functions have no meaning when considered separately, only when encompassed as integral parts of language as a communicative system. Hence, the poetic function is always active, also outside poetry and literature in general, but of course is not always relevant for the actual communication. Second, in a given context or in a specific type of expression any of the particular functions may dominate the others but can never annihilate them. So, if the poetic function is the predominant function in poetry, it is, however, never isolated from the others. But when its predominance is particularly strong in certain texts it becomes identical to what I have just labeled the aesthetic intra-semiotic function. I will call texts characterized by such dominance metafictional;not because they simply are metafictional in opposition to other poetic products, which they are not, but because this aspect of the text exercises its dominance to such a degree that we may say that it constitutes the text. It is not just part of it, which it is in all poetic texts and in many, maybe most, other texts, also non-verbal, although with less emphasis. Being an essential part of language in particular, the poetic function as such is never chosen by the writer or speaker; it is always there. But the way it makes its presence felt is the result of a choice made by the writer or speaker. Following Victor Sklovskij this selective predominance is produced by a literary device (priem)9- a consciously chosen feature of language, or a combination of such features, used as an artistic tool such as rhyme, meter, and semantic code breaking.

Self-Reference Four Types of Literary Self-Reference


In order to be able to characterize the shifting dominance of the poetic function and to capture the different elements that bring forth the self-referential function, I propose distinguishing between four types of self-reference that range from the most restricted to the broadest self-reference. In principle, any linguistic element can embrace them, but of course literary conventions have restricted the register of possibilities available to authors. Metalinguistic Self-Reference This type of self-reference constitutes texts referringto their own materialmanifestation as language. This might occur as direct reader addresses, concrete poetry pointing over and over again to the signs crawling down the white page, metrical exploitation of the material rhythm of language, or rhyme literally making language an echo of itself. In the small anecdote titled "Natives and Verse" from Out of Africa, Isak Dinesen tells about the poetic magic of rhyme.10 Rhyme is unknown to the black people working on her farm in Kenya and therefore exercises an alienating effect on them, just like metalinguistic self-reference according to Sklovskij and Jakobson (ostranie).The rhyme intensifies the communicative awareness and the listeners' need to find an unusual meaning. One day in the field Dinesen makes a nonsense verse in Swaheli: "Ngumbe/Na penda kula mamba." She translates as folchumbe/Malya/Mbaia/Wakamba/Na lows: "The oxen like salt. Whores are bad. The Wakambas do eat snakes," the last statement being an insult to the Wakambas present. But "they were quick to understand that the meaning in poetry is of no consequence, and they did not question the thesis of the verse." Instead they waited attentively for the rhyme to come and laughed when it finally occurred. But for some reason unknown to Dinesen they do not want to make any rhymes themselves. Metalinguistic self-reference detaches the verbal expression from ordinary meaning and draws attention to language as material process. But it does not isolate language from the communicative process, nor does it isolate it from the cultural universe of meaning in a presumably self-annihilating destruction of meaning. Language is contained in a communicative process with a precise distribution of the positions and responsibilities of the subjects involved. The rhyme is anxiously waited upon, and those who can produce it and those who cannot are unambiguously positioned in relation to each other. But in this process there is also an opening toward possible new meanings. Dinesen's workers invite her to continue: "Speak again, speak like rain," having with this invitation avoided the obligation to produce a rhyme themselves in return for hers. But in a sense, they now take command


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of the process. They force her to ask a question she cannot answer: "Why they should feel verse to be like rain I do not know," is her reaction. With the rhymes she has opened their linguistic universe and made them uncertain as to how to respond, but with their request they have opened hers beyond her capacity to answer. The methodologicalaspect of the analysis of metalinguistic self-reference takes into account the text as a communicative process and a communicative product and allows for a consideration of the epochal, cultural, regional, and author-specific differences in communication. Metatextual Self-Reference This type of self-reference constitutes texts referringto the role of language in relation to other media.There are two varieties, a direct and an indirectform. One of the most familiar direct forms is ekphrasis,or the verbal description of visual phenomena.ll Vitruvian Man is Leonardo's visualization of Vitruvius' ekphrastic description. Another example is embedded discussions on art and aesthetics in literature, the direct reference from dialogue to gesture in a theater performance, or the use of verbal description to explain a picture. Here, I shall restrict myself to exemplifying an indirect case from James Joyce's Ulysses. In the last chapter Molly Bloom is lying in bed early one morning next to her husband Leopold Bloom, while the free floating stream of consciousness centered around her immediate bodily impulses is weaving her life back and forth in time. One of them is the unexpected arrival of her period. The process can be followed in the book over three or four pages, its steps indicated below in italics and marked by letters from [a] to [o] in this truncated quotation: (I) wait O Jesus wait [a] yes that thing has come on me yes now wouldn't that afflict you of course all the poking and rooting and ploughing he had up in me now what am I to do Friday Saturday Sunday. (II) we have too much blood in us or what O patience above [b] its pouring out of me like the sea anyhow he didn't make me pregnant as big as he is [c] I don't want to ruin the clean sheets I just put on I suppose the clean linen I wore brought it on too [d] damn it damn it and they always want to see a stain on the bed to know you're a virgin.... [e] let me up out of this pooh sweets of sin whoever suggested that business for women...[f] this old bedjingling like the dickens I suppose they could hear us away over the other side of the park till I supposed to put the quilt on the floor with the pillow under my bottom.... [g] I thinkIIl cut all this hair off me therescalding me I might look like a young girl.... [h] wheresthe chamber gone [i] easy Ive a holy horrorforits breakingunderme after that old commode I wonder was I too heavy sitting on his knee [...] [j] O lord how noisy I hope theres bubbles on it...[k] I bet he never saw a betterpair of thighs than that look how white they are

Self-Reference (III) [1] ah yes I know I hope the old press doesnt creak ah I knew it would....I hope they'll have something better for us in the other world tying ourselves up God help us...[m] that's all for tonight [n] now the old jingly bed...[o] easy piano 0 I like my bed God here we are as bad as ever after 16 years.


In the first quote (I) Molly finds out about her bleeding and reflects on having sex with Leopold. A little later, as we see in quote II half a page further down in the book, she has to get up. She does not say one word about it, but the syntactical rhythm and the phrastic order follows the linear and sequential order of her bodily movements out of bed while her mind is still concentrated on her sexual experiences with different men. Following quotes II and III, selected from a sequence of three pages in the novel, we can detect her movements in their linear order from her initial concern about the blood stains to, more rapidly, over another half page or so, her easing herself out of the creaking bed, finding the chamber pot, lifting her night gown, watching herself and her pubic hair, thinking of the sounds while on the pot, and admiring her thighs. And then while she takes her time on the pot without anything new happening, we advance one and a half pages without reference to her menstruation; in quote III she finishes her business and sneaks back into the bed. Around her visit to the chamber pot, rendered linearly, her associations still produce non-sequential time lapses and fragmented memories of her body, of miserable womanhood, and of sex. The organization of the verbal signs - their linear order, the pauses between them - more than their content represents the actual order of her actions, and the distance between the references to menstruation represents the actual pauses between the different phases of her bodily movements. One could call this indirect metatextual self-reference syntactical iconicity.13By way of this self-reference, inside Molly's monologue there is a dialogue between the verbal and the bodily signs that is not based on semantics, but rather on a iconic relationship between two media, the linguistic and the bodily movements. The methodologicalaspect of the analysis of metatextual self-reference takes into account the boundaries of the power of language in relation to other signs, in this case bodily signs, a topic that invites us to investigate the historical variations of this boundary. MetapoeticSelf-Reference This type of self-reference constitutes texts referringto their specific role as poetic texts. With this type of self-reference literature considers its own nature as a work of art rather than as a linguistic product. This reflection is often based on the two previously mentioned types of self-reference, the metalinguistic and the metatextual. Through his work, the author addresses himself with questions concerning what he is doing, why, and to what effect. These questions


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this indicate the methodological perspectiveof the metapoeticself-reference, relevant in different historical contexts but articulated too, perspective, being differently. One specific occurrenceis found in Dante Alighieri'sDivinaCommedia.14 On the one hand, this giganticpoem constitutesa completepresentationof the Christiancosmos of the high Middle Ages, although modified in order to embraceDante'spoetic purpose. The centralepic event is the wandering of a subjectthroughHell, Purgatorio, and Paradisecalled upon by his dead he is beloved, Beatrice; gently guided first by Virgil, then by Beatriceherthe and self, pious Bernardde Clairvaux.In the end, before refinally by to Earth a messenger, he perceives Beatricein her celestial the as turning on the perfection boundaryof his perceptualand linguisticcapacities. On the other hand, and more importantly,the work is the journey of a poet in searchof a poetic mission. He is supposed to rendereverythinghe has perceivedto the othermortals,who neverhave and neverwill experience what he has been exposed to. This mission is carriedout in DivinaCommedia as a cosmic reflection.It shows us its own double project: both to represent the cosmic order as its content and to establish the basic conditions for the representational process itself. The words of the poet must carrythe entire world, so to speak - an engaging, terrible,and elevating task, and as a descriptive endeavor also an impossible projectbecause his linguistic cav. 57f),and even if he were linguistipacity is insufficient(DC,Par.,XXXIII, cally betterequipped, the absolutenature of the experiencemakes the task as impossibleas the squaringof the circle (forexample,DC, Par.,XXXIII, v. 133f.)His ekphrasticattemptsare doomed to fail. Witha metalinguisticselfreferencehe points to the necessity of sophisticatedverbal ornamentation, which in itself representsthe elevated complexityof the universe:"Reader, you know to what exalted height/I raised my theme. Small wonder if I now/summon still greaterart to what I write" (DC,Purg.,IX,v. 70ff). the attentionis deplaced Consequently,via metalinguisticself-reference from the text and its objectto the process of poetic creationand the poetic subject: Thereforemy Lady:"Speak.And let the fire of your consumingwish come forth,"she said, "well markedby the innerstamp of your desire; not that we learnmore by what you say, but that you betterlearnto speak your thirst, that men may sooner quenchit on your way" (DC,Par.,XVII,v. 7ff). Here it is primarilythe self-centeredcreativeimpulse, in a bodily metaphor, that has to be satisfied in a poetic expression, in the contradictory mixing of thirst/water and fire as complex as his own metaphorfor his poetic task - the squaringof the circle.When, or if, he succeeds, also the cosmic order finds its expression, not as an order as such, but as a personal



experience that then, and only then, in poetry can be communicated to other mortals. Thus, the self-reflexivity of the poem becomes a reflection both of the world it represents and of the subject that produces the representation. MetafictionalSelf-Reference This type of self-reference constitutes texts referringto their ontologicalstatus as fictional texts. The methodological questions arising from this definition is the intricate relation between the reality and truth value of fiction in contrast to other phenomena. Modem autobiography revolving around Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Les Confessions(1782-89) cannot function without such metafictional dimensions. The subject that portrays or presents itself acquires its identity and reality as a subject only through the narration and does not refer to the identity of the subject outside the text. The validity of such texts depends more on the addressee accepting the narrative shaping of the subject and thereby the logic of the narration, than on the content of the actual memories feeding the story. Marcel Proust's A la recherchedu temps perdu, Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa, Paul Auster's The Invention of Solitude, Georges Perec's W, Antonio Lobo Antunes' South of Nowhere, Breyten Breytenbach's Dog Heart are but a few modem instances of this problematic.15 As the most general and comprehensive type of self-reference, the basic ontological question of metafictional self-reference is often embedded in the three others. This is true for Omeros,by the Caribbean Nobel Prize winner Derek Walcott.16 He uses the gods and heroes of Homer in a modem myth of place, identity, and language, located in a small Caribbean seaport. In the seventh and last of the books of the poem, Homer himself arrives in a canoe as a marble bust of an old bearded man. There is also a lyrical persona in this book, an 'I" placed above the level of the characters, which are themselves interchangeably named by Greek or local names. He admits that he has never had the stamina to finish his reading of Homer's old epic. Too many gods and cross-references, too little sea and salt, he says. Homer is more present, the "I" holds, when the "I" directly turns to the sea that speaks for itself: [...] "I never read it," I said. "Not all the way through." [...] "Those gods with hyphens, like Hollywood producers" [...] "I have always heard your voice in the sea, master, it was the same song of the desert shaman, and when I was a boy your name was as wide as a bay, as I walked along the curled brow of the surf: the word "Homer" meant joy, joy in battle, in work, in death, then the numbered peace of the surf's benedictions [...]"17


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Homer shows no pettiness. Skip the gods, but don't mix up fiction and reality, he teaches the 'I', and continues: [...] Your wanderer is a phantom from the boy's shore. Mark you, he does not go; he sends his narrator; he plays tricks with time because there are two journeys in every odyssey, one on worried water, the other crouched and motionless, without noise. For both 'I' is a mast; a desk is a raft for one, foaming with paper, and dipping the beak of a pen in its foam, while an actual craft carries the other to cities where people speak a different language, or look at him differently,[...] Therefore, this is what this island has meant to you,... To circle yourself - and your island with your art."18 Now we are approaching metafictionalself-references. First of all, the two quotes open an ontological discussion of the relation between fiction and reality. The "I"admits that he can see a difference: there is Homer the word and there is the sea. But the real sea can easily do without Homer, all on its own. In contrast, Homer stresses that fiction and reality, although different, - the narrated jourdepend on each other: there are always two journeys and must relate to each other. Only and maritime can the ney journey. They through this relation does the island acquire an identity through his art. This ontological issue is the pivotal point of the text. Metafictional self-reference is supported by metapoeticself-reference. The necessary but delicate transformation of things into signs and meaning happens on the conditions of fiction-making: the narrator makes fun with time in order to reshape the actual journey through the journey related in the story. The movement is not in the journey at sea ("hedoes not go"), but in the journey of poetry, because only through the story is the journey identified as something specific. Also metalinguistic self-reference is an important support for metafictional self-reference. The verses quoted contain a reflection on language as a communicative medium. The trick of time, as Homer puts it, depends on a narrator. Fiction and reality are blended when the relation between them is told without them overlapping completely. Although the "I' rejects the necessity of poetry vis-a-vis the sea, he basically makes the same point as Homer. His experience of nature, the sea, is represented as a dialogue between himself and the sea - that is, by a communicative metaphor. Language not only transforms things into signs, it also creates the subjects that participate in reality through dialogical acts that make reality a meaningful reality. Moreover, their foreign languages identify the sailors he meets in



other cities; the sea has a voice uttering the name of Homer. And the overall reflection on ontology, aesthetics, and communication is characterized by way of language as an interplay of pronouns - "I," "he" - and the names and functions they represent. In two cases we also discover an instance of metatextual self-reference. Although not very important, this occurrence, too, relates to the overall metafictional self-reference. First, there is the visually motivated effect of the "I" being shaped like a mast, in the form of a vertical line like a pole, an identification that bridges the text and the maritime context as mediated by the playing around in poetry with ontology. The other example is the anachronistic use of Hollywood producers, of Homer with ink and pen, of Homer in today's Caribbean archipelago - this is a way of showing the "trick of time" in the text itself without making it explicit. This instance, too, is part of the ontological intricacies producing an inextricable intertwining of fiction and everyday experience. Thus, the entire metafictional enterprise, including all types of self-reference implied in the use of language, does not narrow our view on the text as a semiotic system only highlighting the text as an isolated and culturally detached object. Quite the contrary, it enables us, or rather forces us, to question how the text is anchored and produced as a subjectivized semiotic system in a historical and material reality. Self-Reference and Didactics Thus, the entire metafictional self-reference, including all types of self-reference implied in the use of language, does not narrow our view on the text as a semiotic system that only highlights the text as a verbal phenomenon and as an object isolated and detached from other cultural sign products. Quite the contrary, semiotic self-reference enables us, or rather forces us, to question how the text is anchored and produced as a subjectivized semiotic system in a historical and material reality. This is exactly what is brought about in Leonardo's Vitruvian Man whom we left above inscribed in a verbal text, a circle and a square as a case of aesthetic inter-semiotic and epistemological self-referential metafunctions as well as an instance inter-semiotic metafiction relating word and image. Using both verbal and visual self-reference Leonardo's drawing is a more complex as a semiotic phenomenon than literary texts, although they, belonging to verbal language, show a more differentiated and refined use of self-references. The complexity is due to the fact that Leonardo with the integral use of two semiotic systems makes a double contextualization of the bodily proportions. With his reference to Vitruvius he contextualizes his drawing in a particular historical and cultural context, that of architectural and spatial ideas and practices. But on the other hand, with the depiction itself he contextualizes his sketch in an ahistorical context, that of nature and natural


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order - the naked body and the basic natural forms. Through the metafunctions carried out by the text as a whole the two contexts are embedded in each other - nature is being made culturally accessible through bodily experience and quantitative measurement to be used for spatial constructions in cities and buildings, and in the same move culture is being given a natural foundation that qualifies certain built spaces as better as living spaces than others being constructed from immediate bodily experience.19 However, Leonardo does not state this argument explicitly - he just makes a drawing and paraphrases close some parts of Vitruvius with a brief summary of his ideas about the ideal proportions of the body. But the metafunctions of the combined verbal and visual texts guide our mind toward this argument. How is that? Let me begin with Vitruvius and the quote Leonardo has selected. Vitruvius only addresses the question of the ideal proportions of the human body in his third book. Up to this point he has been dealing with the practical skills of the architect, the material used for building and the requirements for the construction of walled cities. But now he is approaching the constructions of temples and the layout of holy places. Here humans, through the immediate confrontation with the built environment, meet the gods. Therefore, he states with many references to older Greek and Roman architects, that it is of utmost importance that the human whose parts are in harmony with the god-given cosmic order is used as constructive principle of the temples. That is the body. Both the units of measurement (such as finger and palm) and the proportions are derived from the body in a truly intra-semiotic self-reference. In this way the aesthetic experience of the temples can be translated into transcendental knowledge. In book three Vitruvius lays down the numerical principles incorporated in the body and in the next book he shows at length how columns and temples of different types correspond to the ideal proportions. He also continues later on with the advantages of octagonal forms in city building with reference to some of the bodily-based proportions. According to classical metaphysics the validity of the constructive process is based on analogy. Vitruvius agrees. Therefore he focuses on the human body insofar and only insofar as it corresponds analogically to the natural order, that is the proportions of the body parts based on ideal numbers, not the body in any other material or mental aspect. After this cosmological justification he states meticulously the different relations between the height of the body and the span of the outstretched arms, between distances from top of the head to the nipples, from finger tips to elbow, and so on. He also imagines how the body as a whole may correspond analogically with ideal natural proportions. If we image a body lying down spreading its legs and its arms, the tips of its fingers and toes will be placed on the periphery of a circle and in the angles of a square (both of



which are ideal geometrical forms), if we at the same time place the navel in the center of the circle. The dimensions of both the circle and the square corresponds to the relational order between the body parts. In the passage from Vitruvius chosen by Leonardo he only refers to a selection of Vitruvius' view points, not any selection but a historically and didactically very significant one. He only summarizes and quotes the plain numerical principles and units of measurement, but not their contextual relation to holy places or to any metaphysics with analogy as a basic principle of recognition. More importantly, neither does he quote nor refer to Vitruvius' suggestion of how the drawing of the body in the circle and the square is supposed to be made. He just makes his own version. But compared to Vitruvius' ekphrastic suggestion Leonardo makes an important change that opens for a new historical and cultural understanding and use of the bodily proportions. My first claim is the following: what is left out of Leonardo's verbal quote and summary is replaced by a new aesthetic and epistemological dimension by the drawing. My second claim is that this transformation only becomes visible when the combined visual and verbal text is seen as one semiotic totality where both the verbal and the visual parts are built on an intra-semiotic self-reference and at the same time act as complementary to each other through inter-semiotic metafunctions. I now return to Leonardo's text. First, the man drawn is not lying down as Vitruvius suggests, but is posited in an erect position facing the viewer directly with a stem gaze. Second, the navel is not the only center, but the male sex organ is now placed where the diagonals meet. Third, Leonardo thus exploits the fact that Vitruvius only mentions that the center of the circle should be in the navel, but does not spell out clearly the bodily position of the point of intersection of the diagonals of the square. Leonardo, however, is explicit on this point: the penis.21 To the best of my knowledge, all other contemporary and earlier drawings based on Vitruvius place the diagonal intersection in the navel, too, and therefore places the square entirely inside the circle, leading to a rather awkward bodily appearance,22 whereas Leonardo's man could be shown in any trendy health care magazine. He places the man inside both geometrical figures in such a way that they are both inside and outside each other and their centers and outlines therefore mutually displaced. They are just two independent forms united through the body, not two completely synthesized cosmic forms. The effect of this representative strategy is double. First, not the navel, the sign of Man created, but the male sex, both the sign and the active agent of Man the creator, is a new center. Second, Man is therefore inside both the mutually displaced square and the circle and thus he constitutes the harmony of the ideal proportions, not as in Vitruvius where he is just inscribed expressing passively the cosmic order. In Leonardo, man is the self-confident subject in a secular world creating and upholding its order based on its own


Svend ErikLarsen

bodily proportions, not the mirror of a transcendental order. This body is more than ideal proportions, it is also a bodily subject. Thus, aesthetic experience is aesthetic education before it is ideal knowledge in the analogical mode. No wonder Leonardo overlooks the specific religious context of Vitruvius' rumination on the bodily proportions. Therefore, the picture is built up through an entirely intra-semiotic self-reference - the dimensions of the circle and the square are translated into the body, marked by small lines on the body and the distance between the different positions of the actively moving hands and feet. The body passively expresses the geometrical figures and actively incorporates them at the same time. This historical shift marked by Leonardo also implies that analogy can no longer self-referentially be the mode of learning as in Vitruvius - the body reflecting cosmos in passively mirroring its own proportions. The general epistemological value of an analogy presupposes that the medium of the analogy, the body, is not itself part of the object referred to by the analogy, the cosmic order, but only a sign for it by way of certain selected details, in this case the ideal proportions. The body as such does not refer to the natural order. But Leonardo's body is both a genuine part, as matter and form as it were, of the human lifeworld it refers to, and a condensed sign of it as created by man according to the principles of human form. We may use Nelson Goodman's term exemplificationto generalize the overall semiotic logic of self-reference on such non-transcendental conditions.23 An exemplification, according to Goodman, consists of both possession and reference, meaning that for instance, a turf of grass exemplifies the lawn, possessing both the qualities of the lawn and referring to the lawn from where we have cut it out. In contrast the color sample "green" may refer to the color of the grass, but is not genuine part of the lawn. In the same way the body in Vitruvius is not part of the ideal cosmic order as a body, but its proportions refer to it. Therefore we have to use analogy to make the relation. But Leonardo's man is part of the material and social world to which it refers as a creative being, carrying with it the real principles of creation - the sex and the principles to be used for creation of a lifeworld. Exemplification works through different levels and types of self-reference. Exemplification is established through intra-semiotic self-reference as the link between the aesthetic and epistemological metafunctions. Metafiction is only a particular variety, most radically manifested in literature. But as exemplification metafiction still leads our attention to the world of which it is a real part. Self-reference is by no means self-sufficiency. Without being an exemplification the ontological questions metafiction forces upon us would be of no relevance. The basic pedagogical principle: learning through experience, works through exemplification in this sense, and therefore also works with all aspects of self-references, metafictional or not.

Self-Reference Conclusion


This argument leads to another way of looking at didactic aspects of aesthetic experience than usual. Here the mimetic principle has been self-evident for years: only by referring to a world outside the object offering an aesthetic experience we could learn anything, and methods in the process of learning have been derived from the mimetic principle. And also in judging about what we learned - aesthetic objects may refer to a wrong reality (Plato vs. the poets), to a wrong knowledge about reality (censorship) or not to reality at all (Marxism vs. the artists). Here Friedrich Schiller's notion of aesthetic education was more advanced, but also more restricted.24 Aesthetic experience as such, no matter the mimetic qualities of the aesthetic objects, gave way to human self-reflection and thereby made individual freedom possible, particularly through the arts because of their self-contained and unique character. Here we have left the general interest in aesthetic experience and education and have zoomed in on the arts. The ideal order of nature in Vitruvius has been replaced by the ideal order of the arts. Exemplification and self-reference, with metafiction as an extreme case related to verbal language, reminds us that aesthetic experience and aesthetic education are much broader phenomena and intimately related to the semiotic processes in the aesthetic experience at large. Self-referential strategies, like exemplification, open a way into the world through these semiotic processes rather than indicate a step out of it. They also enable us to understand this process by underlining the very complexity of our sensibility. That is why aesthetic experience is an educational and a didactic process.

NOTES 1. Leonardoda Vinci, TheNotebooks da Vinci(Oxford:OxfordUniverof Leonardo sity Press, 1998),145-47.See differentdrawings and referencesto the numeric system behind them and their hidden meanings, www.aiwaz.net/Leonardo/ vitruvianman/index.html, www2.evansville.edu/drawinglab/vitruvian.html and http://thealchemicalegg.com/VitruviusN.html. 2. Vitruvius, On Architecture 1-10 (Cambridge: HarvardUniversity Press, 2002), Book3, 1, 153-54. 3. PatriciaWaugh, Metafiction: TheTheory and Practice Literature of Self-Conscious (London:Routledge, 1996);Mark Currie,ed., Metafiction (London:Longman, Fiction(New York: Methuen, 1987);Linda 1995); Brian McHale, Postmodern Narrative: TheMetafictional Paradox Hutcheon, Narcissistic (London:Methuen, Muse (Pittsburgh: The University of 1984);LarryMcCaffery,TheMetafictional PittsburghPress, 1982);Inger Christensen,TheMeaningof Metafiction (Bergen: and Metafiction 1981);RobertScholes, Fabulation Universitetsforlaget, (Urbana: TheNovelas a Universityof IllinoisPress,1979);and RobertAlter,Partial Magic: Genre Self-Conscious Press,1975). (Berkeley: Universityof California 4. Joseph Wiesenfarth,"Metafiction as the Real Thing,"in "The FinerThread, the Weave": Fiction ed. JosephDewey and Tighter Essayson theShort of HenryJames, BrookeHorvath(WestLafayette: PurdueUniversityPress, 2001),235-51;Grant Metafictionand Object-Relations Stirling,"NeuroticNarrative: Theory,"College


Svend ErikLarsen Literature Modernes 27, no. 2. (2000):1-23;Mirjam Erzihlen. Sprenger, Metafiktion im deutschsprachigen Romander Gegenwart (Stuttgart:Metzler, 1999);Robert Baah, "Teoriade la extrapolacion: la novella contemporanea y la reflexion no. 51 (1998):468-79;MichaelHardin,"CanMetafiction be te6rica,"Periodicum Read Straight? EsOr, When the Pen in YourHand Is Not YourOwn,"Reader: says in Reader-Oriented Theory,Criticism,and Pedagogyno. 40 (1998): 52-78; Metafiction:Somewhere between Ideology TakayukiTatsumi, "Comparative and Rhetoric,"Critique 39, no. 1 (1997):1-16;Howard Wescott, "Garcilaso's 3, no. 1 (1997):71Eclogues:Artifice,Metafiction, Self-Representation," Caliope and the Returnof the AuthorSubject: The 86;Luigi Cazzato,"HardMetafiction Decline of Postmodernism?" in Postmodern Postmodern Text,ed. Jane Subjects/ Dowson and Steven Earshaw (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1995),25-41;and Bemd in Modern American and Englerand KurtMuller,eds., Historiographic Metafiction Canadian Literature Ferdinand (Paderbom: Schoningh,1994). Hans Arens,Sprachwissenschaft 1-2 (Frankfurt a.M.:Athenaum,1969). John Lyons, Semantics1-2 (Cambridge:Cambridge University Press, 1977), Glotta Grammatik," chap. 15;cf. HeinrichKoller,"DieAnfangeder griechischen 37 (1958):5-41;and Svend ErikLarsenand JorgenDines Johansen,Signsin Use (London:Routledge,2002),chap.4. Moralia Plutarch, 9, no. 15 (London: Heinemann,1961),281,93. RomanJakobson, "Poeticsand Linguistics," in Stylein Language, ed. ThomasA. Sebeok(Cambridge: M.I.T.Press,1960),350-77. Viktor Sklovskij, "Kunst als Verfahren,"in Russischer ed. Jurij Formalismus, Striedter(Miinchen: Fink,1971),4-35 IsakDinesen,OutofAfrica (New York: Vintage,1985),287-88. Johns Hopkins Press, 1992) and W.J.T. (Baltimore: MurrayKrieger,Ekphrasis Mitchell,Picture Theory (Chicago: Universityof ChicagoPress,1995). JamesJoyce,Ulysses(New York:Vintage,1986),632-35and DorritCohn, TransMinds(Princeton: PrincetonUniversityPress,1983). parent Roland Posner, "Iconicityin Syntax: The Natural Order of Attributes,"in ed. Paul Bouissacet al. (Tubingen: Iconicity, 1986),305-37. Stauffenburg, Dante Alighieri,TheDivineComedy (New York:OxfordUniversityPress,2000). Thisbook will be cited as DC in the text for all subsequentreferences. Rousseau,LesConfessions (Paris:Hachette,1857);MarcelProust,A Jean-Jacques la recherche du temps perdu1-7 (Paris:Livrede Poche, 1968);IsakDinesen,Outof (New York:Vintage,1985);Paul Auster,TheInvention Africa (London: of Solitude Faberand Faber,1989); del'enfance Denoel, (Paris: GeorgesPerec,Wou le souvenir 2003);Antonio Lobo Antunes, Southof Nowhere (New York:Random House, 1983);and BreytenBreytenbach, DogHeart(CapeTown:Human and Rousseau, 1998). DerekWalcott,Omeros Faberand Faber,1990). (London: Ibid.,283. Ibid.,291. See, Norman Crowe, Natureand the Ideaof a Man-MadeWorld(Cambridge: MITPress, 1997).For other renaissanceinterpretationsof bodily proportions in an architectural context,see www.acpoitiers.fr/arts_p/b@lisel4/pageshtm/ index.htm. 159. Vitruvius,Architecture, Da Vinci,Notebooks, 147. See, for example,http://thealchemicalegg.com/VitruviusN.html. Nelson Goodman,Languages of Art (New York:BobbsMerrill,1968),53, 57 and CatherineZ. Elgin, With Reference to Reference (Indianapolis:Hackett, 1981), chap.5. Friedrich Education Schiller,On theAesthetic ofMan,in a Series (Oxford: of Letters OxfordUniversityPress,1982).

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7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15.

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20. 21. 22. 23. 24.