Paul Ricoeur: Time and Narrative

preface ix

With metaphor, the innovation lies in the producing of a new semantic pertinence by means of an impertinent attribution: "Nature is a temple where living pillars. . . ." The metaphor is alive as long as we can perceive, through the new semantic pertinence--and so to speak in its denseness--the resistance of the words in their ordinary use and therefore their incompatibility at the level of a literal interpretation of the sentence. The displacement in meaning the words undergo in the metaphorical utterance, a displacement to which ancient rhetoric reduced metaphor, is not the whole of metaphor. It is just one means serving the process that takes place on the level of the entire sentence, whose function it is to save the new pertinence of the "odd" predication threatened by the literal incongruity of the attribution.

With narrative, the semantic innovation lies in the inventing of another work of synthesis--a plot. By means of the plot, goals, causes and chance are brought together within the temporal unity of a whole and complete action. It is this synthesis of the heterogeneous that brings narrative close to metaphor. In both cases, the new thing--the as yet unsaid, the unwritten--springs up in language. Here a living metaphor, that is, a new pertinence in the predication, there a feigned plot, that is,a new congruence in the organization of the events.

In both cases the semantic innovation can be carried back to the productive imagination and, more precisely, to the schematism that is its signifying matrix. In new metaphors the birth of a new semantic pertinence marvelously demonstrates what an imagination can be that produces things according to rules: "being good at making metaphors, " said Aristotle, "is equivalent to being perceptive of resemblances." But what is it to be perceptive of resemblances if not to inaugurate the similarity by bringing together terms that at first seem "distant," then suddenly "close"? It is this change in distance in logical space that is the work of productive imagination. This consists of schematizing the synthetic operation, if figuring the predicative assimilation from whence results the semantic innovation. The productive imagination at work in the metaphorical process is thus our competence for producing new logical species by predicative assimilation. It "grasps together" and integrates into one whole and complete story multiple and scattered events, thereby schematizing the intelligible signification attached to the narrative taken as a whole.

Finally, in both cases the intelligibility brought to light by this process of schematization is to be distinguished from the combinatory rationality put into play by structural semantics, in the case of metaphor, and the legislating rationality at work in narratology and scholarly history, in the case of narrative. This rationality aims instead at simulating, at the higher level of a meta-language, the kind of comprehension rooted in this schematization

To consider in terms of HOW one can understand the continuity of form under deformation.

No comments: