The Identity of Metaphor – The Metaphor of Identity

Discourse and Portrait

by Daniela Moldoveanu (Author)
©2017 Monographs 204 Pages


The book sets out identity of metaphor in the literary discourse from a comparative perspective and links it with the ontological metaphor of identity. The author analyses both American and Romanian texts such as Lucian Blaga’s lyrosophical hermeneutics, Ileana Mălăncioiu, Mariana Marin and Sylvia Plath’s lyrical tirades, and Max Blecher’s poetic novels. She points out that ipseity is a trace of the postmodern bivalent condition that uses the vivid metaphor mechanism to describe its ontological lability as strength.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • I. The Identity of Metaphor. Case Study: The Philosophical Discourse
  • 1.1 The autonomy of metaphor: cognition and method in Lucian Blaga’s philosophical discourse
  • 1.2 The metaphor as the avant-garde of weak thought in Lucian Blaga’s hermeneutics
  • 1.3 Blaga’s hermeneutics in postmodern reading. Truth, knowledge and method: isomorphisms
  • II. The Metaphor of Identity Case Study: The Poetic Discourse
  • 2.1 The emergence of confessional identity: diachrony
  • 2.2 The metaphor identity-metamorphoses in confessional poetry
  • 2.3 The metaphor of confessional identity
  • 2.3.1 Biographia litteraria
  • 2.3.2 Descensus ad inferos
  • 2.3.3 Mimesis: reflexions and reflections
  • 2.4 Romanian-American shifting
  • 2.4.1 Redefining femininity in Romanian confessional poetry
  • 2.4.2 Tentacular influences
  • 2.5 Portrait: Sylvia Plath on Azalea Path
  • 2.5.1 Mutilation of the artist as a young woman
  • 2.5.2 Identity and alterity
  • 2.5.3 A Room of Her Own: revolts
  • 2.5.4 The ineluctable triad
  • 2.6 Textual identities – personal identity in the Romanian women’s poetry of the 70s and 80s
  • 2.7 Portrait: The Secret Wing of Mariana Marin
  • 2.7.1 A hundred poems war
  • 2.7.2 The recluse elegies
  • 2.8 Portrait: Ileana Mălăncioiu’s allegorical crusade
  • III. The Metaphor of Identity. Case Study: The Hybrid Narrative Discourse
  • 3.1 Portrait: Max Blecher and the sense of search for self
  • 3.2 Identity – scripturality
  • 3.2.1 The ipseity: au dedans/ au dehors perspectives
  • 3.2.2 Poetics: metaphors of Text significance
  • 3.3 From the livid worlds to the illuminated super-worlds
  • 3.3.1 The retinal disease: thanatophoria
  • 3.3.2 The mediated unreality (surreal cinemagic)
  • 3.4 The immediate unreality and the alterity of objects
  • 3.4.1 “Cursed places” versus “benevolent spaces”
  • 3.4.2 The wax figures museum
  • Bibliography

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The identity of metaphor and the metaphor of identity in the various types of discourse we have chosen to present and dissect in this book, are both tightly linked to the latest, postmodern perception of truth, reality and the realm of transcendence. That is why the definitions of metaphor and identity seen on such background change considerably when confronted with their own antibodies.

The three types of discourse: philosophical, lyrical and hybrid, are each pieces of the puzzle we intend to solve in order to prove that metaphor remains the mandala of the search in the depths of human identity through sometimes very elaborate literary artifice. No matter what means of expression the author embraces, in the end the discourse will show, as we will see in most of the cases, its groundwater of metaphoric poses, not necessarily having any obvious connection with the metaphor as a rhetoric device.

The two concepts, metaphor and identity, are always treated as being the head and tails of the same coin represented by the discourse and portrait in the spotlight, because in the reason and coherence of the text ontology, the entities above embody its heart and joints.

In the first chapter we notice and emphasize how, beyond the obvious metaphysical vein of Lucian Blaga, the Romanian philosopher’s hermeneutics, its timeliness and (post)modernity come into prominence precisely through those procedures which, some time ago, would have dynamited a philosophical body with founding inclinations. Namely, the way Blaga dualizes metaphor, regarding it both as formal instrument of discourse and content that imposes itself. Not infrequently, Blaga’s philosophy has been deemed as “lyrosophy” or “plasticizing philosophy”, appellation that brings obvious disservices only in a traditional reading.

From Heidegger to Nietzsche, metaphor moves against the background of being, taking somehow the place of metaphysics and becoming an “exquisite corpse” which, after the death of God, indicates the end of thread worth following. Poetry is now recognized as, and remains the most important language power generator, hence of the whole world, even by the hardened pragmatists like Rorty and Habermas.

Blaga’s hermeneutics, due to its highly lyrical and poetic nature, is a philosophy of mystery – which paradoxically contradicts itself when read contre jour – that delivers us, through its own grid of lecture, the conclusion that it is precisely ← 9 | 10 → the mystery it preaches that rejects the certainty of any “mystery”, therefore it must be taken cum grano salis.

The praised mystery, in this case, does not draw maps and take imaginative speculation as immutable hypotheses, but especially brings language games to the fore. At the same time, this type of hermeneutics does not very much support the disclosure of the truth; on the contrary, the metaphysical intent sometimes succumbs too easily to pure linguistic speculations on the mystery variations plane, which, of course, have onto-anthropological bases.

On the other hand, the metaphor in text does not ex officio refer to the theory of the metaphor – thus risking a tautological definition of the topics covered – but the a priori need to use it pushes man into the subconscious towards the anthropological structures of language, covering myths and magic. Therefore, as Blaga observed, the occurrence of the latter is structurally ineludible even in the highly rationalist philosophies of Spinoza, Leibniz and Hegel’s. On the other hand, in terms of human capacity to build truth matching its inductive force, metaphysics is swallowed by language taming strategies so that it can meet the needs of the community.

The metaphor catches the world in balance resembling the relationship between its two terms, tenor and vehicle, among which properties are exchanged on the basis of profound similarities. The clairvoyance to detect these similarities appears first in line among the characteristics mentioned by Aristotle to achieve good metaphors; therefore, it is not hazardous to identify an exchange between individuals and their perspectives to the extent of transfers that occur in dominant forms of language, because, as we know, the metaphor merges the “bios” and the “logos”.

We pointed out here some isomorphisms which entitle the validity of other postmodern readings of Blaga’s hermeneutics. The current status of truth greatly depends on the linguistic manipulation of events, circumstances, situations, perspectives, etc. In the process of highlighting the methods of knowledge and the nature and genesis of truth, Blaga’s metaphysics let itself be swallowed by rhetoric precisely due to the attributes of the concept of mystery and the innovative theory of the metaphor. The mystery is also a metaphor of the supreme knowledge, therefore the world Blaga proposes to us is one of Platonic origin, of substitutes, and the “Idea” will be perceived as minimized, a second degree idea. Thus, in order to somehow certify the knowledge of a truth at hand, even though from the transcendental perspective this is a failed initiative, the necessity of a linguistic teleology is a matter of course. ← 10 | 11 →

The world of cave does not cease to exist just because it relates to the shadows; on the contrary, it develops its creative side, even without realizing it, by building through language a parallel reality that will seem as intense as any “genuine” reality. It does not even exclude the mythical and magical, but invokes them through the transfer mechanism and swinging of metaphor between the two fields of influence and attraction of terms. Hence the need of “wheels turning idly” and which, because they are still turning and operating – which is psychologically important – fill this gap.

Therefore, one should see that it is precisely the destabilizing element, due to the use of metaphor in discourse points that would have rather required rigorous concepts, that helps certain aspects of Blaga’s philosophy pass the test of time, proving that what does not kill a philosophical system, it certainly makes it more powerful, or at least more present.

The second chapter addresses the issue of the metaphor of identity in the American and Romanian confessional poetry, from a comparative point of view. The poetry written in the 80’s in Romania, implicitly the women poets of those times were largely influenced by the morphology and stylistics of the confessional text. Consequently, American poets like Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich and Anne Sexton became sources of inspiration for Mariana Marin’s vision of metaphor in her poems, being thus the heralds of a new social, cultural and psychological identity the lyrical ego represents.

Postmodern abstraction and metaphor are no longer considered to be, like in the era of modernity, the focal, metaphysical point of a type of poetry written on a totally different ontological background; or, if the metaphor is still used and appears inside the text, its accent shifts from the linguistic to the ontological approach. The metaphor comes to illustrate a psychological reality intimately linked to the postmodern schizoid conscience, thus showing, somehow paradoxically, its mimetic character.

Defined by the duplicitous functioning of its inner mechanism which, as Paul Ricoeur observes, oscillates between the two instances, “to be” and “to be like”, the metaphor catches things while they are developing and places itself on the mined ground of postmodern consciousness and protean reflection on the world. The disorder in the plane of the metaphor reception will turn into the reflex before the external reality which, in its turn, illustrates the growing tendency to melt into man’s osmotic, subjective vision of reality.

Transcendence collapses, fragmented into small personal and deeply subjective visions. The chaos, still kept in check by the former, penetrates the consciousness of the individual about the world, and casts him adrift. Objectivity is almost ← 11 | 12 → impossible to be acquired anymore, and becomes an issue of consensus and convergence of perspectives. “The un-presentable”, related to the sublime, remains as such, not because it could not be captured, with some effort, in some way or the other, but simply because it no longer exists. Hermeneutics unfolds its meaning in a world whose center can be found in every point of its reflexive elements.

Reality, if it does not become the very great fiction, is one of the fictions that cannot be overlooked. Abstraction no longer has a purpose in a type of poetry that is written on a completely different background, or if the metaphor is still used, it displaces its ascendancy from the linguistic to the ontological plane. Orpheus swallows his lyre, giving birth to a new internal, chaotic polyphony. The metaphor is used to illustrate, in addition to its traditional characteristics, a psychological reality intimately related to the schizoidism of postmodern consciousness, thus highlighting its mimetic ambition. It is still present in the poetry of Sylvia Plath, for example, of Berryman, Roethke and Ted Hughes, which reveals that its introvert character, linked to psycho-analysis, disintegrates the most obscure immanence into fragments, bulks otherwise extremely difficult to assimilate.

Not incidentally, it remains within the extreme confessional poetry, and in spite of itself, the metaphor continues to search and represent the epicenter of profoundly subjective and personal epiphanies. Beyond the postmodern sense of subjectivity that questions even its own legitimacy, due to an excessive relativization, the subjectivity of confessional poetry still remains one of the strongest values of modern origin of the paradigm and in no case will it be stripped of the ability to believe in the Other’s words and personal view, after having been previously made absolute in terms of indeterminacy, displacement and heterogeneity.

The thinking of the confessional poetesses borrows the postmodern system of reference which reflects the existential chaos, duality, schizoidism and the inner lability, however, in the speech and text ontology, subjectivity is considered a central, stable element, one of the poet’s integrating levers to exit oneself in order to be objective, to find equilibrium or the illusion of it at the confluence with the readers’ ethos.

The poetess’s impulse to create a mythic figure is related to the utopian side of the subject, the need for linguistic escape to another dimension of the self. It talks about the western man’s desire and eagerness to halve, which revolutionizes the language in the first person towards a new semantics of ipseity that deconstructs the individual, extracting the ideal figure or the most hidden, unconscious feelings of which even the one who reveals them does not necessarily know at that time if they comply with the reality of one’s being. Therefore, it would not be ← 12 | 13 → unusual for an autofictional pact, at first glance, to prove to be, at its core, an autobiographical pact or vice versa.

Besides the autobiographical pact that the confessional poetry implicitly proposes, we have the natural dose of autofiction throwing phantasia into the heart of mimesis, to let us know that these two make a paradoxical symbiosis that has determined and still causes various theoretical speculations about the status of the lyrical and empirical self.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2017 (May)
Confessional poetry Romanian postmodernism Hybrid discourse Metaphor ontology Lyrosophy Narrative ipseity
Frankfurt am Main, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2017. 204 pp.

Biographical notes

Daniela Moldoveanu (Author)

Daniela Moldoveanu teaches English and Intercultural Communication courses at the Military Technical Academy of Bucharest, Romania. She studied philology at «Lucian Blaga» University of Sibiu. Her research interests lie in the fields of comparative literature, intercultural communication, discourse analysis, feminine and identity studies, poetics, stylistics, philosophy and aesthetics.


Title: The Identity of Metaphor – The Metaphor of Identity
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206 pages