Catachresis


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Related to Catachresis: chiasmus, zeugma

Catachresis

 

in stylistics, a combination of lexically incompatible words that form a unique and meaningful whole (compare with oxymoron, a combination of words with contrasting and opposite meanings, such as in “a living corpse.”)

There are two types of catachresis: (1) that which comes into being naturally, through the development of the nominative means of a language, and which may be perceived at first as incorrect word usage (“white brownstone,” “to sail a steamship”); and (2) that which is created deliberately, for an intended effect (“black gold,” “when the crab whistles”). Catachresis can be either a verbal blunder (“let not the arms of the sharks of imperialism extend to us”), where the tropes are joined mechanically, or an illustration of great artistic skill:

But through the listless night the serpents of remorse

More shrewdly burn within me …

A. S. Pushkin

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No doubt, as Butler helps us to see, the norms of the social order do, in fact, change through catachresis, and those who once were persecuted as figures of "moralized sexual horror" may trade their chill and silent tombs for a place on the public stage.
While Bewes is oriented to cliche and the shame of language in Cambridge and Crossing the River, my parallel project examines instances of intertextual catachresis in Higher Ground: in cliche "eloquence and inarticulacy collide" (Bewes 48), as in catachresis.
I use the rhetorical term abusio, the Latin version of catachresis (a nomination of something that has no name in one's language, though the Hellenic rhetorical term also designates a metaphoric trope that stretches too far the relation between figural vehicle and tenor, between signifier and signified), in order to highlight the whimsical "Russian-doll" effect of fourth- or fifth- or sixth-degree narrative embedding.
This disturbing catachresis, picturing the state as a machine held together with organic components, seems to oscillate its way back to itself, very much following the circular trajectory that Paul de Man predicts for all substitutional tropes in "The Epistemology of Metaphor.
In Miller's view, Eliot's claim to the truth of narration relies on ethicity as an emotive force and on the subjective, therefore arbitrary, displacement of value-systems through catachresis, through a figurative language borrowed from Scripture, which borrows it from Nature, thus effecting a multiple displacement (The Ethics of Reading, p.
Aligning the fetish with catachresis, the rhetorical figure for abuse of metaphor, Freinkel documents the suspicion with which linguistic inventiveness was met by early modern rhetoricians.
This knowledge is evident also in his current book's title, a canny catachresis (borrowed from an earlier study of Montesquieu by Diana Schaub) from which opens up space for an investigation at once original and intelligently derivative.
90), and whose searing political epic and near-demented exaggeration of rhetorical tropes themselves provide commentary on the link of linguistic catachresis to the violation of political rights.
Discussing the ways in which Crane utilizes chiasmus, anacoluthon, and catachresis in "Voyages," Edelman finds that in Crane's poetics, "every [rhetorical] movement toward the stability of chiasmus carries a trace of the break that figures the violence of anacoluthon" (256), and such instability in language is mirrored in Crane's images: "emblems of balance and antithesis are ceaselessly created and destroyed, drowned and reborn" (263) in instances of "catachrestic borrowing[s]" (284), "catachrestic designation[s]" (285), and "catachrestic ploys" (287).
Or, in other metaphors: Apter's expressed attempt to "locat[e] a kind of female phallus in the sartorial superego" (245) also relocates her own project in what looks suspiciously like traditional fetishistic garb, the catachresis ("female phallus") filling in for a linguistic (and it goes without saying, cultural) lacuna whose analogy with a putative anatomical lack is at best unfortunate.
The OED defines catachresis (abusio in Latin) as an "abuse or perversion of a trope or metaphor.
If queer formalism traces the textual itinerary of the catalogue of tropes--metaphor, synecdoche, simile, prosopopoeia, aposiopesis--to their origin or culmination in catachresis (and from there, often, to allegory), and in so doing restrains the queer-political project to what strict anti-formalists call the "merely" literary, then it also recalls deconstruction from its dead-end toward something that, while not constituting referentiality, approaches meaningful register.