Roman Jakobson and James Joyce, arguably the greatest linguist and novelist of the twentieth century, concerned themselves with structural and semantic aspects of synecdoche. Synecdoche may seem odd for today’s readers—both the word and the literary technique and, indeed, use of the word synecdoche, according to Wordnix(1), is in the wane since the turn of the nineteenth century. Its decline corresponds to the ascent of the three other major modes of cognitive processing or figures of thought: irony, metaphor, and metonymy.(2) Synecdoche, the trope of the part standing for equaling the whole, was essential to the artists of the modernist movement, whose “polyphony of creation,” according to Jakobson’s autobiographical “Retrospect,” was “intimately allied to their unique feeling for the dialectic tension between the parts and the uniting whole.” Jakobson explains: “Those of us who were concerned with language learned to apply the principle of relativity in linguistic operations; we were consistently drawn in this direction by the spectacular development of cubism, where everything is ‘based on relationship’ and interaction between parts and wholes, between color and shape, between representation and the represented.”(3)
During the modernist period, as William Everdell shows, “a dialectic of parts and wholes was inescapable” in the arts and sciences.(4) Frederik Sternfelt in Diagrammatology explains how mereology, or the science of parts and wholes, informs the operation of linguistics, ontology, and semiotics; at the time of Jakobson’s work in the Russian Formalist movement and the Prague Linguistic Circle Husserl had published volume two of his Logical Investigations in which his six theorems of wholes and parts was foundational (1901). Sternfelt convincingly shows how mereology is foundational to Jakobson’s major linguistic contribution, which is the definition of the “phoneme,” and his “most well-known contribution to the formal research of language, his notion of the ‘marked’ versus ‘umarked’ units of language.” Markedness refers to “a paradigmatic opposition between parts which are defined by asymmetric dependency.”(5) Jakobson, according to Sternfelt, several times underlined his view of linguistics as a science investigating a hierarchy of wholes and parts.
According to what is probably the best recent discussion of synecdoche, Group MU in The General Rhetoric, explain that synecdoche is the key trope or figure of thought because, at its most basic, it is a suppression of something and an addition of something. They write,“if a synecdoche does not operate through simple addition or suppression, we are working under an illusion and […] our examples […] are either metaphors or metonymies.”(6) It is interesting to note that the kind of addition or suppression in synecdoche is analogous to that in markedness, where, on the basis of one aspect of a term, such as gender, there is repetition of the unmarked term and the seeming addition of the marked term. (See note four above. Another example is the so-called “generic he” in all but the Chinese language, according to Douglas Hofstadter.) Synecdoche is complex because of the actions of addition and suppression and because it shades into metaphor, irony, and metonymy.(7)
Jakobson himself said that synecdoche is rarely studied because it is difficult, and I believe that Joyce is difficult because of synecdoche. It is the device of representation and, as Kenneth Burke states:
Synecdoche or representation stresses an equation that is similar to markedness, an interesting parallel. In the Miller Analogy Test frequently used in education to determine intelligence, there is a relation or equation of similarity between four terms wherein A is to B as C is to ___, or where any of four terms is blank. A:B::C:D. In synecdoche X stands for Y but in the process there is quantity being substituted for quality. As I understand it, there is an aspect or factor (not necessarily a quantity or quality) attached to X, such as X:a. By analogy there is an analogous aspect or factor attached to Y, such as Y:b. The synecdochically related pair is thus Xa:Yb. There is an addition and subtraction, mentioned by Group MU. Xa:Y. The addition is the aspect singled out for representation in the next term, in this case the small “a.” There is X:a::Y__. Or X__: Yb. With synecdoche there are three terms. In a sense it operates like a triadic sign.
James Joyce and Part/Whole Relations
Synecdoches are more complex than the above equations, especially more complex than using the graphic element of the punctuation mark “colon.” But, when you stop and think about it, is there a novel with more colons or possible visual analogies than Ulysses? The technique is in his entire corpus but Joyce is teaching us something about being ready to expect an analogy or relationship when we see a colon. The colon suggests a synecdoche, anywhere from a mild sequence which follows a colon, or one which designates a definition of a term or a cause effect relation to a stronger relationshiop,--or one without a colon. The concept is at work at the level of a character perceiving something “new” but “unseen,” as when Stephen sees a glint of mockery in the sun on Buck Mulligan’s tooth (“Chrysostomos”). As Burke says, it works as representation at the level of perception. It works in longer passages, as we will see in a discussion of a passage in episode 11, Scylla and Charybdis. But what keeps us attuned to the details and ideas is the process of synecdoche. Joyce as teacher places an analogy as a synecdoche of a text within the novel: “U.p: up.” There are many similar cases that keep us thinking, for example, “e.d.:ed” (16.21, with it also meaning fatigued) and “Table: able. Bed: ed” (parallelism based on sound or rhyme, able as part of the word table but also meaning, in context, a whole: potentiality from an animate or human perspective, etc. “”ed” is found to be different than “e.d.:ed” in that the missing letter is what is added to its meaning; in addition “ed” is part of a word that is neither a morpheme or a letter) The concept of markedness is exemplified. The letter “t” has been missing at the level of representation or perception in “ha__” which gives makes the first letter of table an addition of meaning.
Laying bare the device of literariness itself is the usage of “U.p.:up” throughout the novel. Some of the references include the following varied locations: 8.274; 8.320; 8.320; 8.255; 8:820; 12.250; 12.259; 12.276; 12.1031; 15.485; 15.1609. Why not consider the literal literary technique of synecdoche by considering the six-part aspects of the information diagram that Jakobson made famous in relation to “U.p.: up”?
Jakobson’s communication model has never lost its currency in linguistics and communication theory, while his discussion of synecdoche in the same essay, “Linguistics and Poetics”(9) is little discussed. He presents the illustration of the six aspects of verbal communication as follows:
Jakobson then proceeds to explain the second half of the title of his essay: poetics. Poetics is a focus on the message, not a total focus but a primary or dominant focus on the message.
Jakobson’s discussion of the synecdochic immediately follows the above translation of the first linguistic model to the second poetic model, using his definition of the word poetic to include what “promot[es] the palpability of the signs [and] deepened the fundamental dichotomy of signs and objects” (p. 70), what some people consider to be “literariness.” In explaining the second poetic model rather than the first linguistic model, he says “[t]he poetic function projects the principle of equivalence from the axis of selection [synecdoche] onto the axis of combination [metaphor]” (71). He briefly refers to “the border line between metonymy and synecdoche” in an example that includes a pars pro toto relationship after more than a few pages of discussing literary techniques, especially parallelism and rhythm, in poetry per se. When he discusses poetics, poetry is but one genre among all those in the category of that which makes literature, or the aspect of “literariness.” In this sense literariness is not equivalent to the object but only an aspect of it. The double sense of poetic as a noun and as an adjective has caused some confusion. He suggests the asymmetrical relationship of markedness when he writes, “Virtually any poetic message is a quasi-quoted discourse with all those peculiar, intricate problems which ‘speech within speech’ offers to the linguist” (p. 85). It is marked in that “the supremacy of the poetic function over the referential function does not obliterate the reference but makes it ambiguous. The double-sensed message finds correspondence in a split addresser, in a split addressee, as well as in a splict reference” (p. 85). This is the split that Joyce deconstructs in Ulysses.
What else is “U.p.:up” besides synecdoche? It can be seen as a microcosm concerning linguistic principles because it is questioning the relationship between: letters (phonemes vs. graphemes) and sememes (syllable or word) and the presence or absence of space (period versus no period). What are the boundaries of and essential constituents of meaning? It can also be seen as a synecdoche for “literariness”. No one has called it a synecdoche. Why not consider the literal literary technique of synecdoche? Consider the six-part aspects of the information diagram that Jakobson made famous in relation to “U.p.: up.”(10) Dennis Breen receives a post card with “U.p.:up” on it, Mrs. Breen tells Bloom. (We do not know that it is a complete message in and of itself, another blank; nor do we know how she uses it in speech in a sentence or how it is “heard” by Bloom.) Breen is walking through town looking for a solicitor to take action against the sender, who as far as we know is unknown (characters and critics speculate). The context is unknown (why was it sent? What triggered the act? Is there a code for interpreting the message? Is the message a mistake by the graphist or printer, due to censorship? Was the postcard addressed to Breen or was it placed addressee unknown in the vicinity of Breen? Is the channel for the message a substitute for face-to-face communication?). We also see that poetics is built with, not upon, linguistics.
Synecdoche comes alive in Episode 9, Scylla and Charybdis, a tour de force of verbal art. The doubleness in Hamlet intersects with the doubleness of Stephen as character and potential author. There is an asymmetrical doubleness that allows for surprising, revolutionary interpretations. It can also be seen as a plea for literary criticism to awaken literature. Stephen’s “audience” for his Hamlet improvisation, A.E. George Russell, Mr. Best, John Eglinton, later Buck Mulligan, take stage in the Dublin National Library.” Eglingon, who has just been with Bloom (who was checking on an ad for “Keyes”)-- returns. The room is quiet. Stephen thinks:
Synecdoche is most known for taking dead metaphors and making them new and, in this case, the library is synecdoche for the literary ones. Stephen feels “the itch of death,” an addition and suppression to the meaning of death; death is alive; death “itches” its need to be reborn, asking for a symbolic synecdoche to make itself new, asking for new interpretations. Because their synecdoches are becoming hackneyed, clichéd, or maudlin, they urge Stephen to “wreak their will” -- willas a literal document whose “inheritance” would be “their extinction.“ “Their will”-- at another level -- refers to institutionalized readers, past, present, and future -- who repeat prior interpretations. Whosoever’s “will” or purpose is thus erased. Thoth the god of creativity, figuratively present, is invoked, recalling Professor MacHugh in the newspaper office in the Freeman’s Journal who regales Stephen and the others with his version of a classic of oratory by John Taylor, which was never written down.(11) Each reference to it or performance of it is its own interpretation. MacHugh’s is different than Yeats, who also quotes from Taylor’s speech in his autobiography, a proleptic reference. As a quote in Stephen’s mind, it stands as performance as art, which he himself is enacting. Interestingly, this is the speech James Joyce recorded: both Joyce and Stephen realize they are at the intersection of the written and spoken; literature and criticism. Two synecdoches are found with the sentence “In painted chambers loaded with tilebooks”. With italics it provides a synecdoche, a visual pun that shows another layer of interpretation added by its appearance in print, which can omit lines or change the meaning. Second, the source of the quote is itself suppressed. The context of Taylor’s speech adds and subtracts in relation to Stephen’s own impending speech to Eglingon, McHugh, and A.E., living men, authors, who are themselves spewing dead metaphors: their interpretation of Hamlet (another synecdoche). Multiple synecdoches make this passage come alive. Once again, to explain a synecdoche is to remove the magic, the openness, the “humor” or the device, which is less ironic than it is iconic. The written contains the “life” or the “spoken” or the “performance” much like the sound in the grooves of a record that “asks” to be heard to live.
A longer study of Joyce and synecdoche is needed, but one can see that synecdoche works structurally and materially from blank spaces, graphemes, phonemes to larger units such as puns, riddles, paradoxes, catalogues, parodies, and satire. Synecdoche, the trope of representation, is micro- and macro-cosm. It is based on a 0-1 analysis of the “letter” and as Bloom says “syllabax.” Between meaning and non-meaning down to the space where a letter may or may not belong. T? One can see a movement from the novel Ulysses as a treatise on what is analog versus digital and Finnegans Wake as a performance based on the difference.
Synecdoche as Aesthetic Theory
We begin our analysis as early as 1903, after Joyce’s writing of epiphanies, poems, some short stories, the essay “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” and the beginning of Stephen Hero. The part to whole, part as whole, part equals the whole concept, which was the source of the “polyphony of creativity” in modernism (a la Jakobson earlier), becomes the crux of the Joycean system. March 25, 1903, in Paris, Joyce elaborately writes out his “Aesthetic Notebook”:
This entry has always been misunderstood. No critic has interpreted the passage from the perspective of a part equaling the whole. To do so would require a non-Euclidian perspective, a non-Kantian interpretation of reality. It would be the opposite of the current, orthodox interpretation of Joyce’s aesthetic theory, (13) when it is aligned with Stephen’s and when it is not seen as ironic. Irony is not synecdoche. In my earlier writings on Joyce I have shown that interpretations of Joyce’s and Stephen’s literary theories by William T. Noon and Umberto Eco are incorrect. It is as if they have been ensnared in the nets that Joyce flung to entangle them. Passage-by-passage analysis of Noon and Eco on Joyce’s theory can show this is true. Much depends on this and it must be taken up in a longer treatise than this essay provides.(14) But when one reads the above two sentences and substitutes “equal” for “constitute” with Joyce’s stipulation that there be a “common end” we have a revolutionary theory: parts [equal] the whole when they have a common end.” He is not saying the whole is greater than the sum of its parts; nor is he stating a tautology that “the parts make up a whole.” Rhythm is distributed throughout the whole because the “common end” accommodates the parts. Rhythm is the logical result of an end-means accommodation in a system where each relation of part to whole or part as whole when part equals the whole. Fractals and holograms operate on the same principle of the part equaling the whole. So do some synecdoches. Joyce’s aesthetic by definition is post-Euclidian. The whole can be found in each point on a line. Each point is three-dimensional.
On March 27 Joyce substitutes Aristotle’s mimesis, with two processes and presents sculpture as synecdoche (rather than symbol) for verbal art.
Rather than simply (though cleverly) reversing art imitating nature, as Oscar Wilde and other esthetes did, Joyce suppresses mimesisandadds or substitutes it with a system. The system implied by the whole is based on this doubling process, and the word process implies a movement or development allowing for entelechy, what Aristotle and others describe as internal growth from a seed to a finished being. In short, Joyce uses entelechy and synecdoche throughout his works. He highlights it in Stephen’s aesthetic theory to lay bare the process, and it becomes the “strangewrote anaglyptic” of the Wake. Before blightely moving away from these Paris entries in Joyce’s aesthetic notebook, we must recognize how a creator can be removed in an open system wherein art and nature’s processes are “entelechy-ed.” The author or creator is known only by reflection upon the entirety through perception of rhythm that is palpable because the part equals the whole.
Joyce stipulates that sculpture remains “an art of repose,” despite its rhythm. In fact, it is because of the rhythm that it is “art.” One surveys sculptural art by its rhythm, and surveying is “an imaginary movement in space.” In this passage, sculptural art is synecdoche for verbal art. Both are spatial or three-dimensional and both have rhythm found in the surveying from a hypothetical dimension. To view the whole through its individual parts is to shape an object in space through time. Joyce’s real and applied aesthetics are revolutionary, just as are Stephen’s real and “applied” Aquinas in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Stephen Hero points to the error of his interpreters when he thinks they call his aesthetic theory “flowery” when once he offered his friend Madden the manuscript of it saying “This is the first of my explosives.”(16)
Aesthetics in Action: Stephen Screwed/Screwing
Aristotle’s concept of growth fits Joyce’s theoretical concept of the artistic and natural processes. Implied by the “first entelechy” is a “second entelechy,” which means “being in action” in addition to “being in thought.” The word entelechy first appears in episode 9, Scylla and Charybdis: “I, entelechy, form or forms, am I by memory […]”; later in episode 15 Stephen says: “So that gesture, not music, not odours, would be a universal language, the gift of tongues rendering visible not the lay sense but the first entelechy, the structural rhythm” (15. 104-106). Stephen solves the problem of there being two Stephens structurally in the novel, one temporal the other spatial; this is based on an analogy with Philip Drunk and Philip Sober in Circe, one of whom tries to erase an “error” (his presence or doubleness) (U 2500—2540).(17) Thus as Stephen drunk and sober, he joins the two planes, turning himself into a screw. Literally:
Later, “[Stephen’s] thumbs are stuck in his armpits and his palms outspread. Round his neck hangs a rosary of corks ending on his breast in a corkscrew cross. Releasing his thumbs, he invokes grace from on high with large wave gestures […]” (II, 15.2658-68; italics Joyce’s). He says “Out of it now. (to himself) Clever!” (15. 2535)
The absent Stephen, the artist, had hurt his hand intersecting the planes. (Yes, the famous synecdoche, the hand standing for the writer.) He later says “Hurt my hand somewhere” (U 15.3720), then “Hand hurts me slightly” (15.4414).(18) Later he says: “Hand hurts” 15.4414). In Eumaeus, “Who? The other, whose hand by the way was hurt, said” (16.9296). Stephen, who remains at the end of Circe, has woodshavings on his shoulders as the episode ends (U 15.4891; 15.4922; 15.4936). The shavings are presumably what has been twisted out of the floor of the two planes during the rotation or turning of the screw. One Stephen is repressed or subtracted from the surface while the other remains as a character who will not speak again, ever, in his own voice. Stephen says, “[…] synecdoche. Part for the whole”(U 15.4402-03).
Synecdoche is a foundational concept: it twists and screws itself and the reader into a space-time, hypothetical dimension. It does “the part hole duty” (FW 18.31) in Joyce’s works, and there are numerous references to the part and whole in the Wake. In all of its complexity, Joyce’s Wake is a “strangewrote anaglyptics”(19) that can be understood as a kind of cultural product that Yuri Lotman calls a “semiosphere.”(20) Before any analysis of this most complex linguistic and cultural system in literature, we must understand what makes it possible.
Joyce’s works must be revisited with attention to his use of part equaling the whole in his aesthetics and his novels. Scholars should dust off the word synecdoche and the creativity it represents. Otherwise, Joyce’s works will become coffined thoughts urging us to wreck its will.