Sunday, October 30, 2011

Some Fun with Killingsworth's Tropes

While reading Killingsworth's Appeal Through Tropes, I found myself often mixing up how a metaphor and a metonym work. According to Killingsworth, the metaphor function is identification, while the metonym works to establish association. I would like to utilize the blog to sort through how the author distinguishes between these appeals, or tropes, and how they function differently in language. In order for us to examine how tropes are rhetorical, I feel the distinction between these figures of speeches and their functions are of importance.

First, Killingsworth defines a trope as a figure of speech that works to capture rhetorical appeal (hence why he lables them "appeals" throughout the essay). The function of tropes that the authors discusses, however, work quite differently, often engaging the reader in different ways. He begins by discussing the metaphor, something that most of us are familiar with from our early days as English majors. Killingsworth requests that his readers approach metaphors a bit differently than we may have in the past, "Instead of thinking of metaphor as a comparison that leaves something out, try thinking of it as an identification, a way of bringing together seemingly unlike things" (Pg. 123). When an author utilizes a metaphor, he is urging the readers to identify the relationship between two words (or phrases). I think back to my time spent reading Donne's poem "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning " in E302, in which the poet compares a compass to his and his wife's love. The poet utilizes the metaphor in a manner that allows the reader to identify the relationship between a moving compass and the long distance love that Donne is describing in his poem. Killingsworth, along with other prominent theoriests, contain that while the metaphor is not always direct, it works to "connect the world to the body" and in Donne's case, the world to his human experience.

To many readers, the function and appeal of the metynomy works the same way as a metaphor. That is, it works as a comparative device. However, as we can see from Killingsworth's explanation of the metaphor and from Donne's poetry that metonyms function in a different manner, often utilizing different comparisons. "If metaphor works by identifying similar things, metonymy works by subsituting a thing for a closely associated thing." The main difference that we must identify is the role of subsitution in metonyms and how they work in persuading readers to associate words or phrases. I feel that this is where most readers confuse metaphors and metonyms, because it seems that both appeals work to compare two things. But the metonym as a figure of speech subsitutes a word or a concept for something else, while a metaphor asks the reader to make a conceptual connection and identify the relationship of words and phrases. The use of symbols in metonyms is an important aspect of this appeal, as the symbol is meant to stand-in for a connected and implied idea.

In assessing the function of tropes in language, we are also forced to ask ourselves many other questions that we have ecountered this semester, such as authorial intention and agency. For metaphors and metonyms to work as rhetorical devices, the author seems to need to have the intented effect and its meaning in mind for it to function. However, it seems as if the author also leads agency to the reader to identify and associate words and phrases in order to understand the authors intention. Thus, the trope manages to forge a complex relationship between writer and reader.

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