Too big to big up any further as a classroom poster or a one man stage show, Raymond Burke has finally compiled and published the book of the Metaphoric Table with The Drouth. -Can you not refuckingmember what Tmesis is? Do you go red red in the face when faced with Epizeuxis, or is it Anthimeria? -then this is the book to figure it out for you …
In the normal sequence of events, a book would give rise to a performance and then perhaps a poster would be designed for publicity. However, it could be argued that the metaphoric table took the opposite route: what began as an A1 wall-chart printed by the Drouth in 2016, became a presentation-performance that ran for three years at the Edinburgh Fringe and arts festivals around Scotland and is now being published as a book – The Metaphoric Manual.
The Metaphoric Manual
The purpose of the book and the wall-chart is to introduce teachers, students and all lovers of literature to the most popular and useful literary devices employed by great writers over the centuries. These are commonly referred to as ‘figures of speech’ and are presented under four categories: Tropes, Schemes, Ironies and Figures of Sound. In tropes, meaning is changed, in schemes, the grammar or order is disturbed or manipulated for effect, ironies are cases of double meaning or opposition, and figures of sound are the devices in which sound is used to foreground words and ideas.
The problem with other collections of figures of speech is that the figures are usually buried within an eclectic array of literary terms, rhetoric, theories and poetic forms, and these are more often than not presented in alphabetical order with only a single example of each device if any. Consequently, when a reader encounters an interesting figurative technique in a text, it is incredibly difficult to find any further information without trudging through countless dictionaries of terms in the hope of eventually stumbling across the correct entry. Indeed, the inclusion of certain important figures and even the actual meanings vary from book to book and, as usual, searching the web is a minefield of confusion and contradiction. At the other end of the scale, simplified lists of figures are often displayed on colourful classroom posters with arbitrary inclusions and exclusions. There are always the teachers’ favourites, simile and metaphor, but rarely devices as important and useful as metonymy. Alliteration is universal, but litotes, a device used on a daily basis by millions, is not at all ubiquitous in the classroom. As a result of all this, the reader is left with either too much information or too little. This book aims to solve that problem by presenting the most useful and popular figures grouped logically in relationship to one another. Several examples of each figure are also included to show how the device is used by different writers and provide teachers with a valuable resource. The first part and main body of the book collects related figures within sections. Each figure is explained in detail and followed by several quotations from literature and popular culture. Therefore, when a student is studying a particular device, they can go, via the alphabetical index, to the main entry for a detailed explanation and a few examples of the device in use. Some study of the nearby related figures will also serve to increase the student’s understanding. Also included is a glossary of figures by function. When a reader stumbles upon an unknown but interesting device being used in a text – for example: repeated words – the functional glossary can be used to find all of the figures of repetition listed together which will then enable them to pinpoint the exact device being used. This can then be followed to the main entry on that device for a more detailed description and further examples. The book can also be used in creative writing workshops by opening the book at a random figure and challenging the participants to adapt the examples and produce their own. (Although it would be inadvisable to try metalepsis or catachresis in the first lesson.)
The Metaphoric Table
The book owes its existence to the popularity of the Metaphoric Table wall-chart. Whilst in conversation with some students in Stirling University a few years ago, I accepted the challenge to produce a diagram which would give a graphic representation of the relationships between some tropes we had just discussed in an English seminar. The idea was to investigate the relationships between the most popular figures and present the results visually. Unsurprisingly, as each device was researched, several others cropped up. Consequently, what was initially intended to be a chart of less than twenty figures quickly grew to more than fifty.
The most obvious format to present such a variety of terms was science’s periodic table. There are indeed such tables of everything from cats to Star Trek. There are even some that list figures of speech but merely mimic the design rather than bother with logical representation. Therefore, rather than simply including the usual jumble of terms in the aesthetic style of the periodic table, priority was given to relationships between the terms. The metaphoric table was the result. In the same way as the periodic table presents elements, the metaphoric table presents figures alongside or in close proximity to other related figures for quick reference. For instance, if looking for the name of a style of repetition used in a work, each closely related device can be examined to find the precise description. On the chart, tropes are presented in light blue boxes, ironies in green, schemes in yellow and figures of sound in red. Each entry provides a brief explanation of the function of each device and a few examples from literature. The table can be used independently or in conjunction with the manual.
The actual necessity of the metaphoric table became apparent when designing the first edition. Whilst searching through poetry and prose for suitable examples of anaphora and epiphora, which relate to repeated beginnings and endings of sentences respectively, I would often stumble across examples of middles of sentences and clauses being repeated. For example in the following sentence, each clause revolves around ‘the same’:
‘It must be remembered that the oppressed and the oppressor are bound together within the same society; they accept the same criteria, they share the same beliefs, they both alike depend on the same reality.’
James Baldwin, Everybody’s Protest Novel
However, there was no way of knowing exactly what the device was called. A crash course in Classic Greek would have been useful but a little time-consuming. Perhaps it would end in ‘phora’ to match its companions or maybe it would start with ‘Mezo’ akin to mezozeugma which repeats verbs in middles of sentences. If such a thing as the metaphoric table or manual had been available, the term would have been simple to find as the devices are presented logically in both. In the manual, several tables are also provided to show such related devices together. For example:
|…yyy. / …yyy.
|Xxx…yyy. / Xxx…yyy.
|…xxx… / …xxx…
This allows the reader to quickly find mesodiplosis as the device that repeats middles of sentences without having to trudge through countless dictionaries. Therefore, the Metaphoric Manual is much more than a random collection of interesting words; it is a toolbox for writers and students as well as a convenient resource for teachers.
The Metaphoric Manual and the latest edition of the Metaphoric Table will be available from July 2021. Buy your copy here The Metaphoric Manual
Raymond Burke will next present The Metaphoric Table at The Stewartry Book Festival, Gatehouse of Fleet, August 19th 2021.