Thursday, July 9, 2015

Ten Great Quotes about Metaphor and Simile

(Simile is a comparison using like, as, or a similar word: My brother Milt meandered through life like a butterfly in perpetual flight. Metaphor is an illustrative lie that fuses two distinct objects or experiences, claiming them to be identical: My brother Milt meandered through life, a butterfly in perpetual flight.)

10. "With reliable data, many a simile which is now marked Anon. would be credited to Adam." -- Frank J. Wilstach

9. "In argument, similes are like songs in love: they describe much, but prove nothing." -- Franz Kafka

8. "A simile, to be perfect, must both illustrate and ennoble the subject; must show it to the understanding in a clearer view, and display it to the fancy with greater dignity; but either of these qualities may be sufficient to recommend it.... That it may be complete, it is required to exhibit, independently of its references, a pleasing image; for a simile is said to be a short episode."- Samuel Johnson

7. "A simile committing suicide is always a depressing spectacle." -- Oscar Wilde

6. "Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space." -- Orson Scott Card

5. “There seem to be only two kinds of people: Those who think that metaphors are facts, and those who know that they are not facts. Those who know they are not facts are what we call "atheists," and those who think they are facts are "religious." Which group really gets the message?” ― Joseph Campbell

4. "Metaphors are dangerous. Metaphors are not to be trifled with." -- Milan Kundera

3. "Another example of how a metaphor can create new meaning for us came about by accident. An Iranian student, shortly after his arrival in Berkeley, took a seminar on metaphor from one of us. Among the wondrous things that he found in Berkeley was an expression that he heard over and over and understood as a beautifully sane metaphor. The expression was “the solution of my problems”—which he took to be a large volume of liquid, bubbling and smoking, containing all of your problems, either dissolved or in the form of precipitates, with catalysts constantly dissolving some problems (for the time being) and precipitating out others. He was terribly disillusioned to find that the residents of Berkeley had no such chemical metaphor in mind. And well he might be, for the chemical metaphor is both beautiful and insightful. It gives us a view of problems as things that never disappear utterly and that cannot be solved once and for all." -- George Lakoff 

2. (Note on this next one: Vladimir Nabokov was a synaesthete, meaning he perceived the sensory world in a way others would describe as overlapping --consistently perceiving, for instance, certain colors in certain letters.) "The structural similarities between metaphorical expression and synaesthetic experience are discussed later in this paper, but some instances of the transrational schema of sensations which Nabokov expresses will serve to partly illustrate this correspondence and to exemplify the manner in which the expression of this neurologically real phenomenon functions as a dynamic signifying element; one which transgresses semantic rules and works at a level of sensation and polysemous suggestibility.These example are taken from 'Lolita; or the Confessions of a White Widowed Male.' (Nabokov, 1956).

*'a sigh of delicious relief' (p.105) - A projection of alimentary sensations onto emotion.

* 'sweet wetness' (p.112) - A projection of alimentary onto tactile.

* 'the air was warm and green' (p.116) - A projection of visual-chromatic onto tactile.

* 'Lo was listening in profile' (p.118) - A projection of visual onto auditory.

* 'A young golden giggle' (p.120) - A projection of visual-chromatic onto auditory.

* 'Her young silent hands' (p.120) - Auditory onto visual-tactile.

What is brought to bear in these instances is a keen sensitivity to a non-modular perceptivity of sense-data, the visual, audible, and olfactory are recombined (in a way that is natural and unsuppressible in the synaesthete) to appeal to a sense that it is not operating under a strictly rational framework.
 Nabokov studied partly in the Russian Formalist tradition which had as one of its tenets 'tearing the object out of its habitual context (thus achieving )...a heightened awareness of things and their sensory texture.' " -- Patrick Martin

1. “Literature was not born the day when a boy crying 'wolf, wolf' came running out of the Neanderthal valley with a big gray wolf at his heels; literature was born on the day when a boy came crying 'wolf, wolf' and there was no wolf behind him.” 
― Vladimir Nabokov