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Theories of metamorphosis: from metatrope to textual revision.

The theorization of the literary or artistic representation of metamorphosis is a rather recent phenomenon. The first sustained theoretical conceptualizations, though not yet full-length studies, of literary examples of metamorphosis were undertaken in the late 1930s by Gaston Bachelard, Mikhail Bakhtin, and Roman Jakobson. During the last few decades, however, literary and artistic metamorphosis has been more widely theorized, and full-length studies have now been dedicated to this subject. Some critics apply various conceptual frames, while others map out the corpus of literary metamorphosis more generally, and still others conduct period studies of the topos or the motif of literary metamorphosis.

It is worth asking why it is that we are witnessing a proliferation or even, to use the term of Jennifer Waelti-Walters, an "epidemic," not just in metamorphic imagery in literature but also in the theoretical popularity of the metamorphosis subject (505). The increased interest cannot simply be a result of the increased volume in recent years of published literary criticism; more likely, certain predominant theoretical questions and practices in current Western intellectual cultures make this subject an attractive field of inquiry in scholarly work. One central concern shared by many of the recent theoretical approaches is that metamorphosis usually happens to someone, to a subject, and that linguistic or human being is often, in the metamorphic process, juxtaposed or interlinked with something that is not only "other" but often nonlinguistic as well. Dating at least as far back as Homer's Circe episode, the transformation of Lot's wife into a pillar of salt, and King Nebuchadnezzar's ordeal as a beast of prey in the Old Testament, metamorphosis has frequently been used to represent a punishment involving a nonlinguistic state of being. As such, and as is argued in many treatises on the topic regardless of their theoretical frames, literary metamorphosis provokes complicated questions concerning subject and language as well as perception, knowledge, and textuality.

It is now quite commonly accepted that literary metamorphosis tests the limits of a "character" and thus of representing a subject in writing. The important question for reading is: what characteristics must the protagonist maintain in order to be conceived as a single subject? But if metamorphosis problematizes the boundaries between the subject and its other or between language and nonlanguage, it also challenges the limits of conception. Thus, many studies of metamorphosis underscore epistemological and ontological questions concerning the subject's relationship to the world and to others as well as the subject's knowledge of itself and the world.

Metamorphosis as a tropological problem is another subject addressed in many recent studies. Most readings of literary metamorphosis - whether based, for example, on a historical, thematic, motif, or genre (such as fantasy)(1) approach - involve presuppositions of metamorphosis as a trope. One of the most common claims about the tropological status of metamorphosis is that it draws from various categories of tropes, especially metaphor and metonymy, and yet, as a representation of a striking alteration and somehow miraculous change, that it is also capable of playing with the distinction between the literal and the figurative. The paradoxical status of metamorphosis as a trope further complicates the problems concerning subjectivity and its depiction in a literary character as well as the relationship between knowledge and textuality.

I shall now review discussions of metamorphosis as a trope in order to examine more comprehensively whether it is possible that various tropological structures, fusions of tropes, and metatropological functions of metamorphosis - and not just the seemingly infinite thematic possibilities of metamorphosis - are responsible for making it such a viable image for representing change. At the same time, I shall question whether the theory of metamorphosis as a (meta)trope, as conceived by Jakobson and Paul de Man, overlooks important intertextual considerations, and finally, whether it is also possible to read the kind of metamorphosis discussed by Jakobson, de Man, and other theoreticians as a self-reflexive figure for textual combination and change. Strangely, despite their focus on the self-reflexive tropology of metamorphosis, none of these theorists seems to have noticed one of its most important and, indeed, most obvious tropological functions: the representation of textual revision.


What makes metamorphosis interesting as a trope is that when something turns "metamorphically" into something else, some aspect or trace of the original always remains. Although in many modern metamorphosis stories the connection or continuum between the two things may be problematized or challenged, as Michel Foucault's study of Raymond Roussel shows, a sense of the residue of sameness is necessarily maintained. In order for a change to be described as a metamorphosis, it requires a presupposition of the original form. Consequently, we may think of the construction of the new form in terms of a metaphor that both replaces and compares one form with another and that creates two or more forms into a new, meaningful image. We can see that Lucius may become a donkey but that he remains a man, that Alice turns out the same at the end of her tales, and that Gregor Samsa continues to think despite his insect form. As Pierre Brunel has argued, this sense of continuity in the midst of radical change, as well as the comparisons made between different forms, may not be surprising since metamorphosis is, after all, only a metaphor: feigning to describe something else while also describing the sameness of the changed self - a kind of comparison between various states or beings - metamorphosis thus suggests an event that leads to something not wholly different from that which was before (178).(2) In short, metamorphosis can both dramatize the metaphoric order of discourse and thematize the relationship between the same (or the self) and the other.

Metamorphosis, however, is not like any other metaphor. Gaston Bachelard's idea of poetic metamorphosis as a self-reflexive metatrope in Lautreamont already challenged the tropological status of this figure as a structure that would merely yoke together two things in order to make a third one. It is quintessential to metamorphosis that a sense of an event or an act is always introduced into this figure: metamorphosis is a metaphor that creates a sense of vertical or horizontal continuum (Foucault);(3) it insists on a physical (or other) element that provides continuity between two forms (Massey);(4) or, in other words, it conveys a sense of time and process (Bakhtin).(5) Along these lines, Michel Le Guern has argued, in his effort to define the term, that metamorphosis is a metaphor, but a destroyed one:

However, if metaphor has played an essential role in the production of these figurations, one can say that metamorphosis takes place only because there is no more metaphor. . . . The metaphor gives the poet the idea of metamorphosis, but the poetic illusion can only be produced through the figure's destruction . . . . Since if something metamorphoses, time must intervene: one needs a before and an after. Metaphoric relationship is atemporal.(6)

Therefore, because of the importance of time, process, and displacement, (many) transformations in metamorphosis may be syntagmatic or metonymic figures in which two states of being coexist or are somehow contiguous. Furthermore, it is quite possible that owing to this syntagmatic (as opposed to paradigmatic) emphasis, metamorphosis occupies a special position between metaphor and metonymy or that it changes or fuses a metaphor into a metonymy.(7)

This special and perhaps unsettling tropological position of metamorphosis has been the subject of much theoretical discussion, for instance in relation to Ovid's Metamorphoses, to medieval metamorphic imagery, and to Kafka's "Verwandlung," but especially with regard to the myth of a statue coming alive. Particularly in structuralist and poststructuralist literary theory, we find a stream of thinking that has appropriated the figurative puzzle of metamorphosis into a general study of tropology. The central problem behind this thinking, however, is not (just) the intermingling of metaphoric and metonymic structures, but the sense of semiotic antinomy in metamorphic change: in these theories, the question of the relationship between representation and the object represented, between the sign and its referent, is found to be conspicuously problematic with regard to the figure of transformation. In other words, in this structuralist tradition it is argued that metamorphosis has a problematic connection with its referent: metamorphosis paradoxically supposes that it can make metaphors and similes real, that is, analogous with the reference point of a sign, by literally fusing the opposites of a metaphor together to provide a literary figure with a sense of physicality and time. This proposition, in turn, entails an uncertainty about the literal and the figurative meaning of a sign. I shall next examine the theories of the tropological standing of metamorphosis, especially as developed by Jakobson and de Man, and these I shall later juxtapose with my own notion of metamorphosis as a figure for intertextuality in selected literary examples.


From my perspective, Bachelard's Lautreamont outlines some of the basic problems in the study of literary metamorphosis. In Bachelard's scheme of Lautreamont's poetics, metamorphosis, as a poetic image, enjoys an important albeit a doubled position. First, argues Bachelard, metamorphosis for Lautreamont is often a swift way to realize a vigorous, violent act.(8) As such, metamorphosis duplicates the destructive logic in Lautreamont's notion of poetic language. Here, the functioning of poetic imagery is seen to be fundamentally contradictory and resistant to reading, even antilinguistic in its penchant: for Bachelard, the cry of Lautreamont's violent animal or metamorphosed being is "essentially direct," the "antithesis of language"; it is a cry that "doesn't imitate anything," nor does it "signif[y] anything, but, inversely, it is signified by everything in one being" (112).

Secondly, and what may be less "phenomenological" in Bachelard's treatise and especially interesting from my point of view, Bachelard defines metamorphosis as a metatrope (une metatropie) (17): a trope that stands for troping and imagination. The very first and most primitive act of a child's imagination is to draw animal forms; therefore, Bachelard argues, the study of animal imagery and of metamorphosis carries significance for the entire study of poetic imagination (51). This idea leads Bachelard to believe that metaphors are even "naturally linked to metamorphoses" and that in "the realm of imagination the metamorphosis of being is already an adjustment to the imagined environment" (55). According to this theory, metamorphic logic governs poetic imagination.(9) Metamorphosis is the specific function of imagination in the comprehension and production of forms: "imagination doesn't comprehend a form unless it transforms it, unless it mobilizes in it a becoming, unless it experiences it as a break in the flux of formal causality" (153). Furthermore, metamorphosis functions as a metatrope in relation to the production of poetry or artistic prose. For Bachelard, the poet must create his or her reader; therefore, the function of poetry is to transform the reader (103-05).

Thus Bachelard's notion of metamorphosis is paradoxically split tween an antilinguistic poetic function in Lautreamont's animal imagery - or what Bachelard calls his animalized representation of life (la vie animalisee) (12) - and a metafictive image that doubles the artistic logic of imagination. Such a self-contradictory positioning is typical of various later studies on literary metamorphosis (for example, in the work of Foucault, Deleuze, Guattari, as well as Massey) and is symptomatic of the broad array of possibilities in reading this trope. The study of Kafka's short stories, however, presents yet another significant research tradition, one in which the tropology of literary metamorphosis has been problematized in quite different terms. Gunther Anders's Kafka research in the late 1940s and early 1950s, for instance, opened up a new way of talking about metamorphosis in Kafka's "Verwandlung" in terms of figures of speech (see Anders 40). For Anders, Kafka's story dramatizes conventional figures of speech and, through the metamorphosis that it portrays, especially challenges the status of a metaphor by literalizing it. In other words, in Gregor Samsa's transformation what takes place is an equalization of the opposites in the metaphor, which, when it is treated as real in the text, consequently challenges and rejects all symbolism and allegorism in the reader's interpretation of the text.

Anders's views on metamorphosis were later shared by Todorov, Brunel, Deleuze, Guattari,(10) Massey, and other scholars who were intrigued by Kafka's "Metamorphosis" and his other "animal" stories as well as by Bachelard's study of Lautreamont. Immediately after Anders, the notion of the literalized metaphor was developed in the German context by Walter Sokel in his treatises on Kafka and the figurations and thematics of expressionism.(11) In his study of expressionism in German literature, The Writer in Extremis, Sokel proposes that Kafka's "Metamorphosis" represents a peak of expressionist artistic achievement, not just because of its abstract subjectivism, but especially its paradoxical literalization of metaphor in metamorphosis:

All references as to causes and meaning of this miraculous transformation are completely withheld. . . . Samsa, however, has become identical with his wish. His empirical self has been abstracted to the point where it has become one with its essence. . . . Gregor Samsa has been transformed into a metaphor that states his essential self, and this metaphor in turn is treated like an actual fact.

(Writer 46-47)

What we see in Kafka, argues Sokel, is a kind of metaphoric visualization of a human existence, an essential determinant of all Expressionist prose. The metaphor of an insect-human becomes reality: metamorphosis condenses Samsa's true existence into an image, a metaphoric disguise.(12) And further, asserts Sokel, this peculiar tropological structuring is accompanied by symbolism paralleling that of a dream: Gregor Samsa's metamorphosis does not symbolize a universal condition, and therefore it cannot be an allegory. Since, unlike the metamorphoses described by Ovid, the miraculous event of Samsa is never connected with anything outside itself - there is no explanatory framework for the miraculous change - the metamorphosis, says Sokel, is a symbol only in the sense that events occurring in dreams are symbols: like a hieroglyphic sign or a pictorial script, it expresses, without revealing, the essence of a hidden situation (Writer 47). In other words, Sokel argues that the dream image of a literalized or "extended" metaphor disguises as much as it expresses and that its expressive function is identical to its veiling function.

Various complex questions on tropology are thus posed in Anders's and Sokel's readings of Kafka's "Metamorphosis." We can infer from Sokel's arguments, for instance, that when a metaphoric expression such as "like a man insect" is literalized, the question of sign and its referent is raised in a new light. Metamorphosis fuses two opposites, two signs, together; and in doing so it fulfills, in a way, the promise of a metaphoric description for capturing an extralinguistic moment or movement of being. Yet literary metamorphosis also remains always in the sphere of language, making the "extended metaphor," of course, profoundly paradoxical. Further, Kafka's short story highlights the question of the limits of signs by featuring a literalized metaphor in a text that otherwise adheres to a narrative mode of verisimilitude and psychological realism. The metafictive problem also is stressed, albeit from the point of view of the artist's social role, in Anders's reading of Gregor Samsa as someone who wants to be an artist but who, in the eyes of the hardworking middle-class, is just a "nasty bug" (40-41; see also Corngold 93).

But metamorphosis also always maintains a sense of something that was there prior to the literalizing process of transformation. In his essay on "Verwandlung" (or "The Metamorphosis"), Stanley Corngold offers an important critique to the theories of Anders and Sokel from the point of view of the transformation's temporal character and incompleteness. With Sokel, Corngold locates the metamorphosis of "Verwandlung" within Kafka's critique of metaphor, a project that becomes apparent already in his early stories and diary entries and continues through his late letters (94-97). But what Corngold finds problematic in Anders's and Sokel's notion of the "literalized" or "extended" metaphor is the presumed totality of the change. If, Corngold explains, the metaphor designates something (A) as something (B) - something in the quality of something not itself - then in a literalization of the metaphor we attempt to experience in (B) more and more qualities that can be accommodated by (A) (97-98). Nevertheless, in the process of literalization in metamorphosis, we must stop before the metamorphosis is complete if the metaphor is to be preserved and (A) is to remain unlike (B) (98). Hence, Anders errs in suggesting that in "The Metamorphosis" literalization of the metaphor is actually accomplished,

for then we should have not an indefinite monster but simply a bug. Indeed the progressive deterioration of Gregor's body suggests ongoing metamorphosis, the process of literalization and not its end-state. And Sokel's earlier formulation would not appear to be tenable: the metaphor is not treated "like an actual fact." (98)

What Corngold finds to be important in metamorphosis is the indeterminate and ongoing nature of the metaphor's literalization.(13) This sense of indeterminateness is simply a result of the way the text offers and invites different perspectives and interpretations of the nature of Gregor's change. For the cleaning woman who visits Gregor's room, as Corngold explains, the transformation is complete: for her there actually is no metamorphosis, but only the factual presence of a large bug. Gregor's family's treatment of their transformed son, in turn, appears to be ambiguous and shifting, partly because they cannot communicate with him. We readers know, however, that Gregor is somehow "there" because we can read his narrating consciousness.


Corngold thus modifies the paradoxical figurativeness of metamorphosis that Anders and Sokel locate in Kafka and defines the tropological aspect of metamorphosis further toward a metonymical process. Similar emphasis on the temporal character of metamorphosis, and still more systematic research on the tropology of literary metamorphosis, can be found in the study of the fantasy of the moving statue. This specific case of literary metamorphosis - the transformation as petrification or as the overcoming of petrification in the form of a statue that comes alive - has led critics to consider metamorphosis as a special, pronounced kind of tropological fusion of metaphoric and metonymic elements and as a trope of personification. Additionally, it has been argued that the question of signs and their limits in fiction is heightened by these texts that include another artwork, the statue, in their metamorphic imagery.

Jakobson's groundbreaking study of Pushkin's poetry, "The Statue in Pushkin's Poetic Mythology," marks a significant turn in the study of metamorphosis as a trope. In this essay Jakobson traces out the myth of the destructive statue in Pushkin's work - including the tragedy The Stone Guest (1830), the narrative poem The Bronze Horseman (1833), The Fairytale of the Golden Cockerel (1834) - as well as in his life and discovers that a certain plot kernel that includes images of statues coming alive is repeated in Pushkin's texts. But what most interests us here is the tropological problem that Jakobson proposes in relation to metamorphosis and the way this question relates to his theory on tropological structures of selection and combination, on the one hand, and of metafiction, on the other hand. Jakobson argues that the question of the sign and its referent, as well as the question of tropological structures, is underscored in Pushkin's texts by their self-reflexive settings:

The problem [the internal structure of the poetic image and the poetic myth of the destructive moving statue] is all the more interesting in that it concerns the transposition of. a work belonging to one kind of art into another artistic mode - into poetry. A statue, a poem - in brief, every artistic work - is a particular sign. Verse about a statue is accordingly a sign of a sign or an image of an image. In a poem about a statue a sign (signum) becomes a theme or a signified object (signature). ("Statue" 31)

The conversion of a(n artistic) sign into a thematic component in the text represents for Jakobson a problematization of signs and their referents that he sees as typical of poetic language in its entirety: the referent of a sign is here not extralinguistic but rather another sign. The difference between sculptural and linguistic forms of representation is thus thematized and contrasted in a way that leads Jakobson to speculate on the difference between a sign and its referent. Furthermore, in the coming alive of a statue that takes place in a literary text, the sign is reified:

The semantic aspect of the statue or the internal aspect of the sign cancels (Xarita zivaja) its dead immobile matter, that is to say, the external aspect of the sign. The dualism of the sign, however, is its indispensable precondition, and as soon as the internal dualism of the sign is cancelled, the opposition between the sign and the object also disappears of necessity, and the sign becomes reified. The conventional space of the statue merges with the real space into which the statue has been placed, and despite its a temporal substance, an idea of something that has preceded the represented state and of something that should follow it comes of itself to mind: the statue is placed in temporal succession. ("Statue" 32)

At one level of this argument, Jakobson anticipates Anders's and Sokel's idea of the literalized metaphor as well as the notion of a figure that introduces a sense of time in it.

But what is specifically problematic for Jakobson in the coming alive of a statue is that as the sign is reified it creates a sense of semiotic uncertainty between representation and the object represented. Jakobson recognizes that the poetic depiction of a statue's metamorphosis brings out, in a pronounced way, the semiotic antinomy between the sign and its referent that, he argues, every artistic sign includes and cancels ("Statue" 31-32).(14) In other words, in the process of the sign's reification - in the statue's coming alive - the opposition of the sign and the thing to which it refers vanishes to a point where there exists a simultaneous identity and difference between representation and the object represented. When a statue comes alive in the imagery of a literary text, what results is a cancellation of the internal dualism of the sign between its signifier and signified, which in turn "obliterates the boundary between the world of the sign and the world of the objects" ("Statue" 35).(15)

Thus, for Jakobson the figure of metamorphosis accentuates the difference between a sign and its reference point. We may now add to our earlier definition of literary metamorphosis that it may function not just as a literalized metaphor, or as a figure with a sense of process introduced in it, but also as a trope that thematizes and problematizes - at least in the metafictive case of a statue coming alive in a literary text - the connection between sign and its supposed point of reference. In fact, in this case metamorphosis may function, as Bachelard realized, as a figure for figuration, as a metatrope for tropological structures and relations. It is a figure that attempts to cross the limits between signs and, further, the boundaries between signs and their reference points.

Further evidence of this specific (meta)tropological standing of metamorphosis may be found in Jakobson's definitions of metaphor and metonomy. In Jakobson's essay "Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances," as well as in some studies on literary metamorphosis (Perry 14; Jackson 82), it is proposed that the figure of metamorphosis functions in terms both of a metaphor and a metonymy and in terms both of selection and combination. For Jakobson, any linguistic sign, in order to be socially intelligible, involves two modes of arrangement: (1) combination, in which any sign is made up of constituent signs and/or occurs only in combination with other signs; and (2) selection, a choosing between alternatives, which implies the possibility of substituting one for the other, the latter of which is equivalent to the former in one respect and different from it in another ("Two Aspects" 74).(16) The first mode takes place along the metonymic semantic line, which is based on the principle of contiguity, and the second mode follows the metaphoric logic, which functions in terms of similarity ("Two Aspects" 90).

It follows in Jakobson's argument that in verbal art the interaction of these two elements - the metonymic law of association by a sense of contiguity and the metaphoric law of substitution by a sense of similarity - is especially pronounced. But what is especially interesting is that, against this scheme and as already implied in Jakobson's study on the statue's coming alive in Pushkin, the figure of metamorphosis may be thought of as following simultaneously a metonymic and a metaphoric logic. On the one hand, metamorphosis combines signs together into a new sign and creates a sense of contiguity and/or displacement. On the other hand, metamorphosis also functions like a metaphor as it substitutes or replaces one thing with another. Kenneth Gross follows Jakobson along these lines in his study The Dream of the Moving Statue, in which he identifies elements of a dialectical plot or phantasmic pattern shared among numerous versions of the moving statue story. For Gross, metamorphosis highlights but also problematizes the different structures of metonymy and metaphor because it may deploy these tropological patterns simultaneously. Furthermore, Gross sees that the idea of the statue's coming to life is shaped by the manner in which the statue plays against one's perception or memory of other statues, not to mention other bodies. Therefore, the fantasy of the statue's metamorphosis is, in Jakobsonian terms, more metonymic than metaphoric, based on tropes of contiguity and contagion rather than on direct resemblance (125-26).(17)

We may thus infer that metamorphosis, in its metafictive applications (as in the work of Pushkin or in the parody of Pushkin by Andre Belyi), not only accentuates the difference between the sign and its reference point, thus making evident the tropological aspect in the making of meaning, but that it also simultaneously includes various kinds of tropological structurings like those of metaphorical or metonymical order. Gross applies Jakobson's semiological account of the origins of the living statue fantasy to a wide range of material, from the Bible and Ovid to postmodern cinema, all texts in which he finds "conflicts of affect, ambivalent feelings of both freedom and limitation" (8). Another theoretician whose arguments on the tropology of metamorphosis are closely related to Jakobson's study of the moving statue is de Man. It is in de Man's study of the Pygmalion myth and the trope of prosopopoeia, which was later continued in the research of J. Hillis Miller, that the tropological and the semantic ambiguity in the figure of the statue coming alive, as well as the figure of metamorphosis in general, is furthest developed.


In the beginning of Another Reality, Kathleen Anne Perry discusses the relationship between de Man's and Jakobson's theories and suggests a Jakobsonian separation between the syntagmatic and the paradigmatic figures with regard to metamorphosis. Perry asserts that some literary transformations resemble paradigmatic, or metaphorical, figures in which one form is replaced by another that represents the first. But most Ovidian transformations, she argues, are

syntagmatic, or metonymic, figures in which two states of being coexist or are somehow contiguous; especially on the human level of such transformations, the inherent quality that remains after the change is essential to the drama of the event. (14)

For Perry, literary metamorphosis usually involves the manipulation of a metaphor to resemble a paradoxical metonymy. In other words, in the metamorphic state, a creature is at once itself and something else. The two contradictory states of being "remain permanently united and irresolvably opposed, and one identity is melded with another" (15). Perry believes that this problematization of metamorphosis as a trope is outlined in the work of Jakobson and de Man. In fact, she argues that de Man's Allegories of Reading owes much to Jakobson's essay, "Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances," especially its last section on the metaphoric and metonymic poles, which introduces the concepts of similarity and contiguity (14n25). Perry thus proposes that the myths of metamorphosis might represent the ideal combination of metaphorical and metonymic figures, a combination about which de Man demanded finer critical understanding.

It is true that in the beginning of Allegories of Reading, in an essay entitled "Semiology and Rhetoric," de Man connects explicitly his theoretical work on rhetoric with that of Jakobson.(18) In a strategically important turn in the introduction of his book, he also proposes that

there ought to be another perspective, complementary to the first [the perspective that rhetoric is satisfied with a paradigmatic view over words without questioning their syntagmatic relationship], in which metaphor, for example, would not be defined as a substitution but as a particular type of combination. (Allegories 6)

Similarly, Jakobson's studies on tropology are echoed in de Man's definition of "rhetoric" as an unresolvable linguistic situation involving on the one hand a literal meaning and on the other a figural meaning (as in a rhetorical question), making it "impossible to decide by grammatical or other linguistic devices which of the two meanings (that can be entirely incompatible) prevails" (Allegories 10). Moreover, de Man's reading of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's version of the transformation story Pygmalion can be seen as his development of Jakobson's notion of the paradoxical tropology and semantics of metamorphosis. He underscores the Jakobsonian concepts of the vacillation between literal and figurative meaning, the cooperation between the metaphoric and the metonymic in metamorphosis, and the self-reflexiveness generated by a figure of a statue that comes alive in a literary text. For de Man, as for Jakobson, the statue's transformation highlights the inescapable representational status of all art as well as the (paradoxical) reception of fiction when it attempts to break down the difference between literal and figurative meaning.

But what is essentially new in de Man's, and later in J. Hillis Miller's, deconstructionist or rhetorical reading of Pygmalion is their emphasis on the way selfhood is rhetorically constructed and deconstructed in a prosopopoeic transformation. The emphasis on the tropology of metamorphosis shifts from the question of metonymy and metaphor to that of personification. What is central in de Man's notion of the trope of metamorphosis is a dynamic of vacillation between self and its other, which again is related to a specific kind of personification or rhetorical making of selfhood that de Man calls the trope of prosopopoeia. In the latter part of his chapter on Rousseau's Pygmalion, "Self (Pygmalion)," de Man argues that the general movement of this text is "one of constant vacillation, explicitly identified as such, since Pygmalion repeatedly rejects, in a sequence of dramatic reversals, the understanding he seems to have acquired of his situation" (Allegories 176). Therefore, the possibility of interpretational error is thematized throughout the text, and, consequently, none of the statements in Pygmalion's monologues can be taken at face value. De Man then proceeds in his analysis by locating various reversals or vacillations in the self's (Pygmalion, the sculptor) and the other's (Pygmalion's statue Galatea, who comes alive) relationship. He claims that the plausible provisional syntheses between the self and the other that are achieved in the course of the action "do not necessarily mark a progression and it is the burden of the reading to decide whether the text is the teleology of a selfhood that culminates in the climactic exclamation 'Moi!' or a repetitive vacillation" (Allegories 176).

De Man's reading of Galatea's transformation challenges Jakobson's strict binary distinctions between metaphor and metonymy, on the one hand, and figural and literal language, on the other. For de Man, the tropological problem in Pygmalion is essentially the metaphorics of self as defined in a Lacanian fashion: the rhetorical dynamic of identification and personification in a system of want and excess between self and its other, a dynamic that, as de Man attempts to prove, undermines itself in the text. The making of Galatea is for de Man an act of troping, a self-contradictory act of trying to trope the self through the other that the self has made:

the original, literal coldness of the marble had been turned into figural heat at the moment of invention, and this heat had in its turn fed the enthusiasm of Pygmalion as he engaged nature in the analogical process of imitation, in which the common properties of art and nature . . . are revealed and exchanged. (Allegories 178)

The artist's recognition and misidentification of the other, the changing positions between the artist and the artwork that culminate in the statue's coming alive and her ambiguous recognition of her maker, generate for de Man a tropological pattern of substitution that makes Pygmalion an allegory of figuration.(19) Selfhood is both produced and effaced in this tropological dynamic, and the sense of ambiguity concerning subjectivity is only heightened in the last scene, in which Galatea turns into a woman. According to de Man, the tone of Galatea's sigh after she has touched her maker for the first time, "Ah! Encore moi," expresses not ecstasy but rather resigned tolerance towards an overassiduous admirer (Allegories 185). De Man suggests that "Encore moi" may mean an all-inclusive identification, "aussi moi" (me as well) - and this may be the way Pygmalion understands it - or, when uttered with a sigh, it may indicate disappointment rather than satisfaction. In the latter case the line would mean "de nouveau moi" ("me again"), a recurring, repeated distinction between the general self and the self as other (Allegories 186). Thus, Pygmalion remains for de Man a self-contradictory narration of the complex relationship between selfhood as trope and the representation of this trope.(20)

In short, in de Man's analysis the figure of the transforming statue becomes a figure of rhetorical self-definition and of the impossibility of such a definition. It obtains this position through its questioning of the sign-reference point relationship and the difference between the self and the other. In this way, de Man's reading of the metaphorics of self and transformation and of the inanimate and animate in Pygmalion is related, as Miller and Gross have suggested, to his study on the trope of prosopopoeia in his seminal late essays like "Autobiography as De-Facement," "Shelley Disfigured," and "Hypogram and Inscription" (J. Miller, "'Reading'" 352; Gross 149-51). In the first of these essays, de Man defines prosopopoeia as the giving of a voice, a persona, to an absent, deceased, or voiceless entity; this entity is addressed in an apostrophe and thereby granted the power of speech.(21) In this kind of positing, "voice assumes mouth, eye, and finally face, a chain that is manifest in the etymology of the trope's name, prosopon poien, to confer a mask or a face (prosopon)"; prosopopoeia is "the trope of autobiography, by which one's name . . . is made as intelligible and memorable as a face" (76). Thus, de Man proposes that selfhood is always produced by means of prosopopoeic tropology and may be understood only in terms of (an ambivalent) rhetoric.(22)

But further, besides the giving and taking away of figurative faces or the facing and defacing of the self in an autobiographical narrative, for de Man the prosopopoeic function of tropes concerns the whole status of a figure, figuration and disfiguration. He suggests that "to the extent that language is figure (or metaphor, or prosopopoeia) it is indeed not the thing itself but the representation, the picture of the thing and, as such, it is silent, mute as pictures are mute" ("Autobiography" 80). Like a metatrope, prosopopoeia reflects on the way meaning is granted in any troping. The trope of prosopopoeia is a metatextual troping in the text that duplicates - and thus, as de Man claims, "undoes" - the way a linguistic "face" is given to the extralinguistic; in other words, it reveals the way the difference between signification and its reference is "bridged" ("Autobiography" 50). Furthermore, and what especially interests me here, de Man reads certain figures of metamorphosis, like Kleist's marionettes and Shelley's poetic character "Rousseau," as heightening a sense of prosopopoeia. In "Shelley Disfigured," de Man reads Shelley's last poem "The Triumph of Life" and interprets the process by which the character Rousseau's face is deformed, his eyes lost, his brain transformed into sand as one of replacement or of substitution, in which the effacement of self and self-knowledge is indeed the loss of face, of (in French) figure (100). Rousseau no longer, or - since the tracks are not all gone, but more than half erased - barely has a face; the protagonist is disfigured, defigure, defaced, explains de Man. The figure of defacing metamorphosis again functions as a metatrope of reading, which, to de Man, is always to a certain extent a form of repetitive defacement. Thus, to read is to understand, but it is also to

question, to know, to forget, to erase, to deface, to repeat - that is to say, the endless prosopopoeia by which the dead are made to have a face and a voice which tells the allegory, of their demise and allows us to apostrophize them in our turn.

("Shelley Disfigured" 122)

Prosopopoeia is the trope of troping and of metamorphosis; the form it takes in de Man's reading is the formation of linguistic forms.(23)

It is interesting that the proposed interlinkage between prosopopoeia and metamorphosis at a metatropological level in de Man's late criticism was taken on by J. Hillis Miller in his work in the late 80s. Miller's essays "'Reading' Part of a Paragraph in Allegories of Reading" and "Prosopopoeia in Hardy and Stevens," and especially his Versions of Pygmalion (1990), all attempt to clarify de Man's work on this complex trope. In "'Reading,'" Miller notes de Man's concentration on prosopopoeia in his later work and defines this trope as "a 'disfiguring' of the face and figure of the other, or the ascription of a consciousness like my own or different from my own to an appearance in the perceptional field" (344). In "Prosopopoeia," in reference to de Man's essay on the critical theory of Michael Riffaterre ("Hypogram and Inscription"), Miller notes that de Man moves towards the conclusion that prosopopoeia, "the ascription of a name, a face or a voice to the absent, the inanimate, or the dead, is the fundamental trope of lyric poetry" (245). But what is especially interesting in Miller's reading of Thomas Hardy's poem "The Pedigree" - a reading through de Man that also echoes Nietzsche's definition of truth in "On Truth and Falsity in an Extra Moral Sense" - is his discussion of the figure of figuration in relation to the term "pedigree" and the sense of genealogical "descent" this term portrays. Here Miller examines the way that graphed lines signifying kinship turn into emblems and argues that what was already "a conventional sign is further metamorphosed into another sign, according to that irrepressible tendency in signs, since they are metaphorical in the first place, to proliferate laterally into further metaphors and metaphors" ("Prosopopoeia" 251). For Miller, the end point of this series of transformations of figure into figure is a prosopopoeia, "a face, or rather, it is appropriately an endless series of faces, one behind the other, as though there were no end to the power of personification, no getting behind this figure to some literal ground" (251).

Miller's reading of de Man thus reveals an intimate connection between metamorphosis and the figurative strategies of personification or the problematization of subjectivity in the text. Moreover, in Versions of Pygmalion Miller proposes an explicit connection between prosopopoeia and metamorphosis in his discussion of Ovid's Metamorphoses in general and of the Pygmalion myth in particular. Miller is interested in both the structure of Ovid's work, the concatenation between any one story and those that come before and after, and the metamorphic processes described in the text. Both the structure of the text and the actual metamorphoses, he proposes, reflect on each other and function in terms of the trope of prosopopoeia. From a structural point of view, Miller sees that the ceaseless movement from one story to another follows a metamorphic logic that in itself is interesting tropologically and functions as a principle of artistic production: "each story leads to the next and from the previous one in complex relations that are always part of the meaning of any given story" (Versions 1). Like prosopopoeia, which "turns its medium tropologically, taking one thing for another through words or other signs," Ovid's stories of transformation form a line of substitution in which each story adds meaning to the previous stories and casts meaning onto subsequent ones (47).

In Miller's theory of Ovid, the metamorphic structuring of the text is duplicated and motivated by the portrayed series of metamorphoses in the stories.(24) Thus, surprisingly, while Miller treats metamorphosis as a (meta)trope, he does not discuss it as a problematic metaphor as such because metamorphosis reminds him not of the structure of contiguity but only of substitution. Nevertheless, Miller's critical work in the late 1980s is helpful in that it makes evident the connection in de Man's earlier readings on romantic poetry between metamorphosis and rhetorical strategies of personification, or the production (and deconstruction) of a sense of subjecthood in the text. Moreover, what makes Miller's work on Ovid noteworthy from our perspective is his conscious treatment of the tradition of metamorphosis stories in relation to tropology and the rhetorical self-definition of the subject.

To summarize, Miller's, Jakobson's, and de Man's readings of the metamorphosis of the statue all bring out the metatropological capacity of this figure. The paradox embedded in the story of a statue coming alive is the probing of the limit of representation in representation: the literary text refers to its own troping by including another artwork that in its transformation into living matter appears to cease to represent as it merges with its reference point. The paradoxical question suggested by this kind of literary metamorphosis is the question of the limit of the sign's literalization. A tension exists in the reading of such a text between figurativeness and a true change, a suggestion of actuality coming into literature from the outside of language, a manifestation of a change that feigns to be something else than merely linguistic. Pushkin's destructive statues and the myth of Pygmalion in its various versions are stories in which the principle of verisimilitude is taken to its limit: it is assumed in the studies of Jakobson and de Man that the principle of realistic three-dimensionality that the production of the statues obeys is moved to a level where the sign becomes the object to which it is supposed to refer.

In this way, the tropological study of metamorphosis provides a specific case in which it operates in relation to structures of self-reflexion, to signs that probe their own constructedness as signs. Further, the study of the ambiguous tropological position of metamorphosis - where various forms are brought together into one and can be considered in terms of metaphor and metonymy and as figures of thought like personification - also enables us to pay attention to the ambiguity of meaning, or, in de Man's case, the undecidability or aporia of meaning that may characterize a literary text employing the figure (and especially in the case of (pre)modern poetry that attracts both Jakobson and de Man). Moreover, the study of literary metamorphosis as a trope of personification may help us to see how the portrayal of subjectivity in the text is complicated through a character's transformation.

Another question, however, is how the semantic and structural ambivalence of the figure may function in a given text in relation to its themes or with regard to the interpretation of its literary or other textual context. The (dis)figure of a transformed literary character does not usually remain a mere tropological type or technical aspect of undecidability in the text, nor does it have to be understood solely as a question of personification (or as subjectivity in terms of personification). Nancy Gray Diaz and Pekka Kuusisto have argued that we tend always to read the specific metamorphic cases in literature in the light of meaning and expressiveness (Diaz 7; Kuusisto 80). For instance, it makes sense to ask why someone or something turns into something and not into something else: is there some specific reason why, of all possibilities, Voltaire's King Nabuchodonosor has to be a white taurus, or why Gregor Samsa turns into an insect? Why is it that Karen Blixen's Prioress of Closter Seven turns into a monkey and not something else? Is it not the fact that Galatea and the bronze horseman are statues that makes their changes so intriguing?


The essential questions of interpretation in the reading of metamorphosis figures are often the why and how of the transformation and to whom it happens: why in a given metamorphosis does a certain form replace another or displace itself? How and when does the sudden change happen and to what extent does it affect the transformed character? And why are certain forms or elements combined into something else? In the reading of an actual text the metamorphic figure tends to function like a sign that creates meaning against some textual or historical reference point(s) and thematic concerns. Furthermore, despite its helpfulness in tracing down structures of metatextuality and personification, with a tropological reading of literary metamorphosis we face the danger of remaining at the level of single figurative structure. As Walter Sokel has argued about Kafka's "Verwandlung," the textual and poetic complexity of this story overburdens the theory of the single metaphor - here he refers to Anders's theory of the "extended metaphor" - regardless of the formal and functional efficiency of studying Samsa's metamorphosis in terms of tropology (204).

The necessity of contextualizing interpretation and the possibility of various figurations working in combination are also acknowledged by Jakobson and to a certain extent by de Man. Besides the animated statue functioning in relation to literary self-reflexiveness, Jakobson connects Pushkin's image of the destructive moving statue with various aspects of the poet's life and individual mythology - with his distrust of Petersburg tsardom, the dilemma of his fiancee's family in turning a statue of empress Catherine into money for a trousseau, the unveiling of czar Alexander's column in 1834, and so forth - with precursor texts (Washington Irving, Moliere, Adam Mickiewicz, Mozart's Don Juan), and with the cultural context of Russian Orthodox tradition (which severely condemned the art of sculpture). For de Man and J. Hillis Miller, however, the transformation of a statue and its ambiguous tropological standing is ultimately the question of the rhetorical deconstruction of the self in the text. In this respect de Man's approach emphasizes the question of subjectivity, while it is also the polar opposite of that of Mikhail Bakhtin and Pierre Brunel, who see literary metamorphosis as a way to construct a sense of subjectivity. In fact, it can be argued that for de Man the trope of metamorphosis is an obstacle to or the breaking point of all historicizing analysis that rests on the notion of dialectical progression and on the idea of a coherent self as the historical agent. It is telling in this respect that at the end of his essay "Shelley Disfigured," de Man cryptically pronounces that reading, when it is and, therefore, in his opinion, must be understood as disfiguration to the extent that it resists historicism, "turns out to be historically more reliable than the products of historical archeology" (123).(25)

Although de Man is aware of the historical significance of Rousseau's brief text, engendering as it has a "minor but distinguished tradition of misreading" that includes the interpretations of Hamann, Schiller, and Goethe, what seems to remain rather unnoticed in his approach to Pygmalion is the relationship between the story's semantic overdetermination and the multifariousness of its appropriations. The text's multifacetedness is revealed not just in Rousseau's version, but in the numerous different appropriations and reappropriations of the Pygmalion story in Western literatures.(26) Rousseau's Pygmalion, although it was immensely popular in its time and even popularized the name Galatea, is only one rewriting of the theme (see Reinhold; J. M. Miller 281n24). In fact, one might say that because of its psychological ambiguity and the centrality of artistic self-reflexiveness, Rousseau's version appears to be better suited to de Man's purposes than many of the other versions. Because of the shifting subject positions in Rousseau's text, de Man himself is able to construct his essay according to a self-deconstructive dynamic between suggested interpretations and their rejections.(27) Rousseau's Pygmalion also privileges the myth's problematization of artistic creativity and the artist's ambiguous relationship with his work. Unlike many other versions, the struggle with artistic innovation structures Rousseau's "lyrical scene": the starting point of the narrative is the artist's sense of incompetence - Pygmalion's fear of his lack of creativity - which finally dissolves at the end of the story when he is able to project his wish to create sublime art onto the statue that comes alive.

In other words, what seems problematic in de Man's reading of Rousseau's Pygmalion is that he does not want to posit the text in relation to its explicit subtexts and/or construct the meaning of the ambivalent figurations against a literary or historical context. Furthermore, we can easily see that the semantic overdetermination of the Pygmalion story is already there, as J. Hillis Miller sees, in Ovid. The tradition of writing Pygmalion anew is long, predating Rousseau's version, and it has continued since then in forms and with thematic emphases that are not always parallel to Rousseau's treatment of the myth. De Man does not answer why this would be so: why is it that so many versions of the same subject, of the same events, and with the same characters, have been written?

One simple explanation from which de Man shies away is that it has been easy to rewrite the already semantically overdetermined story, that is, to give the old story a new purpose and meaning in a changing context, be it historical, social, literary, artistic, and so forth. I agree with Gross, who, unlike de Man, does not abandon "context" as an illusion created by linguistic figures, although he argues that it is the very overdetermination of Ovid's narrative that accounts for its different versions and for our permanent fascination with the story. The ongoing version-making and infatuation with this textual material does not remain constant, but takes on different semantic and historical forms. Unlike de Man, Gross does not allow the sense of semantic overdetermination to prevent him from speculating on the interpretative range of the different versions, that is, to see the story's use "as a picture of the origins of desire, as an allegory of mimesis, as a frame for sexual satire or a mediation on the nature of the real, as a story about the possibility of education and inward transformation" (79).

Another context of any "Pygmalion" story is created by its relationship with the earlier versions of the legend. If metamorphosis may function as a viable metatrope in relation to the general tropedness of the text - understood either in terms of metaphor, metonymy or the tropological construction of subjectivity in prosopopoeia - why, then, could we not read metamorphosis as a trope for intertextuality as well, as a trope for the comparison and combination of texts within a text? To illustrate briefly this point about metamorphosis as a reflection on the textual changes and transformations that become understandable through the construction of a literary or other textual context, we turn next to Ovid and Bernard Shaw, who, in their versions of Pygmalion, made the story anew. My point here is not to disqualify de Man's research, but to argue for another possible way of understanding metamorphosis that would augment his and others' tropological analyses of Pygmalion.

In his Metamorphoses Ovid does not invent "Pygmalion," but he dramatizes and expands the significance of Philostephanus's earlier version of the legend.(28) The narrative is complicated thematically and made suspenseful by its structuring insofar as the narrator only gradually offers information about the true identities of Pygmalion and Venus. Furthermore, Jane M. Miller argues in her essay "Some Versions of Pygmalion," as each new detail is revealed, the reader must reassess his or her interpretation of the tale so far: "thus the story itself metamorphoses, taking on new meaning and significance as it unfolds. [A] tale shifts its focus as the one following is read and sheds new light on its predecessor" (205-06).(29) Besides its suspenseful plot, Ovid's story of Pygmalion also thematically complicates the earlier version of Philostephanus when Pygmalion fondles the statue affectionately, giving clearly erotic overtones to the religious encounter with the goddess. We may thus read this story in terms of autoeroticism.

Simultaneously, thematic complications are caused by Pygmalion's dual role as both King of Cyprus, as he is in Philostephanus's story, and as the sculptor of the statue of Venus with which he falls in love, thereby reinforcing the problem of the artist's relationship with his creation. As Jane M. Miller puts it, the story of Pygmalion offers, in this view, a metaphor for the creative process: the artist creates a perfect work of art that then comes to life (206). Furthermore, Ovid elaborates on the moment when the statue comes alive, which is also skillfully elaborated in Rousseau's version, to an extent that the story is able to show Pygmalion being caught between contradictory feelings of joy and doubt in relation to his creation. But what is important is the added dimension of intertextuality in this de Manian reading of indecisiveness in meaning and feeling. The sense of being caught between contradictory feelings that we can draw out of the story may apply equally well to the intertextual dynamic of both appropriating and altering a precursor work or text. Ovid's version constantly transforms Philostephanus's story in the same way that the artist Pygmalion turns a piece of art into something new.

Shaw's play Pygmalion, in contrast, offers wholly different thematic possibilities while, like Ovid's and Rousseau's versions, obviously calling for intertextual analysis. The central emphasis here is on class differences in a modern society. The question is whether language and behavioral codes can create one's social status and sense of identity, and the play functions as a social commentary on the strict hierarchies of social structures and classes in turn-of-the-century London. The Pygmalion of this story, phonetician Henry Higgins, creates his Galatea by teaching a low-class flower girl, Liza Doolittle, to talk and behave like an upper-class, high-society lady.

Shaw's socially self-aware story reverses the Pygmalion tradition, which often centers on psychological and mystical thematics. First, the creation of Galatea is only figurative since she never has to "come alive." What is ironic here, however, is that Pygmalion literally creates Galatea out of language - this development is also duplicated in the text in that Clara's life is changed by reading H. G. Wells's and Galsworthy's books - and further, that his mother is Pygmalion-Higgins's ideal woman, and for that reason Galatea-Liza can never attain such a status. Second, Pygmalion and Galatea's relationship is consistently conceived in terms of a father-daughter relationship. Liza, who is referred to as Higgins's live doll, as a "creature," and as a child brought to a foreign country, also calls Higgins a "father-like" figure (39). And third, several reversals in relation to the figure of Pygmalion, Henry Higgins, are brought into play in Shaw's text. On the one hand, it is Higgins and not Liza who is likened to a statue. Higgins is the only character who does not really change over the course of the narrative but instead remains emotionally tied to his mother. In the epilogue, the narrator explains Liza's secret wish to "drag him [Higgins] off his pedestal and see him making love like any common man" (155-56). On the other hand, it is Pygmalion and not Galatea in this story who is associated with the power of a god. At the very end of the epilogue, the narrator explains that Liza likes neither Higgins nor her true father Mr. Doolittle, because "Galatea never does quite like Pygmalion: his relation to her is too godlike to be altogether agreeable" (156).(30)

Both Ovid and Shaw as well as Rousseau and (more indirectly) Pushkin conceived Pygmalions that alter other, earlier versions of this narrative.(31) It becomes obvious that besides being semantically overdetermined and tropologically ambiguous, Ovid's, Rousseau's, and Shaw's versions of Pygmalion grow in complexity and significance through intertextual considerations, including the very tradition of the Pygmalion legend in and against which all of these writers worked. Each example diverges from the story tradition in order to make the text susceptible to a new set of problems, meanings, and narrative modes. Furthermore, the semantic function of the figure of metamorphosis may well be a matter of conceiving change or of rhetorically defining and examining the boundaries of the self rather than erasing the subject. We can ask whether de Man could have generalized from the effacement of the self in Rousseau in the same way and made this aspect of the myth seem so transhistorically overarching had he read, for instance, Ovid, William S. Gilbert's comedy Pygmalion and Galatea, or Shaw's Pygmalion instead of or in addition to Rousseau. Or, in more general terms, we can ask what we can finally understand in these stories and their figures of metamorphosis without studying the differences and transformations between them: what can we understand in these texts without paying attention to the literary or other historical context against which these differences become meaningful? It would seem probable that in such a long writerly tradition as the rewriting of the Pygmalion myth, in which the subtext of "Pygmalion" is always so overtly manipulated, the figure of metamorphosis would start to function not just as the allegory of reading and the deconstruction of the subject but as a figure for combinations and interrelationships between texts. At the same time it is also quite plausible that metamorphosis can stand for the transformative change or "correction" of the subject positions and (inter)relationships between the subjects and their others in the earlier versions of the tale.

Moreover, metamorphosis might have this function in texts that are not straightforward revisions of earlier texts (texts that share the same title, the same set of characters or plot characters). Several modern and postmodern transformation stories could be mentioned here to further the argument. Andrei Belyi's ironic take on Pushkin's metamorphic bronze statue in St. Petersburg has already been referred to above, and we could equally well study the metamorphic figures in, for example, John Barth's Giles Goat Boy, Philip Roth's The Breast, Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses and in the many novels of Angela Carter or Maxine Hong Kingston. In French fiction, the works of Eugene Ionesco, Michel Butor, Anne Garreta, and Amin Maalouf come to mind. An obvious example of metamorphosis as a trope for transformative intertextuality is also Virginia Woolf's Orlando: A Biography. Here, the parodic treatment of Orlando, the hopelessly romantic and lyrical writer, and the parody of many important literary figures and conventions from the history of British literature is duplicated and accentuated through the character's metamorphic sex change.

In addition to Jakobson's and de Man's theories, we can propose a notion of metamorphosis as a figure for intertextuality, as a figure of both selection and combination that may be read to stand for textual production and reading, for the interrelationships and combinations between different textual forms.(32) The notion of metamorphosis as such a metatrope for intertextuality may further help us to see how metamorphosis operates in relation to the self-reflexive elements in the text, for instance, in the form of examining and questioning the logic of reference or of offering an (alternative) logic for representing change in a subject such as literary character.


1 The study of the literary fantastic, as outlined by Tzvetan Todorov and criticized by Nancy Gray Dfaz, stresses the meaning of generic elements, the significance and function of certain narrative and readerly conventions in studying literary metamorphosis. What the fantastic approach shares with most phenomenological approaches to metamorphosis is the stress on the figure of transformation as a complication of allegory, as a contradictory figure, and profoundly resistant to reading. For Todorov, the fantastic indicates the hesitation experienced by a person who knows only the language of nature while confronting an apparently supernatural event (35-36). Rosemary Jackson's Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion is one of the studies of the fantastic that appropriates Todorov's basic arguments but applies them to much recent literature as well. In his Metamorfoosifantasia, Pekka Kuusisto draws heavily on Todorov and on Jackson, whose fantasy-genre point of view he connects with certain poststructuralist concerns of Irving Massey, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari.

2 In Le mythe de la metamorphose, the first full-length study of the metamorphic theme in modern literature, Brunel sees literary metamorphosis as an appropriation and alteration of mythical metamorphosis tales. For Brunel, the anthropological study of totemism, shamanistic transformations, and magic provides the study of metamorphosis in myth and literature with profuse empirical and theoretical background material. Brunel includes in his treatise one of the most exhaustive reference indexes on treatments of metamorphosis in literature, philosophy, and anthropology since Homer while concentrating in his analysis on certain modern literary examples like Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lautreamont's Les chants de Maldoror, Franz Kafka's "Metamorphosis," Miguel-Angel Asturias's Hombres de maiz, and Eugene Ionesco's Rhinoceros.

3 In his study on Raymond Roussel, Foucault emphasizes the semantic ambiguity in the process of transformation. Unlike Brunel, Foucault argues that magic is rare in Roussel's appropriation of the mythic metamorphic space in Impressions d'Afrique and Locus Solus. Instead, Roussel's metamorphoses should be seen as juxtapositions within a single form of two orders of beings that are not close in the hierarchy and must therefore cross a whole intermediary gamut in order to be joined (103-04). Furthermore, claims Foucault, the old principle of the continuity of beings, which gave order to mythology in the face of the confusion of metamorphosis, is now replaced by a discontinuous vertical variety of metamorphosis that hides even greater powers to disturb. Metamorphosis usually follows order and time and can be thought of as a passage, argues Foucault, but in Roussel "La superposition des regnes chez Roussel est hieratique; dans le contour general de la figure elle laisse immobile et definitivement fixee cette beance qu' aucune evolution ne viendra resoudre" (105) ("In Roussel the superimposition of realms is hierarchic; there remains an immobile and definitively fixed gap in the general contour of the form that no evolution will come to resolve" [Death and the Labyrinth 82]). Some of Bachelard's observations on metamorphosis are also developed in the phenomenologically oriented studies by Harold Skulsky (Metamorphosis: The Mind in Exile) and Diaz (The Radical Self: Metamorphosis to Animal Form in Modern Latin American Narrative), the conclusions of which are neither as radical nor as antilinguistic as Foucault's.

4 The general antilinguistic emphasis in Irving Massey's inquiry on the premodern literary metamorphosis, The Gaping Pig: Literature and Metamorphosis, the first English-language full-length study on premodern or modern literary metamorphosis, has had a significant, even authoritative position in many recent Anglo-American studies on literary and artistic figures of metamorphosis. Massey's examples come mostly from the nineteenth century and include texts by Gogol, Lewis Carroll, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Merimee, von Chamisso, Mary Shelley, Flaubert, Bram Stoker, R. L. Stevenson, as well as by Apuleius. The reader is not given much literary or other historical context. Instead, Massey argues for a thematic understanding of literary metamorphosis with a poststructuralist and Lacanian emphasis: he sees literary metamorphosis as a critique of language and as a case of the subject's deconstruction in the text. In this view, metamorphosis figures as a conflict with and in language, indicating the paradoxical state of being set outside the realm of language:

In spite of all my efforts to convince myself of the contrary, metamorphosis is a morbid subject. Although it is a critique of language (as is evident from the animal or other nonhuman forms that it often employs), it is a critique from beyond the point where language has been forced on one. It is set upon the other side of language.(1)

Massey's project is deeply self-contradictory: despite arguing that the search for a single cause, motivation, or function in literary metamorphosis is finally unprofitable because literary metamorphosis is specific and particular in each case (2-3), Massey consistently defines metamorphosis as a critique of language and privileges notions of meaninglessness, inertness, and the antilinguistic.

5 Bakhtin's essay, "Forms of Time and of the Chronotope in the Novel: Notes Toward a Historical Poetics," established the precedent for studying a "metamorphosis period" in literature and probing metamorphosis in relation to identity. Here Bakhtin attempts to trace out the (intrinsic connectedness of) temporal and spatial relationships, which are artistically expressed in narrative literature, that is, what he calls the literary "chronotope" (84). Importantly also, through a reference to folklore and mythical narratives, Bakhtin connects the theme of metamorphosis to the problem of how identity is represented in literature. He basically argues that the themes of transformation in what he calls the "adventure novel of the everyday" are drawn from the treasury of world folklore: the folkloric image of man, especially in the popular folktale, is intimately bound up with transformations and the portrayal of the subject. The folktale image of man "always orders itself around the motifs of transformation and identity (no matter how varied in its turn the concrete expression of these motifs might be)" (112). These historical concerns with metamorphosis "periods" are also expressed in certain later book-length period studies on literary metamorphosis, including Leonard Barkan's The Gods Made Flesh, Kathleen Anne Perry's Another Reality, and P. M. C. Forbes Irving's exhaustive motif study Metamorphosis in Greek Myths.

6 The translation is my own. Le Guern's definition is also quoted in Perry (13-14). Later in her study Perry further defines Le Guern's notion:

As Michel Le Guern has suggested, metamorphosis can be interpreted as a form of metaphor into which time has been introduced. The objects or creatures being compared are not separated by a barrier of different identities, as in metaphors, but are merely two states (the before and after, as it were) of the same creature. The being is at once divided from itself by time and unified in identity. (138)

7 Massey also ends his study with a short note on the relationship between metamorphosis and metaphor, proposing that all metaphors follow a certain metamorphic logic in their comparisons and connections between things. Referring to Coleridge's conception of metaphor as the yoking of the unrelated, Massey argues that what is envisaged in a metaphor is "really a metamorphosis of one thing into the other, so that . . . one never does go back to seeing the thing as 'itself'" (190-91). Michael Holquist, in turn, associates the power to metamorphose with the power of a metaphoric sign in his Bakhtin-inspired study of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. For Holquist, the monster of Frankenstein is made, like a metaphor, of the joining of forms, but it is interesting to him that simultaneously the monster has been denied the right to metamorphosis itself: "he cannot . . . attain the power to metamorphose because he cannot attain the status of a sign, that order of recognition where things never coincide with themselves" (102). The scientist Frankenstein, argues Holquist, refuses the monster's right to metamorphosis because he is opposed to that particular form of transformation we call metaphor - the fear of the figurative power to become other, the fear of losing uniqueness as a self (103).

8 Bachelard finds an exceptional energetic frenzy and happiness in metamorphosis in Lautreamont unlike, for instance, in Kafka, who, as Bachelard thinks, connects metamorphosis to misery, fall, and the slowing down of life (16-17). In fact, Bachelard proposes that Lautreamont and Kafka represent the two extreme poles of metamorphosis. With Lautreamont, metamorphosis is urgent and direct, it realizes itself "un peu plus vite qu'elle n'est pensee" (20-22) (a bit faster than a thought). In Lautreamont's metamorphic imagery, the metamorphosed man appears as the sum of vital possibilities, as a suranimal; he has all the bestiality at his disposal in order to take over the biological, vital borders of the self (24-25).

9 For Bachelard, metamorphic imagery is connected to what he defines as "la poesie projective," as poetry that tries the limits of formal causality and the limits of deformation in the poetic form, or the freedom and limits of metaphors (54).

10 Like Massey, Deleuze and Guattari, emphasize the figure of metamorphosis as a challenge to the integrity of the self and simultaneously to the very nature of representation. Historical and intertextual considerations, except what comes to the notion of "minor literature," are swept aside, while contradictions in the production of linguistic meaning are foregrounded. Deleuze and Guattari's study on Kafka also both draws heavily on Bachelard's poeticizing abstractions in his study of Lautreamont and tries to challenge the Bachelardian discourse. The central notion of "becoming-animal" in Deleuze and Guattari's short discussion on metamorphosis is Bachelardian - a name given to a force that challenges all form and signification (24).

11 Sokel applied the theory of metamorphosis as the "extended metaphor" in his essay "Kafka's Metamorphosis: Rebellion and Punishment" and elaborated on it in his books The Writer in Extremis and Franz Kafka.

12 In fact, Sokel claims that "Kafka transforms metaphor back into his fictional reality, and this counter-metamorphosis becomes the starting point of his tale" (Franz Kafka 5).

13 On metaphorism in Kafka's "Metamorphosis," see also Corngold (Franz Kafka 51, 55-59); Kuusisto (86-87).

14 For Jakobson, the simultaneous identity and difference in the relationship of the sign to the object signified, and especially the relationship of the representation to the object represented that is exploited by poetic symbolism, is one of the most dramatic semiotic antinomies. It was precisely this antinomy, that led to bitter fights about iconoclasm and to disputes about realistic art, which are constantly revived ("Statue" 37).

15 Jakobson proposes that there are two types of the poetic metamorphosis of a statue. For him, the figure of the moving statue is a question of the immobile statue of a mobile being conceived either as a moving statue or as a statue of an immobile being: "opposed to the 'miracle' of the idea of motion overcoming the paralyzation of matter is the converse 'miracle' - the immobility of matter overcoming the idea of motion" ("Statue" 34). Gross develops Jakobson's idea on the two-way movement in metamorphosis to both life and death. Gross argues that in his exploration of the metafantasy of animation, Jakobson manages to posit a remarkably economical explanation of the paradox that in many texts the fantasy of a statue's coming to life is joined with the opposing fantasy of a living being's turning to stone. Both types of story serve to collapse the figurative poles of the complex double sculptural sign; stories of both animation and petrification end up reifying, objectifying, and literalizing that sign. The two metamorphoses are thus not so much opposed as they are at a deep level equivalent (128-29).

16 For Jakobson,

[s]peech implies a SELECTION of certain linguistic entities and their COMBINATION into linguistic units of a higher degree of complexity. At the lexical level this is readily apparent: the speaker selects words and combines them into sentences according to the syntactic system of the language he is using; sentences in their turn are combined into utterances. But the speaker is by no means a completely free agent in his choice of words: his selection (except for the rare case of actual neology) must be made from the lexical storehouse which he and his addressee possess in common.

("Two Aspects" 72)

Thus, any linguistic unit serves at one and the same time as a context for simpler units and/or finds its own context in a more complex linguistic unit. Hence, any actual grouping of linguistic units binds them into a superior unit: combination and contexture are two faces of the same operation; the development of a discourse may take place along two different semantic lines: one topic may lead to another either through their similarity (the metaphoric way) or through their contiguity (the metonymic way) ("Two Aspects" 90).

17 Gross also sees that for Jakobson the animation fantasy is a fictional attempt to bridge the ambivalent gap between the living signified and the dead signifier, producing a composite with aspects of both especially through a transference of the semantic aspect of the sculptural sign onto the material signifier: "Indeed, by transferring the life of the signified onto the dead signifier, the fantasy achieves a (figurative) cancellation of the gap between the human world of the sign and the world of inanimate objects; if it brings the dead signifier to life, it also shows us a living creature that has lost its independence of the artistic sign" (127).

18 In the beginning of Allegories of Reading, de Man defines his project in relation to that of Jakobson when he refers to the way French semiology has turned to the linguistics of Saussure and Jakobson and "exploded" the myth of semantic correspondence between sign and reference (5). De Man also opposes the interpretation of Jakobson in studies by Barthes, Genette, Todorov, and Greimas in which the study of tropes and figures - de Man's "rhetoric" - is perceived as a mere extension of grammatical models, as a particular subset of syntactical relations (6).

19 For de Man, the text is dramatically structured as a dynamic system of excess and lack (defaut) that is metaphorically represented in a polarity of self and other that engenders, in its turn, a chain of (a)symmetrical polarities: hot/cold, inside/outside, art/nature, life/death, male/female, heart/senses, hiding/revealing, eye/ear, lyric/dramatic, and so forth (Allegories 180).

20 For de Man, the radical negation of the self in the coming to life of the statue is in fact the self's recuperation that becomes evident from the text-producing power of the metamorphosis: Galatea's transformation engenders most of the "heat" that keeps the language alive and allows for the coinage of the paradoxes based on binary oppositions (Allegories 186). When Galatea comes alive, Pygmalion is no longer a tragic figure but "a deconstructive interpretative process (a reading) that can no longer tolerate the pathos of the self" and Galatea's coming alive rewards the access to this advanced level of understanding (187). Here, it is also appropriate to recall Lacan's notion of "the circumscribable metonymy of speech": the effects of language "are always mixed with the fact, which is the basis of the analytic experience, that the subject is subject only from being subjected to the field of the Other, the subject proceeds from his synchronic subjection in the field of the Other" (Lacan 188).

21 The term for this trope comes from a Greek word that stands for both "face making" and "counterfeit impersonation" and it has later functioned as a figure of speech for giving human action to imaginary or absent persons, to animals (as in Spenser's Prosopopia or Mother Hubberd's Tale), or to other nonhuman things.

22 De Man's notion of the rhetorical structure of selfhood is indebted to Nietzsche's "On Truth and Falsity in an Extra Moral Sense." De Man paraphrases and examines Nieztsche's essay in an earlier section of Allegories of Reading: "the idea of individuation, of the human subject as a privileged viewpoint, is a mere metaphor by means of which man protects himself from his insignificance by forcing his own interpretation of the world upon the entire universe" (111); and further: "the self which was at first the center of the language as its empirical referent now becomes the language of the center as fiction, as metaphor of the self . . . by calling the subject a text, the text calls itself, to some extent, a subject. The lie is raised to a new figural power, but it is nonetheless a lie" (112).

23 Others of de Man's essays that can be considered in relation to prosopopoeia and metamorphosis are "Anthropomorphism and Trope in the Lyric" (Rhetoric 239-62) and "Aesthetic Formalization: Kleist's Uber das Marionettentheater" (Rhetoric 263-90). See also Neil Hertz's essay "Lurid Figures," in which he discusses how de Man treats the description of the puppets in "Uber das Marionettentheater" - the "machinelike, mechanical predictability" of the puppets' (or tropes') motion - as a model of the text, a text understood as a system of turns and deviations and as a system of tropes (82).

24 For Miller, "each metamorphosis is a change of shape that in its most general form can be defined as the literalization of a metaphor." But this is not all: in each portrayed metamorphosis there is also always "a remnant, some residue of unassuaged guilt or responsibility that leads to the next story, the next metamorphosis literalizing yet another figure, then to the next, and so on." By this "remnant" that ceaselessly generates new narrative Miller means the "halfway state of the victim of a metamorphosis" in Ovid, which he reads as a sign that his or her "fault has not been completely punished or expiated" (Versions 1-2).

25 History of literature, understood as a dialectical progression and totalization,

has become impossible for de Man and J. Hillis Miller because of its self-contradictory figurativeness. This implies further that history in general is nothing but an illusion created by linguistic figures (Savolainen 177). See de Man, Rhetoric (viii-ix); J. H. Miller, The Linguistic Moment (XXI). It must stated, however, that although de Man problematizes referentiality he does not abandon it, since for him it is impossible to conceive language "freed of referential constraints" (Savolainen 175). De Man's reason for criticizing historiography is not the rejection of referentiality, but the question of whether one accepts an a priori notion of the referentiality of language as a model for natural or phenomenal cognition: "Literature is fiction not because it somehow refuses to acknowledge 'reality,' but because it is not a priori certain that language functions according to principles which are those, or which are like those, of the phenomenal world. It is therefore not a priori certain that literature is a reliable source of information about anything but its own language" (Resistance 11).

26 Meyer Reinhold argues that interest in the myth was invigorated in the first half of the eighteenth century in France (in the versions of Jean-Philippe Rameau, Jean-Antoine Romagnesi, Boureau-Deslandes, Saint-Hyacinthe) and Germany (Johan Jakob Bodmer) (316-17). Besides Rousseau and Shaw, Elizabeth Frenzel lists among the rewritings or rewordings of the Pygmalion myth, for instance, Jean de Meung's Roman de la Rose (1275/80), J. Gower's Confessio amantis (1386/90), J. Marston's The Metamorphoses of Pygmalion's Image (1558), H. Postel's Der wunderbar vergnugte Pygmalion (1699), J. Thomson's "Castle of Indolence" (1748), Friedrich Schiller's Semele (1779/80), G. Jacobi's "Der neue Pygmalion" (1774), C. Herklot's Pygmalion oder die Reformation der Liebe (1794), Goethe's Liederbuch Annette (1767), F. von Suppe's Die schone Galathee (1865), W. Morris's "The Earthly Paradise" (1868-70), Karl Immermann's Der neue Pygmalion (1825), H. de Balzac's Le Chef-d'oeuvre inconnu (1831), and A. J. Lerner and F. Loewe's My Fair Lady (1956) (616-19). Jane M. Miller, in turn, refers to examples in English literature including Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale (1623), W. S. Gilbert's Pygmalion and Galatea (1871), and the "mystical" or Romantic nineteenth century interpretations by E. H. Coleridge ("Pygmalion's Bride"), Sir Ronald Ross (Edgar or The New Pygmalion), Robert Buchanan (Pygmalion the Sculptor), F. Tennyson ("Pygmalion") and G. E. Lancaster (Pygmalion in Cyprus) (210-13). See also the character of the Golden Maiden in Kalevala. For a more thorough survey on the history of this myth see Annegret Dinter. For recent theorizing readings on the Pygmalion story, besides de Man and J. Hillis Miller, see Kuznets (181-89); Brooks (22-25); Gross (72-85); and Starobinski (65-80).

27 Carol Jacobs proposes that de Man himself, in his reading of Pygmalion, provides the reader with several interpretations of his texts and then deliberately reads a number of linguistic effects that such interpretations fail to account for (108-10).

28 There is a different, earlier version of "Ovid's" Pygmalion story preserved in the writings of two Christian apologists, Clement of Alexandria and Arnobius. Both of these writers are reporting the work of another writer, Philostephanus, who was a pupil and a compatriot of Callimachus (J. M. Miller 205).

29 Here Jane M. Miller refers to H. Dorrie's study Pygmalion: Ein Impuls Ovids und seine Wirkungen bis in die Gegenwart and to O. S. Due's Changing Forms: Studies in the Metamorphoses of Ovid.

30 According to Jane M. Miller, there are two broad categories, which she calls "historical" and "mystical," into which the various interpretations of Pygmalion tend to fall. Both of these categories would apply, for instance, to the medieval French poem Ovide moralise, but she argues that the "mystical" aspect of the Pygmalion story - Christian allegory of the relationship between God and his creation - seems to have held perhaps an even greater attraction for artists than the "historical" approach. On the other hand, she finds Shaw's Pygmalion to be the best-known example of a "historical" approach to the extremely popular theme (209). By the "historical" interpretation, Miller means the obvious social commentary and the portrayal of crossings of social barriers in Shaw's text: instead of elaborating on the more abstract theme of creation, Shaw chooses to show how a person can or cannot be molded to fit into a particular, and completely alien, social setting that, further, is a hierarchically "higher" society than her original one.

31 One of the reversals in Rousseau's version may also be, as J. Hillis Miller attempts to show, the gender position of Galatea. In Rousseau's version of the Pygmalion story, the fictive woman, created originally as a means of controlling life and as a means of compensating for the way real women escape male control, in the end takes on an autonomous life of her own. Thus, the manufactured woman ultimately "escapes male domination once more, though she was initially no more than a complex version of a rhetorical figure" (Versions 51). See also A. R. Sharrock, who argues that Ovid's Pygmalion story "deconstructs the erotic realism of elegy and by its frankness about the power of the male artist discloses elegy's operations" (36). For Sharrock, Ovid's Pygmalion "reflects and exposes the self-absorption of elegy, the heroization of the lover, and the painted nature of the woman presented in eroto-elegiac texts, that is, the way in which she is to be seen as an art-object" (36).

32 A notion of such a possible interaction between forms of transformative intertextuality and the figure of metamorphosis is implied in various recent studies. Holquist connects the metamorphic logic of Shelley's Frankenstein with overt structures of intertextual literary production. For Holquist, the text's debt to another text - or the overt sense of this text being created from other texts - is highlighted in many ways, for instance through the monster's literateness or, perhaps most obviously, through the mythical allusion in the book's title. Thus, metamorphosis in Frankenstein not only connects this text with Ovid, but it also serves as a figure for the text's intertextual production, which Holquist sees as typical of the novelistic genre in general (100-06). See also Julia Kristeva's seminal essay on Bakhtin entitled "Le mot, le dialogue et le roman." For Kristeva, the Menippean genre and its modem successors, like Lautreamont's collage aesthetics and overt intertextuality, are capable of insinuating themselves into other genres and fusing the comic and the tragic together. Further, see Michael Riffaterre's subtle linking of intertextual rewriting with metamorphic imagery (119-21) and Jean Brun's reading of Georges Perec. The capacity of metamorphosis as a figure for intertextuality has also been implied by Peter Brooks in the introduction to his Body Work. Here, Brooks finds the making of Galatea's body to be a prime example of the marking and imprinting of the body in a narrative (1-27). See also Brace Clark' s recent Allegories of Writing: The Subject of Metamorphosis, which, in its argument that metamorphosis can be read as an allegory of writing, comes close to the notion of metamorphosis developed here.

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Kai Mikkonen is a research fellow and lecturer at the University of Tampere, Finland. He received his M.A. in comparative literature at the University of Iowa and is currently finishing his Ph.D dissertation, entitled "The Writer's Metamorphosis" Figures of Literary Reflection and Revision," on the texts of Michel Butor, Angela Carter, Philip Roth, and Maxine Hong Kingston. He has published several articles in Finland on textual revisionism, French fiction, Finland-Swedish poetry, and the image-text relationship and has articles forthcoming on Philip Roth in Critique and on Denis Diderot in Diderot Studies.
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Title Annotation:Rhetoric and Poetics
Author:Mikkonen, Kai
Date:Jun 22, 1996
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