Catachresis

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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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As those examples have suggested, there are quite a few figures in our language that are simultaneously personifications and catachreses. This concurrence or affinity is not a pure accident but suggests, as in the case of Aristotle's example of catachresis, that personification can be more fundamental to catachresis than analogy.
In other words: the catachreses of Marx and Freud--of the modern discourses of capital and desire respectively--find, as it were, their origin both in and as Puttenham's figure of abuse.
Nevertheless, "to read a novel properly," even for deconstructive purposes, one must temporarily allow oneself to be seduced by the mimesis into taking the characters as real even though character is finally nothing more than "a fluid assemblage of fleeting catachreses" as opposed to "a fixed personality" (117).
Focusing on intertextual prison writings, I link these catachreses directly to particular prison writers so as to trace Phillips's distinct intertextual practices and thereby to embroider in this paper what has so far been a simplified version of metissage; in other words, a complex process of imbrication is going on not only between the three sections of the novel but also within each section and its generic or discursive relations.
While it may be trite to continue to carp at the alienating terminology of Spivak's criticism (terms such as catachreses, metalepsis, paleonomy, axiogical, and chromatism) -- for which one has yet to find an adequate glossary -- this text is mercifully free of much of the special usage that makes Spivak, largely as a deconstructionist, inaccessible.