Sunday, 21 January 2007

Note on "Anacoluthon"

“Anacoluthon” has exactly that knack of giving you a lot to think about without thinking it for you, a stylistic virtue easy to lose sight of when it is called “defamiliarisation” / “a pluralist assault on Romantic ego-personae and their creepy authenticity gambits” / “a fractal speck of gift-economic-structured signification” (though it may be all these things – but meh).

I think this sound clip begins just after Lisa Samuels defines the title word. Anacoluthon is grammatical interruption or lack of implied sequence within a sentence. That is, a sentence begins in a way that implies a certain logical resolution, but concludes differently than the grammar leads one to expect. I warned him that if he continues to drink, what will become of him? In its most restrictive sense, anacoluthon requires that the introductory elements of a sentence lack a proper object or complement. For example, the beginning of a sentence sets up a subject and verb, but no direct object is given. Essentially this requires a change of subject or verb from the stated to an implied term. The sentence must be “without completion” (literally what anacoluthon means). (A sentence that lacks a head – that supplies instead the complement or object without subject – is anapodoton).

To be confused with anacoloutha, the substitution of one word with another whose meaning is very close to the original in a ‘non-reciprocal’ fashion – that is, one could not use the first, original word as a substitute for the second.

Anacolouthon is characteristic of speech or thought, and thus usually suggests those domains when it occurs in writing. Such density of anacolutha might occur in extremely excited or agitated thinking-out-loud, the kind borne out of a paradigm in mid-usurpation. Almonds are only mildly bitter and even the lemons are kinda like meranguey. “Anacoluthon” is the output of a smudged bell, very dreamy stuff indeed, so indolence is perhaps a more obvious hypothesis than usurpation. Its sentences might be akin to half-thoughts trailing into languor a.k.a. the difficulty of praxis in a hammock – “If I had a temple to relax in, it would be almond trees”; “That’s that island there and I am not the day recedes.”

The idyll potential in this imagery is a reason not to rule out the first option. Anacoluthon comes from the Greek anakolouthon which derives from the prefix an (not) combined with the root akolouthos (following), which incidentally is precisely the meaning of the Latin phrase non sequitur in logic. In Classical rhetoric anacoluthon was used both for the logical error of non sequitur and for the syntactic effect or error of changing an expected following or completion to a new or improper one. So the poem deals in at least two different modes of variously competing, collaborating and supervening normative sequentialism (i.e. different ways of it being all right for something to come after something) with a particular (soft) focus on utopian moments. Thinking through a utopian moment means thinking from what such a moment can follow until you hit what can follow from it; tough, though I guess “if I had a temple to relax in” covers it. Perhaps this toughness is behind the temporal drifts and twitches: “The news is over before it can be called” etc. I think this is roughly what the poem gives you to think about, and there it stops, apart from (1) encouraging nods and (2) arbitrary suggestions at cusps where little is at stake. Does that make sense?

1 comment:

Gary said...

He wished it were as easy to banish hunger by rubbing the belly.